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El Chester: A classic that keeps reinventing itself

We discover its history and some of the most exciting reinterpretations of this timeless design.

The Chester is a benchmark of sofa design present in many homes. Thanks to a successful talk show that bears its name, it has recently starred on television. Here we tell you its history, show you some of the reinterpretations of the original model and give you ideas on how to integrate it into different environments. Some of you may be familiar with it, and others may have seen it thousands of times but don't know its name or origin. Be that as it may, the omnipresence of the Chester is indisputable. A sofa model that never goes out of fashion is related to elegance and distinction in the purest British style.

The Chesterfield sofa, popularly known as the Chester, has its roots in the United Kingdom between the 18th and 19th centuries - versions of its history vary here - and was commissioned from a cabinetmaker of the time by the Viscount of Chesterfield to furnish the exclusive gentlemen's clubs of high society. The curved arms and the capitonné upholstery are the other two essential features of the Chester. Some versions of its history qualify it as the first fully upholstered settee, and others even say that the English cabinetmaker invented this type of upholstery. However, it seems to have been used before but not in sofas.

Since then, the capitonné has been associated with the world of luxury. It confers a certain rigidity and strength to the upholstery, and if it is a contemporary model, it is a nod to the past because of its craftsmanship. The premise for its design was to favor the adoption of a correct and manly posture, with a straight back and good body, typical of the gentlemen of 19th century English society. To achieve this rigid posture, unthinkable in a sofa of our days, the cabinetmaker created a piece in which the backrest and armrests were at the same height, and the seat was not very deep. The sofa is not a piece only suitable for luxurious environments. Today's luxury is a restrained luxury, related more to a growing interest in having our homes more comfortable and better decorated than pure and straightforward ostentation. Therefore, despite its distinguished appearance, the Chesterfield has been 'democratized' and can be integrated into an eclectic and informal decoration, leaving its corseted British style.

As in fashion, in decoration, the success lies in the mix of styles so that we can place a Chester in a modern environment without clashing, interpreting it, as we said, as a nod to the past and the handmade upholstery. Moreover, suppose we do not stick to the original classic brown leather sofa and play with upholstery in light-colored textiles. In that case, we can place our Chester in a bright and feminine space, contradicting the viscount who designed it exclusively for men. The sofa is the most critical piece of the home. According to Guillermo Torrent, Art Director of the Valencian firm of luxury sofas Ascensión Latorre, the Chester sofa is ideal for decorating the hall of a hotel or a private office. However, "if we want to enjoy a Chester in our home and make life in it, it should be a reinterpreted model. Above all, it should be given more seating depth, and the back should be raised".

Nowadays, we like to sit a little more reclined and be able to put our feet up on the seats. "In short, we want to experience our sofa more playfully so that we can play on it with our children, open our laptop and surf the net or make love to our partner." His interpretation of the Chester style in the Grand National model meets these conditions. Add amenities like illuminated shelves on the back of the backrest that doubles as a bookcase or bar cabinet. The Ikon, from upholstery firm B&V, is one of the current interpretations that most respects the peculiarities of the British original. It combines the laborious capitonné finish with an aerial tub structure in natural veneer finishes on steel legs, which gives it a more modern air and adds lightness—a sober, very geometric design, defined by its forceful elegance.

But perhaps the most deconstructed reinterpretation of the Chester we have found is the Simone model by Missana, created by the Sputnik designers. Feminine, elegant but suggestive shapes, reminiscent of a grand piano (hence the homage to Nina Simone). Its backrest is what most reminds us of the Chester, with a textured upholstery in a false capitonné. A model that would surely make the Viscount of Chesterfield's hands drop to his head.

Whether it is a classic model or a modern reinterpretation, who has never dreamed of having a Chester at home? The problem is that not everyone can afford it, but that's why designers like Jeroen van de Kant have the imagination to create an inflatable Chesterfield within reach of any pocket. The Dutch firm Blofield has one-, two- and three-seater models made of UV-protected PVC in different colors. It may not have the velvety texture of leather, but it is sure to impress all visitors.

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