Why are chesterfield sofas so expensive?

It's no secret that Chesterfield sofas are typically more expensive than mass-produced sofas. At first glance, it may seem that the Chesterfield's higher price is simply a way for retailers to make more money. There is however much more to what makes Chesterfield sofas expensive than meets the eye.

In this post, we will explore the main contributory costs to the price of an authentic Chesterfield, and the reasons why despite their comparatively higher cost, they do represent outstanding value for money.

How are mass-produced sofas made?

Before looking at how Chesterfield sofas are made, we will first look at the manufacturing process used to produce mass-market sofas. These are the kind of sofas that you will find at traditional high street retailers, typically priced between £500 and £1,200.

Whilst you already know that Chesterfield sofas are produced using high-quality materials and skilled labour, you may be surprised to learn just how cheaply mass-market sofas are produced.

Much like fast-fashion garments, mass-produced sofas are designed and built to meet the demand for on-trend furniture. Brands react quickly to ever-changing trends, rapidly producing new designs that are cheaply manufactured at volume. As manufacturers must act fast, materials are rapidly chosen on looks and price alone – with little consideration for durability, comfort and environmental impact. To keep costs low, manufacturing takes place abroad, where materials are mechanically cut and assembled on production lines by minimally trained workers.

As little concern is given to comfort and durability, these sofas don't have a long life. Over time the material wears and sags. Cushions cave in and become uncomfortable to sit on. The frame may lose its integrity and become unstable. Before long, this type of sofa will become unsightly, and unusable, ultimately ending up in a landfill.

How are Chesterfields produced?

A very different philosophy drives the design and manufacturing process of Chesterfield sofas. Whilst mass-produced sofas are made to have a lifespan of 4-5 years, Chesterfield sofas are made to last forever.

Materials are carefully selected for their beauty, comfort and durability. Upholstery techniques are chosen to maximise longevity and comfort. The manufacturing process begins with a solid hardwood frame, that has reinforced joints. As the heart of the Chesterfield sofa, the frame must be sturdy and robust - when made correctly it will last over 100 years. The frame is then generously padded with high-density foam before carefully selected materials are cut by hand for the upholstery process. The hallmark characteristic of the Chesterfield sofa is its deep pleating and buttoning, which take a whole day to complete for a single sofa. This incredibly painstaking task takes years for an upholsterer to master.

You won’t be surprised to learn that this approach to manufacturing is much more expensive than the mass-production model. The result however couldn’t be more distinct: a high-quality, well-considered piece of furniture that will last for generations.

Although Chesterfields may seem expensive at first, when considered as a one-off cost, they offer excellent value for money. When you buy a well-made, high-quality Chesterfield, you will never need to buy one again. You'll own a remarkably designed piece of furniture which will work in traditional and modern spaces alike and will be yours to enjoy forever. With proper care and maintenance, your Chesterfield sofa will last well beyond a lifetime.

What about the environmental cost?

The mass-market furniture industry has a devastating effect on the environment. Manufacturers often legally source wood from the world's disappearing rainforests. The upholstery materials they use are often low-quality and synthetic materials which require harsh and damaging chemicals to produce.

Authentic Chesterfields on the other hand rely on natural materials such as hardwoods and leathers. Artisans motivated to build high-quality furniture know that their Chesterfields will only be as good as the materials that they use and that the materials they use will only be as good as the environment that they come from. This leads artisans to carefully consider the environmental impact of the choices that they make. Wood is sourced sustainably, and upholstery materials come from weaving houses or tanneries that actively work to minimise the environmental cost of their trade.

Although the process of making Chesterfields by hand is by no means environmentally perfect, when considered as a buy-once and use-forever item, its impact is significantly lower than a mass-produced alternative.

How much does it cost to manufacture a Chesterfield?

Although Chesterfield sofas are much better for the environment, they are however much more costly to manufacture. To last a lifetime, they must have a solid hardwood frame and use high-quality materials. 

For a manufacturer to produce a 3-seater Chesterfield, it will cost them at least £850. For rarer leathers and fabrics, the price will only increase.

How Chesterfields are priced

The design philosophy and manufacturing process however aren't the only things that lead to the higher price of Chesterfield sofas. Companies building Chesterfield sofas also generally operate using a very different business model from that of traditional furniture retailers who sell mass-produced furniture.

Retailers of mass-produced furniture buy containers of sofas in bulk. They sell this stock at the RRP until the design becomes old and off-trend. At this point, the retailer will likely have made their money back from selling the sofas and will therefore discount the design as a sale item. They need to do this because the design is off-trend and no longer worth what it was, but more importantly, they need the warehouse space for a new shipment of the next on-trend design. 

Chesterfield sofas on the other hand are made to order. No stock needs to be sold quickly, which means that Chesterfield sofas are less likely to be discounted. Manufacturers prefer to sell at a steady price year-round. 

Whilst sales and discounts are great, this model can be advantageous for customers. With no time-limited discounts, you can immerse yourself in the Chesterfield buying process and take as much time as you like. 

It’s all about the service

The Chesterfield buying process itself is another factor contributing to the cost of Chesterfield sofas. Compared to buying from traditional retailers, buying a Chesterfield is a highly personal process. 

With so many options available, and such a large investment, customers often have lots of questions before they make a final decision and need the manufacturer to guide them through the process and empower them to make the best decisions about intricate aspects of the sofa.

Delivering a service like this requires a high level of knowledge and experience, which is simply not required of traditional retailers. As artisanal Chesterfield manufacturers are not focused on simply selling a product, but also guiding and supporting the customer – they must cover this cost in the final selling price.

Final thoughts

Although mass-market sofas are cheaper than artisanal-made Chesterfield sofas, they represent poor value for money. Designed and built to capture fleeting trends, they will need to be replaced in 4-5 years.

Compared to mass-produced sofas, it’s clear to understand why the Chesterfield design is so highly regarded, today more than ever: Meticulously constructed by hand, using robust and enduring materials, an authentic Chesterfield that is designed and built to last will stay with your family for generations. 

A Chesterfield is certainly an investment, but the justifications are plentiful. A quality piece of furniture that is timeless, used every day and lasts a lifetime is not only the essence of good interior design – but is sustainable and can be passed down the generations.

We last updated this page at: 18:55 on Tue 17 Jan 2023