chesterfield history

One of the most iconic features of the Chesterfield sofa is its luxurious leather – and it’s still the most traditional material on offer if you’re looking for that authentic antique finish. Now available in a wide array of fabrics and materials, timeless and durable leather is the original Chesterfield covering and adds to their historic character and appeal.

There are so many different leathers to choose from that it can sometimes feel too difficult to know which is best suited to your needs. Most people aren’t familiar with the subtle but significant differences between the types of leather available and the finish and features you can expect from each one. Texture, comfort, durability, maintenance and even pets all play a role in the decision-making process when choosing between different types of leather for your Chesterfield sofa. Beyond the important aesthetic aspect, it’s also important to consider practical elements related to your lifestyle, as your sofa will also serve a functional purpose.

Here we run down the most popular leather types for Chesterfield sofas and the features and characteristics you’ll need to consider when selecting this luxurious, long-lasting material.

Birch Antique leathers

Birch Antique leather is a popular choice as it pairs perfectly with the vintage feel of the Chesterfield style. This classic leather has a unique two-tone appearance, with rub-off and shade variation which gives it a lived-in, aged effect. Antique Birch leathers are processed in a very specific way to give them an authentic, antique style which enhances the aesthetic appeal of modern Chesterfield furniture with a timeless, heirloom finish. Carefully buffed, fine corrected grain leather is brushed with a specialist antique top coat which is then rubbed off, revealing a lighter colour beneath for that classic look synonymous with Chesterfield chairs.

Birch leathers

Birch leathers are a natural choice if you’re looking for the classic style of a Chesterfield sofa with a more contemporary, polished finish. Birch leather has a plain pigmented finish, which allows you to go for deeper, bolder colours tones to complement your space with something more vibrant. This corrected grain leather is carefully buffed for a smooth, uniform appearance and soft touch. Despite its plush and refined finish, Birch leather is incredibly durable as it is sourced from the top part of the hide. It’s well-known for its toughness but also the stain protection and light fastness it provides, extending the life of your Chesterfield further.

Birch leathers do vary greatly in quality and can be processed in different ways, so it’s important to source them carefully and ask your supplier about the provenance and processing of what’s on offer.

Lena leathers

Lena leather is a deluxe half grain pigmented leather. This specialist, sought-after leather covering goes through a half grain pigmenting process, which involves a light buffing for a best of both worlds balance between uniform colour and character. This also gives it a buttery-soft, smooth finish and polished appearance. When the surface is lightly buffed to give it a uniform colour tone it retains the natural character of the leather to make each hide appear truly unique. Lena leather can be available in a wide array of bold colours, making it a great choice for interior design schemes looking to inject a pop of colour with furniture.

Selvaggio leathers

Stunning Selvaggio leathers are another premium type of leather best known for their soft, waxy feel and unique finish. Selvaggio leather is carefully sourced and undergoes special treatment to give it its coveted aniline finish. During processing, it is lightly buffed before being brushed with organic oils and waxes which give it its uniquely soft texture and allow the natural character of the hide to shine through.

To fully appreciate the qualities and popularity of Selvaggio leathers, it’s important to understand a little more about how they are produced. Aniline leathers are dyed with specialist formulas which allow the colour to penetrate through the entire thickness of the hide, producing a deep, vibrant colour tone. Within the aniline process there are different techniques and finishes – and Selvaggio leathers are made using a type of pull-up method. This approach involves carefully treating the hide, giving it a uniquely shiny and distressed finish. These types of leathers have a luxurious look and feel and are often sought-after for their sophisticated style and soft, supple finish.

Selvaggio leather is a premium selection, so it attracts a 20% surcharge due to its quality and sourcing. This type of leather withstands light wear well, but may need special care and treatment to keep it in good condition as it tends to be less resistant to stains or damage and fading from sunlight.

Cracked Wax leathers

Cracked Wax leathers are well-known for their worn look and smooth, soft feel. To achieve this ‘best of both worlds’ balance between style and texture, these are usually high-quality aniline leathers which have been carefully processed to enhance their character and aesthetic appeal. Cracked Wax leather usually features lots of distinctive imperfections which give it a very traditional, distressed appearance – making it ideal for Chesterfield furniture. These heritage leathers usually come in much more subtle, natural shades, so are better suited to those looking for a traditional look and feel.

Full Grain leathers

Full Grain leathers are widely thought of as the highest quality available, also offering enhanced durability and a longer lifespan compared to some other types of leather. Full grain leather is subjected to minimal processing and is still produced in a traditional manner, so it retains its strength and natural thickness. Its higher price tag means it’s often best suited to fashion items such as bags and belts – but it’s still a sought-after material for furniture. Loved for its unique character and depth and its enhanced durability, full grain leather is a popular high-end choice. The pared-back processes this type of leather goes through leave the hide in its natural, organic form complete with imperfections for real character and rich texture.

Making the perfect choice for your Chesterfield sofa

Real leather is the natural choice for Chesterfield furniture – but with so many types and finishes to choose from, it can be a challenge to know which one is the best selection for you. In this guide we’ve covered the basics of each type of leather on offer, but you can visit us in store or reach out to our knowledgeable online team for personalised advice tailored to you.


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