How to spot a quality chesterfield sofa – a simple guide

A British Chesterfield sofa is a timeless classic, and the prime focus of any room it graces. However, we’re sure you’ll agree with us when we say – knowing how to spot a top quality, genuine Chesterfield sofa can pose a real challenge. Luckily, this is where the S.W. James team can help.

We’ve worked hard to create a comprehensive guide for our customers – allowing you to learn first-hand how to choose your own perfect Chesterfield. Hopefully, we’ll succeed in showing you how to avoid common pitfalls, and illuminate all the ways you can spot a great Chesterfield sofa. Keep reading to discover:

  • How to spot a real chesterfield
  • How a quality Chesterfield is made, and how to spot the quality
  • Different types of Chesterfield
  • Different types of leather
  • Comfort in a Chesterfield
  • Who makes the best Chesterfield

Before you read on, perhaps you'd like to watch our short video to see how our handmade British Chesterfields and sofas are made

A short introduction to the British Chesterfield

Long gone are the days where the Chesterfield sofa could only be found in a manor house or gentleman’s club. In fact, it’s no secret that a great handmade Chesterfield looks beautiful in any setting. From the classic leather Chesterfield sofa… to the more contemporary fabric styles that have come to emerge in recent years, there is undoubtedly a perfect Chesterfield to suit all fashions.

“Here at S.W. James, we strive to cater to all tastes” – Jamie, Creative Lead at S.W. James

With so many Chesterfield sofas available on the market today, in your journey to buying your dream Chesterfield, it’s important to know the difference between a true Chesterfield sofa and a poorly made imitation.

So, how do you go about picking the best Chesterfield for your needs and lifestyle?

Should you opt for the cheapest design, or the most expensive? Do you know which leather is right for you? How about the colour? Is it going to be comfortable? These are the important questions you need to be asking, and choosing the best Chesterfield for your lifestyle requires a little time and research.

When you choose the right Chesterfield, it will take pride of place in your home for a lifetime. A top quality Chesterfield sofa is a beautiful heirloom – an ageless statement piece that will always be in vogue, bringing an air of style and grace to any corner it inhabits.

Furthermore, if your Chesterfield is of the highest quality, it’s a purchase you’re only ever going to make once – a lifetime investment. That’s why it makes much more sense to select an upscale, handmade Chesterfield that’s completely tailored to your needs. At S.W. James, we like to think of our sofas as lifelong friends who’ll become a part of your family’s life story. A good Chesterfield will acquire a few characterful scrapes and grooves as it ages – much like you will.

On your Chesterfield, you’ll… spend lazy nights, enjoy intimate drinks, bounce your children on your knee, listen to those perfect albums, and watch favourite films…

In short, we recommend investing in quality – and it will forever pay you back.

“What should I look out for when choosing my Chesterfield?”

The refined skill required to create a British handmade Chesterfield sofa is one that’s been shared from master to apprentice throughout generations. Sadly, in recent years, it’s become a somewhat neglected and lost art. Thankfully, the S.W. James team is very much committed to keeping the art of Chesterfield-making alive, and every element of your S.W. James Chesterfield is crafted by hand in our workshop just outside Manchester – a tradition we hope to continue for generations to come.

So, when it comes to making your once-in-a-lifetime Chesterfield purchase, here are the things you need to consider:


We’re proud to be renowned for our use of premium quality, luxurious materials. Our leather is, as they say in the industry, “Closest to the cow” – meaning each hide produced by our Italian tannery partners is of the highest market value and requires minimal treatment and correction.

Selecting the perfect leather ranges to represent S.W. James hasn’t been easy – but we’ve enjoyed every moment. We’ve spent countless hours refining our choices – and our vintage leather is something very special. It’s a top grain hide that’s slightly hand-distressed – giving it an authentic, ‘lived-in’ look and a soft, natural feeling. It’s buffed with soft wax to ensure the perfect finish, and will age beautifully over time.

Strength and durability

It’s no secret that strength and great character call for strong foundations, and it’s the same for Chesterfield sofas. For a first-rate piece of furniture that will seat your family through generations, it’s important to know your Chesterfield is quality to the core.

Every Chesterfield sofa we create is built upon a British-made, solid hardwood, kiln-dried frame that’s been dowelled and stapled for maximum strength. Whereas cheaper, softer woods may give out after just three years or so, oak is highly durable – even able to withstand insect and fungal attacks – and a sofa that begins its life on anything less cannot be called a real Chesterfield.


A true Chesterfield sofa is made by hand, right down to every last detail. Our needlework team is highly competent, not to mention conscientious, and all of our Chesterfields are made in the traditional manner. In fact, we still use a time-honoured process known as ‘twinning’ for all of our stitching; not only does twinning deliver beautiful results, it creates a double row of stitches for added strength. Twinning is a pattern only seen on well-made Chesterfields, and you’ll find it across the entire S.W. James Chesterfield sofa collection.


A Chesterfield is an extremely complex piece of furniture to create, and every part of it should be completed by hand. In our experience, a well-made Chesterfield becomes a true labour of love for its creator. So, when selecting your perfect Chesterfield, it goes without saying that the right results begin with the right craftsman – or woman, of course.

The S.W. James team is comprised of the most skilful, diligent Chesterfield-makers in the industry, who channel over 40 years of experience into handmaking your unique Chesterfield sofa. Our senior team members are in fact so established in the industry, a number of popular Chesterfield designs that are seen as standard today were originally created by them. Speak to any member of the S.W. James team to learn about the immeasurable hours and love that combine to make a great handmade Chesterfield.

Customer service

Buying your new Chesterfield should be a great experience from start to finish. At S.W. James, it’s our strong belief that you should have confidence in your purchase, so we’re always happy to share our expertise. Count on our dedicated team of passionate Chesterfield lovers to guide you through the entire process – keeping you fully informed as your new Chesterfield comes to life. Our old-fashioned approach to customer service shines through in our Trustpilot reviews – which can be found by clicking here.

Next up is the burning question – “Is a Chesterfield sofa comfortable?”

The question of a Chesterfield’s comfort is one with we’re often met with, and the answer is a subjective one – down to personal preference more than anything else. Fortunately, our high familiarity with British Chesterfield sofas means we’re the best team to talk you through it. Throughout history, traditional Chesterfields have offered a firm, unyielding sit – this is where the S.W. James difference comes in.

We see no reason that a handmade, modern Chesterfield created by a reputable maker can’t boast supreme comfort as well as elegance, and we’re always happy to guide you through the cushioning process so you end up with the perfect sit.

“At S.W. James, we’ve worked tirelessly to make our Chesterfields not only durable and beautiful, but also enormously comfortable” – Warren, Co-founder at S.W. James

When we set out to create our Chesterfield sofa range, we did so with the modern home in mind – thus, comfort was a critical characteristic we sought to achieve across all our designs. Today, we’re proud to be the Home of the Comfortable Chesterfield™.

In our mission to produce fine British furniture the way it should be made, our only difference is our exclusive comfort factor. We’re proud to offer a brand new take on the classic Chesterfield design – creating the most sumptuous, inviting Chesterfields and sofas you’ll find. Each S.W. James comes with our signature blend of soft, squidgy foam cushioning as standard – in addition to plenty of intricate, no-sag springs that promise premium relaxation. Over the years, we’ve taken the time to perfect our exclusive filling to create a plush, ample seat – carefully blended to last a lifetime.

So, how exactly do we create a sumptuously comfortable Chesterfield?

We’re sure you won’t be surprised to hear some of our comfort tricks are closely-guarded company secrets, but what we can say is our comfort factor is a combination of:

A softer, more luxurious leather

All sourced from our Italian-based tannery partners, our hand-selected vintage leather and heritage leather ranges are the highest quality top grain leather – hand-finished and supremely soft to the touch. We’re highly confident when we say we’re certain you won’t find other leathers that combine such gentleness with durability. 

Plush, padded cushions

We’ve carefully created a unique comfort cushion blend that’s exclusive to S.W. James. Throughout our process of creating the perfect cushioning, we chose to emphasise two things – comfort and durability.

The result? Our signature S.W. James comfort blend cushions have three separate layers of comfort. While this careful balance of firmness and flexibility is a closely guarded company secret, we promise our unique combination of springs and multilevel cushioning work together to provide supreme relaxation.

Over one hundred individual springs are hand-stitched into the frames of each S.W. James Chesterfield – as soon as you drop into an S.W. James, you’ll know you’re sitting in something truly special. In fact, you’ll know you’re sitting in themost comfortable Chesterfield you’ll find – that’s why we’re renowned as The Home of the Comfortable Chesterfield™.

Now, onto style… what are the best types of leather for a British Chesterfield?

While this is another question that’s entirely personal to you, we thought we’d share our knowledge of our different leather types to help you decide how best to cover your new Chesterfield. There are some truly exquisite leathers available – at S.W. James, we offer up to twenty in total. Today, we’re going to talk you through just three – but we’re always happy to discuss our leathers in more detail over the phone, and even source new styles at your request.

Hand-rubbed antique leather

Antique leather is robust and long-lasting – among all our leathers, this one is the most reliable choice. You could find a vintage Chesterfield that’s over 30 years old, and the beautiful, hand-rubbed antique leather that it was originally wrapped in will still be intact. The S.W. James team can vouch for this as Jamie, our Creative Lead, still whiles away evenings sat on his father’s Chesterfield that was handed down to him many years ago. Jamie’s dad bought his hand-rubbed, antique oxblood Chesterfield in the early 1970s; when he gifted it to Jamie, the antique leather – while certainly lived-in, was still in incredible condition, and remains so to this day. It lives proudly in front of the fireplace in Jamie’s home.

