Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Elusive History of the Chesterfield

Possibly the most recognizable and iconic style of furniture, the Chesterfield sofa has a long, mysterious history. Tailored and sophisticated, this celebrated design has adapted through the centuries of interior trends and has now become a must-have for any home. The Chesterfield is a tufted leather sofa with rolled arms at an even height with the back of the couch, often decorated with elaborate wooden feet or brass nail heads. Found in an abundance of colors and fabrics, the Chesterfield is both comfortable and posh.

Chesterfield Sofa, Jean-Marc Fray Antiques
Chesterfield Living Room, Timothy Oulton

Though the first recorded use of the word “chesterfield” was not until 1900, many documents, paintings, and anecdotes depict the Chesterfield sofa decades before the turn of the century. Lore surrounding the style describes Lord Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773) as the originator of this seminal design. Stanhope, known by his contemporaries as a fashionable gentleman, is said to have requested a local craftsman to produce a sofa on which he could sit in comfort, while also wrinkling his extravagant clothing. Despite the widespread knowledge of this story, there is no proof of the Chesterfield being procured in such a way. In fact, there is no concrete evidence of it’s mysterious beginnings at all.

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield by Benjamin Wilson, Leeds Museums and Galleries

By the Victorian Era, the Chesterfield sofa was seen prominently throughout the gentlemen’s clubs of London. As an elusive meeting place for the most well-respected and high-society men to congregate in secret, the design flourished and can still be seen in some of these clubs to this day. These secret clubs ultimately add to the popularity of the sofa, but more than likely stalled the widespread interest in the Chesterfield by keeping the design to this exclusive setting.

Castle Balmoral, the Scottish holiday home of the royal family, was opened in 1853. In a James Roberts’ painting from 1857, the drawing room of Balmoral can be seen in all of it’s plaid splendor, including two Chesterfield sofas in a traditional Scottish plaid pattern. This is one of the earliest known images of a Chesterfield. Soon after, another early painting of a Chesterfield can be seen in Frederick Walker’s 1867 illustration for the novel The Adventures of Philip by William Makepeace Thakeray. This Chesterfield can be seen surrounded by a more traditional Victorian decor, including floral wallpaper and a gilded mirror. Even in these early examples, the Chesterfield was already demonstrating it’s elegant versatility.

Brooks Gentlemen’s Club, one of the oldest in London
Balmoral: The Drawing Room, Royal Collection Trust
Frederick Walker’s 1867 Illustration, Apartment Therapy

As the British Empire expanded, so did the British cultural influence and popular fashions. The Chesterfield was one of these exports, expanding the sofa to Australia, India, Canada, and the US. The design became so popular in Canada that the word “Chesterfield” became the overarching term used for all sofa designs and was only recently replaced with the US term “couch.” This archetypal influence continued through the 1920’s, when the Chesterfield became a must-have for the middle-class dreaming of extravagant living. Moving into the Mid-Century, the style continued to be a symbol in living rooms across the world.

Chesterfield with iconic Eames’ chair, Home Edit
Chesterfield Armchairs, Jean-Marc Fray Antiques
Chesterfield in Mattie’s, Joel Mozersky Design

The beautiful materials and strong classic style allows the Chesterfield to adapt to the aesthetics of traditional or modern spaces. At Jean-Marc Fray, we love the durability and strength of the leather with the wonderful details of the brass nail heads and tufting. The mysterious saga of the Chesterfield’s history makes this design both beautiful and important. Please check out the Chesterfields we have in a wide range of colors and sizes, available on our website!

Black Leather Chesterfield, Jean-Marc Fray Antiques
Chesterfield Office, Better Decorating Bible
Red Chesterfield Sofa, Jean-Marc Fray Antiques
Posted by Cecilia Chard at 11:59:13 PM
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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Help Hurricane Harvey Victims

We are grieving for our neighbors in Houston and along the Gulf Coast and want to help in any way we can. Whether it’s donations of money, clothes, food, supplies, or time, everything makes a difference. Ten percent of all our sale proceeds will be donated to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, and we have compiled a list of other organizations that could use any and all support.

Flooding in Houston | ABC News

If you’re in Austin:

Donate food and cleaning supplies to Feeding Texas, which is coordinating with other local food banks to distribute the goods.

Drop off toiletries, inflatable mattresses, pillows, undergarments, baby food/diapers, and cleaning supplies at Hope Family Thrift Store, where you can also sign up to volunteer for clean-up efforts. They are also working with the Austin Disaster Relief Network.

Donate pet food and supplies to Austin Pets Alive!, and foster a pet if you’re able.

Donate construction cleanup supplies such as ladders, debris containers, and truck cranes to The Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group.

Hurricane HarveyOther ways to help:

Donate money to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which will support victims that have been affected by the floods.

Donate money to Team Rubicon, an organization that “unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams”.

Donate money to the American Red Cross, which is working to provide shelter and aid to the Gulf Coast.

Donate money to the Houston SPCA, to support the displaced pets and animals.

Posted by Walter Ross at 02:59:59 AM
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Martin Caminiti: Quantum Assembly

Martin Caminiti | Impressions d’Ateliers

As if out of a lost Icarus dream or Leonardo da Vinci portfolio, Martin Caminiti interconnects with precision and atmospheric symmetry the detritus of our leisurely life. And though his machines don’t fly, they transport us immediately into this reality where it seems that Nature, guided by a harmless and empathetic dreamer, has finally decided to play men’s games.

Martin Caminiti | Galerie Martagon

He uses a technique of assembly in his work– taking parts from salvaged items and placing them side by side, constantly questioning our response to the phenomenon of juxtaposition in sculpture. It’s about material contiguity as well as semantic proximity, and it’s as much about closely-linked references as it is about the manner of making contact with an adjacent area or space.

He plays with words, creates lines from threads, and fishes for shapes rather than drawing them with a pencil. He draws using outlines taken from larger structures, in the same way as one might design the framework for a 3D object on a computer. He evokes shapes in the space using his technique of assembly or collage, with which he has formed his own language.

Posted by Walter Ross at 09:29:49 PM
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Buffa Effect

Paolo Buffa | Pamono

Mid-century Italian designer and architect, Paolo Buffa, created designs that define modern elegance, striking the perfect balance between simplicity and subtle opulence. His clean lines are softened by tapered and angled details, beautiful woods, intricate marquetry, and a fine attention to detail. Each piece is excellently crafted with care, resulting in stylish, comfortable, and functional works of art. 

Armchair with daggerlike ebonized legs, circa 1949 | AD

Burled walnut and rosewood buffet, circa 1950 | JMF

He received his degree in architecture from Politechnico de Milan in 1927, and worked briefly in the studio of Gio Ponti before opening his own studio in the early 1930’s. This was the beginning of a period of modernization in the interiors industry, initiated by the debate over the necessity of luxury versus the moral obligation to provide good furniture to the masses. Buffa was one of the pioneers of this growth, leading Italian design into the 20th century.

Liquor cabinet with foliage and butterflies inlaid, circa 1946 | AD

Warm walnut and burled ash buffet, circa 1950 | JMF

He built relationships with the established cabinetmakers of the time, who were known for their exceptional quality, but also their resistance to change. He taught them to streamline production and use better techniques and simpler designs, which allowed them to create small series of furniture, instead of one piece at a time. His unique and sophisticated designs were therefore created at the finest level of craftsmanship, while still maintaining a reasonable price point for the time.

Green velvet armchairs, circa 1940 | JMF

Rare cabinet inlaid with brass stars, circa 1940 | AD

According to Roberto Rizzi, a professor and Buffa expert, Buffa’s pieces speak “an eclectic language that mixes the Milanese matrix with modern taste”. His fashionable stylings drew the attention of kings and influential patrons all over the world, requesting him to decorate or design their salons, palaces, and yachts— and they still draw our attention today. Peruse the prized Paolo Buffa pieces we have available in our gallery here!

Posted by Lauren Gunn at 04:38:36 AM
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