The City of London, originally founded by the Romans at the first passable crossing of the River Thames, has an extraordinary and extremely diverse design heritage stretching back over 2000 years. The original global city, London rose to prominence as the metropolitan capital of the British Empire which at its height stretched across the globe covering almost one third of the world. Following the industrial revolution, London became a centre for global trade drawing in people from across the world as its population rose to one million inhabitants.
It was during this Victorian era that the basic framework of sofa design was refined and commercialised as an industrial process. From framework to padding, springs to padding and finally top cover and finish, London Sofas became renowned across Europe for their enduring quality, comfort and style. With modern technology lowering the cost of production, sofas became far more cost effective than ever before laying the groundwork for modern mass-production methods to take off in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Perhaps the most revered London Sofa is the iconic Chesterfield which features a deep buttoned top cover, rolled arms and is traditionally upholstered in natural leather. Originally designed by the Earl of Chesterfield, the story runs that he wished to create a comfortable seat which didn’t crease a Gentleman’s formal attire. Achieving this objective with aplomb, it wasn’t long before the Chesterfield became a favourite of the British elite, even featuring in the UK Houses of Parliament. Whilst the clothing of the day has since changed, the Chesterfield remains a world famous icon.
A second London Sofa is the Howard Sofa which remains the best-selling sofa design in the United Kingdom more than 100 years after its original inception. Featuring low arms with a softly curved sprung back support and a deep seated design, the Howard remains a country house classic and is often finished with brass castors to add an idiosyncratic element to the design. Unlike the austere, formal Chesterfield the Howard is timeless yet also light and informal making it the favoured choice for conservatories or modern living spaces where a traditional style is preferred.
Both the Chesterfield and the Howard are iconic London Sofas, designed in a golden age for British Upholstery. However, in many ways 21st Century London continues to lead the way when it comes to upholstery and interior design. With pockets of expertise from Chelsea Harbour to the Kings Road, London is again making a name for itself on the world stage as young British upholsterers redevelop classic designs and push the boundaries of contemporary home furniture.