Heritage leather

Our heritage leather range is the softest, most luxurious leather available on the market today. Heritage leather is a beautifully soft-semi aniline leather with a soft-aged finish – subtly dyed, its rich palette of deep tones gives it a traditional feel, making it the perfect choice for pairing with vibrant cushions or patterned curtains. This is the leather you’ll see in bowling alleys and diner booths – its waxed, polished finish brings an classic, charming touch to any space. Like all of our Chesterfield wrappings, heritage leather is designed to age beautifully throughout the years – whether in your home or bowling alley!

Vintage hand-distressed leather

Much like its name suggests, vintage hand-distressed leather is made using the decorative art of ‘distressing’ before it is applied to the Chesterfield. This process is designed to make the Chesterfield appear aged – giving it a weathered, vintage look. Vintage, hand-distressed leather is the leather for you if you’re looking for a Chesterfield with a lived-in feel. When it’s tightly pulled over the beautiful contours of a Chesterfield, natural shades and highlights are formed on its surface – making it the perfect choice if you’re looking for a Chesterfield with a lived-in feel. With its soft, waxy texture, the subtly hand-distressed surface will increase in character over time – helping your sofa tell your life story.

Rustic leather

A tough, hand-finished leather with a suede-like feel, our rustic leather has a thick, rugged texture. Since it’s only very lightly waxed and treated, it feels dryer to the touch – with a warm, natural patina that will age perfectly over time.

Earthy and unquestionably stylish, our rustic leather is super soft and full of character. Our Italian leather supplier hand-selects hides with lots of character – before dyeing them through to develop a deep, richly coloured base that is then finished with a light wax, and hand-buffed to enhance its natural texture and charm. The end product is super soft and extremely durable.

But… not everyone wants leather!

The S.W. James team appreciates one of the greatest gifts we can offer throughout your Chesterfield journey is… choice. You’ll be pleased to know that we offer a complete range of Chesterfield wrapping options, and a Chesterfield can be finished in any upholstery of your choosing. For instance, velvet is a highly trendy option at the moment, and a material often requested for bespoke orders.

In addition, wools are hugely popular among our customers, and we offer a stunning selection – including Herringbone wool. We love woollen Chesterfields – and are proud to source our high quality wools from one of the oldest wool mills in the UK – Moons. A fabric cover instantly makes a Chesterfield appear more contemporary – suiting modern-day interiors while still maintaining the classic feature status you expect from a Chesterfield sofa or chair.

The question on everyone’s lips… who makes the best Chesterfield sofa?

Here, we do mean to toot our own horn. Creating the S.W. James Chesterfield has been a dream of our co-founder and Creative Lead, Jamie, since he was old enough to appreciate his dad’s Chesterfield sofa collection – and when you’ve wished for something for that long, you don’t do things by halves. From putting pencil to paper for the initial sketches, right through to applying the final stitch or stud, each Chesterfield we produce is of the utmost quality – and the creative process is a real labour of love.

While it’s always been important for us to work with true Chesterfield-makers who use reliable, traditional methods, we at S.W. James wanted to make our mark in the world of Chesterfield sofas. As we discussed previously in this article, we noticed a gaping hole in the market when it came to finding genuinely comfortable Chesterfields, so we set out to change it – and with a whole lot of foam… springs… and our very own special comfort technique, change it we did! The reward for our steadfast determination and diligent returns to the drawing board is a one-of-a-kind collection of Chesterfield sofas unlike any you’ve ever come across. In fact, the only issue you’ll ever have with an S.W. James Chesterfield is travelling back to reality from the resplendent softness of Chesterfield cloud nine!

To summarise  what matters most

In contrast to modern throwaway furniture, the right Chesterfield from the right company will last you a lifetime – and like our Jamie’s gift from his father, maybe even several more. At S.W. James, we want you to take pride in your Chesterfield’s quality, and solace in its supreme comfort. A good Chesterfield will become as welcoming and heartening as an old friend – there to greet you at the end of a long day.

Furthermore, unlike a tailored suit or a pair of handmade shoes, you won’t outgrow your Chesterfield – nor will it become too worn over time. A Chesterfield is something to truly treasure; it will evolve alongside your loved ones, providing the perfect backdrop for cherished memories – and when it comes to investing in the excellence you deserve, you’re in safe hands with S.W. James.

Our devoted team of Chesterfield-makers are a second generation family operation themselves – with over 40 years of experience handmaking Chesterfield sofas from scratch. We don’t believe in cutting corners – every hide, stud, button, and caster included in our designs has been sourced from the very best tanneries, mills, and manufacturers – and that’s just the beginning of our commitment to the age-old Chesterfield trade. Each Chesterfield sofa we produce is the result of hours upon hours of tireless craftsmanship in our journey to create perfection. All you need to do is chat to us about the Chesterfield you’re looking for, and trust that we’ll handle the rest.