Quality Chesterfield Sofas: What To Consider

By Adam Scot Wed 29 Mar 2023
Quality Chesterfield Sofas: What To Consider

While our parent’s generation might still baulk at the concept of buying a Chesterfield sofa online, if you know what to look for, it can be a fuss-free way to get a high-quality piece of furniture.

For the majority of people, the problem is understanding what things are markers of quality and what things to avoid. If you don’t know feather cushions from fibre cushions or a spring base from a webbed base, don’t worry - this guide will equip you with everything you need to know to spot a high-quality Chesterfield sofa, that you can have confidence in.

What Makes A High-Quality Chesterfield Sofa?

The quality of a Chesterfield sofa will generally have some correlation with cost. This shouldn’t mean you need to remortgage your home, but a quality Chesterfield will be made by a craftsman using traditional techniques, quality hardwoods and leathers (or fabrics). Built like this, a quality Chesterfield sofa will cost at least double that of a mass-produced equivalent, but will last well into the future. You may spend a bit more, but in the long run, it’s cheaper and I think it’s well worth it.


There is a wide range of high-quality fabrics and leathers available that are both beautiful and durable, making excellent options for a Chesterfield sofa. Whilst nowadays, the classic Chesterfield is often associated with leather, the first models were covered in velvet. Below, we've provided some tips on what to look for when considering either material.

And if you're struggling to decide between the two, then check out our guide for more information: Leather vs Fabric Sofa: Which Is Right for You?

How to spot a quality leather

Good quality leather will be made from bull or buffalo hides. You should look for top grain or full grain.

Top-grain leather is lightly buffed to create a smooth and even consistency. The buffing process slightly weakens the leather making it a little less durable than full-grain leather. A full grain leather, on the other hand, is completely natural and not buffed. As all of the natural interlocking fibres are intact, this leather is slightly strong. As fewer hides are suitable for full-grain leather, it’s more expensive than a full-grain. Despite the durability difference, both types of leather are strong, durable and long-lasting, ageing well and brimming with character.

Leather finishings: Aniline vs Semi-Aniline vs Protected

Aniline, semi-aniline and protected finishing are all perfectly suitable for a quality Chesterfield. The finishing processes however create a different look and feel to the leather and require different grades of hides which lead to different pricing.

Protected leather undergoes an intensive finishing process where the leather is heavily dyed and finally finished with a protective coating. This is the cheaper leather, but it is also the most durable. As the finishing process is quite intensive, this leather has less character as the texture is uniform and consistent. As the intensive process removes much of the leather's character, top-grain leathers are used for this process.

Semi-Aniline leather goes through a less intensive process than protected leather. This creates leather that has more character such as colour and texture variations. It’s softer and more expensive than protected leather but is less resistant to staining. Both top-grain and full-grain leather are used for semi-aniline leather.

Aniline leather is completely natural and is minimally processed. It has a texture and colour that is not uniform and as it ages it will change. As it lacks a coating, it’s extremely soft and supple. It requires a lot of care though and can easily be stained. Only full-grain leathers are suitable to be made into aniline leather.

Although there are significant price differences between Aniline, semi-aniline and protected leathers, they’re all great quality and with care will last for generations.



Stain resistance


Protected Leather



Excellent: Wine or coffee can easily be wiped away.

Smooth, consistent and modern

Semi-Aniline Leather



Reasonable: Wine and coffee can be wiped away, but act fast!

Some colour variation, marks and scars.

Aniline Leather


Slightly Stronger

Poor: Stains can be difficult to remove. If not removed promptly, even water will stain. 

Lots of colour variation, marks and scars.

Leather: What to avoid

Good leather will have some natural marks and scars. This is normal and should be taken as an indication of good-quality leather. If you can’t find any scars or scratches, then you may well be looking at faux leather or bonded leather which you should avoid.

Bonded leather is created from scraps and leftovers when creating top and full-grain leather. The scraps are glued together onto a backing material before undergoing an embossing process. Over time, the glue weakens and the leather pieces begin to fall away.

How to spot a quality fabric

Natural materials, polyesters and polyester blends all have the potential to be high or low-quality materials. Each has the potential to be soft and durable making them perfect for a quality Chesterfield.

Natural materials are generally more expensive than polyesters, but they can be less durable and comfortable. Polyesters are generally cheaper, but as they’re man-made, they can be engineered to be soft, durable and comfortable.

To find out just how durable a fabric is, you can use its Martindale abrasion score. This simple test rubs the material with sandpaper and determines how many rubs are required before the material starts to show distress. For a quality Chesterfield in any kind of fabric, you should be looking for a score of at least 40,000 rubs. Anything less should be avoided.

Frame & Joinery

Spotting a quality frame is reasonably simple. It should be made of solid hardwood such as oak or birch and the joints should be reinforced with dowels or screws - even better if both. You should avoid a frame made from manufactured wood such as chipboard as your Chesterfield is going to break over time.

Cushion Filling

Cushion filling is a matter of personal preference. Foam and feathers make for high-quality fillings which are durable and will last well into the future. Whilst foam creates a seat that is uniform, neat and comfortable, feather cushions can look a little untidy but they are very comfortable. We prefer reflex foam which is made from the same material as memory foam mattresses, this delivers a lot of comforts but maintains its neatness.

Fibre cushions are very comfortable in the showroom, but they do degrade rapidly over time. It’s for this reason that I wouldn’t recommend foam core fibre cushions which are quite popular at the moment.


Both Webbing and springs are quality choices for a Chesterfield sofa, so long as they’re applied correctly.

A webbing suspension system uses straps to support the cushions. The straps run from top to bottom and left to right, creating a grid. If the webbing is made from good quality materials and installed correctly, it’s durable, strong and comfortable. Webbing is easier to install than springs, although this doesn’t make it worse than springs, low quality webbing is often used by manufacturers who want to cut corners. If the rest of the sofa is high quality though, the webbing is likely good quality too.

Chesterfields with a spring suspension system have rows of wires bent into coils, which are supported by metal rods. This is a skilled process, and over time, even when installed correctly the springs can move out of place which makes the Chesterfield uncomfortable to sit on.

Why Should You Avoid Low Quality Chesterfield Sofas?

Low-quality Chesterfield sofas might be attractively priced, but they’ll have a much shorter lifespan than their quality counterparts. Although you’ll save some money upfront, you’ll most certainly pay for it in the long term by having to buy new.

Not only are they more expensive in the long run, but they also contribute significantly to the fast-fashion furniture industry which is heavily damaging to the planet. This is only made worse when a cheap poorly made sofa ends up in a landfill.

How to Spot Low Quality Chesterfield Sofas?

Go for


Materials & Upholstery

Genuine Leathers and fabrics with a high abrasion score

Faux and bonded leather

Fabrics with a low abrasion score

Frame & Joinery

Solid hardwood

Composite and manufactured woods

Cushion Filling

Feather, reflex foam, feather wrapped foam

Fibre or fibre wrapped foam


Springs or webbing

No suspension system 


Over 5 years

Under 5 years


A well-made Chesterfield sofa is a true object of beauty, that represents the best in tradition, materials and craftsmanship. By ensuring that you buy quality, you can be confident that you’ll have something that will stay with you for a lifetime – your forever sofa.

If you have any questions about spotting a quality Chesterfield, don’t hesitate to contact us - we love to talk about these things.

Or, you can dive deeper into this topic by reading our related blog posts: