How the Chesterfield Sofas Took Italy by Hannah Martin

Traveling through the pre-WWI United Kingdom as a sales rep for the Italian furniture company Gribaudi, a young Renzo Frau became taken by the Chesterfield sofas—tightly stuffed, backs tufted, and often upholstered in sumptuous brown leather—that populated English clubs and country houses. He was so taken, in fact, that in 1912 he founded furniture maker Poltrona Frau to import the sofas to Italy.

Renzo Frau’s original Chester design.

Photo: Courtesy of Poltrona Frau

But as he began importing the British staples to the rapidly industrializing Turin, he realized something: Why not tweak the iconic design for the nuances of Italian taste? Chester—the sofa (né armchair) that emerged—was designed with the country’s burgeoning bourgeois in mind.

“They were emerging as the dominant class in Italy,” explains Nicola Coropulis, Poltrona Frau’s managing director. “The popular taste did not favor excess. People tended to prefer sober design solutions.”

Keeping this in mind, Frau replaced the metal studs that lined the armrests of many originals with elegantly plissé pleated leather and implemented a complicated macro capitonné tufting on the back and base. His changes were subtle, but it was an instant hit. Says Coropulis: “It was much closer to the taste of the Italian audience of the early 20th century.”

Roberto Lazzeroni’s contemporary update to Chester.
Photo: Alessio D’Aniello / Courtesy of Poltrona Frau

This year, more than a century past its creation, the Italian brand asked designer Roberto Lazzeroni to revisit the classic. The results? A system of five modular seats that offer a contemporary riff on the Italian classic. The tufting remains on the back but does not extend to the base. Contrasting cushions are realized in luxe velvets, and Lazzeroni designed a series of “satellites” or tables that are meant to mix and match with the system.

“I tried to make the Chester sofa more contemporary,” Lazzeroni says, “while keeping its original identity and spirit. This is a timeless icon that can also live in very modern spaces.”

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For more information about our Chesterfield sofas please contact us at [email protected], we would be more than happy to assist you with your furniture needs.

All our furniture is custom made to order in England.

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