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Classic sofa designs

13 September 2010

Knole, chaise longue and Chesterfield are three sofa design classics that, despite being hundred of years old, remain hugely popular among the sofa buying public and the inspiration for numerous updated variations.

The Knole is named after a distinctive sofa originating from Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent, home of the Sackville family. It has high sides, a tall back and drop-down sides that are kept together using braid ties. These give the sofa a rather impermanent quality, as if the sofa is likely to collapse. The drop down sides have a practical purpose - they can be lowered to make a bed (or at least they were intended to allow this when originally designed, though this is seldom done now).

The chaise longue is a cross between a sofa and a bed, a simple long chair with canted back, armrests and leg support. Versions of this classic design have been traced back to Egyptian, Roman and South American cultures, as well as China.

The version we are most familiar with dates back to the 17th century Rococo era of Louis XV, when the use of gilt, mahogany and rich fabrics projected an image of great luxury. In the modern era the Corbusier Chaise Longue is an instantly recognisable classic, designed in 1928 and made of leather and tubular stainless steel.

The Chesterfield sofa evokes the ambience of libraries, clubs or country houses, delivering great comfort (and improving looks as its leather softens and matures with growing age). It is renowned for its stylishness and sense of sophistication. One theory is that the name comes from Phillip, the fourth Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773). It is thought that he may have commissioned the first Chesterfield design and that the name has stuck with the distinctive look ever since. Immortality had been achieved, in the name of a sofa.


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