To some the word chesterfield goes back 100 years when in North America the word chesterfield was synonymous with couch or sofa and in England was the same as davenport. But many people are familiar with the historical view that the first chesterfield was commissioned as an honor to Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield. That was the hand-crafted leather tufted sofa we today call a chesterfield.
With such a distinguished history a chesterfield is already distinctive. But what keeps it distinctive today is the hand-crafted quality by apprentice trained master craftsmen.
Master woodworkers choose the hardwoods to be used in the frame, normally beech. The wood must be selected for its hardness and for the flawless grain without any knot holes which could show a weak point at some time in the future. Each corner support leg is reinforced with extra blocks of wood for strength and durability so joints won't loosen and fail in the future. Even though the frame is hidden by padding and upholstery, only the strongest most perfect specimens of wood will do for a distinctive chesterfield.
Most distinctive chesterfields also have wooden legs or feet and sometimes wooden trim that is quite visible. This decorative wood needs to be hand carved and then French polished so the grain must have a superior appearance and be of quality that that takes to the polishing – this is usually created out of mahogany.
The hand polishing utilizing the French method makes a chesterfield distinctive. It is a skilled but laborious process of putting on layer after layer of thin coats of shellac. Each layer must be pumiced or sanded with finely crushed volcanic glass to fill any indentations in the wood as the final finish needs to be very smooth and glossy. The top layers will be of different oils depending on desired effect. Mineral oils will give a softer look whereas walnut oil or olive oil produces a tougher finish.
Upholstered furniture has three main processes for seat support: solid, tension and springs. A spring support system is considered the best for stability, longevity and comfort, with the best of the springs being heavy gauge coils of steel tied to the frame. These coils are first affixed to webbing that is attached to the frame and then they are hand tied to the frame and to each other. The springs are laid out in rows and then each side of the spring is tied in both the up and down and side to side directions. This gives 4 knots per spring. To get the most distinctive chesterfield is to go to the 8-way tying which means hand tying all the springs again but on the diagonals this time so that each spring has 8 equidistant knots around it's circumference. Utilizing this system gives each seat great strength as well as fluidity of movement, not just up and down like in alternative systems. 8-way hand tying also gives longevity which is so important in fine furniture as distinctive chesterfields are usually passed on for generations.
Leather is a natural covering that takes a skilled craftsman to handle. The leather needs to be tanned which is a process that takes hides and transforms them to leather. There are many ways to tan the leather using scraping, vegetable matter or chemicals, each producing a different effect with the leather. The results are four major types of leather. The top of the line is full-grain leather in which the hides haven't been processed to change the natural grain in the leather. Full-grain leather will age well giving off a lovely patina. This finish can be antiqued or blackened allowing the darkened grain to be enhanced or aged. The two other finishing techniques on full-grain leather are aniline or semi-aniline which determines how much of the grain stands out and how supple and delicate the finished leather may be. It takes an apprenticed leather master to complete the process to finish off the leather in a manner suitable for a distinctive chesterfield.
fter the leather has been chosen and matched, it is then up to the master upholsterer to lay out the pattern and cut the leather to fit the chesterfield with the pieces blending together for a unified look. He must make the cushions and tie the batting and padding on the springs to get ready for the leather. The leather must be stretched over the cushions and sewn in place with the welting. The backs are sewn with matching colors and grain but since they are all individual hides, no two are identical. That is another thing that gives each chesterfield its distinctive look.
It's the hand-crafted finishing that makes the final statement of the quality of the distinctive chesterfield. Elegant polished brass nails are hammered into position, sometimes as many as 1200 of them. Matching hand covered buttons are added to the tufting on the back and sometimes the seat and sides as well. The whole chesterfield is then given a final buffing and sealing to make the piece of fine English furniture glow.
A distinctive chesterfield is made by hand from start to finish. Many different apprenticed trained masters work hard crafting the chesterfield from start to finish. When you order a distinctive chesterfield you get the attentive service that goes along with the fine furniture. The services team makes sure that you are completely satisfied with your purchase. And the total package wouldn't be complete without the 30-day guarantee and 10 year warranty.
It takes all of the above to make a beautiful piece of fine English furniture – the distinctive chesterfield.