The Knole sofa takes it’s name from Knole house, in Kent. Since the early 1600s Knole has been home to the Sackville -West family, who C 1610 – 1620 commissioned this style of sofa. Knole is now owned by the National Trust and the original sofa is on display.
Essentially this sofa is a pretty straightforward, but at the time highly imaginative, development of the standard upholstered bench, adding back and sides. Not to lounge around in but to hold court from. This was one of the first ever ( perhaps the very first ) sofa, or settee, to be made. Upholstery as we know it today was unknown, but soon became highly sought after and enviable. It precipitated major and far reaching changes to furniture arrangement – for the first time furniture could be brought into the room, no longer reliant on the walls to supply the back cushion and support.
It’s now a design classic, of which there are many variations, excepting that the sides are always hinged to the sofa base, and they can be lowered, they are not usually substantial enough to be able to sit on. The sides and backs are the same height, and are held together at the top with chunky cords wound around two finials – one on the sofa back and one on the side . Whether the cords are decorative or not, with tassels etc. depends more on the chosen style of furnishings then the Knole style. The arm fronts can be finished very simply or with decorative detail, as a plain fabric with self piping. Or with studs or fringing.
The seat is deep and capacious, it’s a sofa designed to keep the cold and draught away, with the front open to receive the warmth of the fire.
It’s too high for a conversation room – they only work face to face with groups, and this is both their plus and their minus point. They are good for corners and where the backs are used deliberately, to divide a room into sectors- hotels for example.
Perhaps the idea of the chesterfield -as a shorter sided, more padded version came about to solve just this problem.
Here we chose them for their size. These were made specially to our dimensions – they needed to be extra large for the room, but still comfortable enough for any size of guest to sit in. The coffee table measures almost 2 metres long and the curtains are around 5 metres, which gives some indication of the size of the room. We chose a very classic fabric, woven in England by Gainsborough silk weavers, and had the cords and tassels made to match.
The style and simplicity of the Knole sofa renders it suitable for any fabric, any place and it fits with all styles and forms of decoration. It’s one of the first choices for a comfortable sofa in a clean lined contemporary situation. And equally for a large wood panelled, dining or entrance hall, along with with roaring fire and gun dogs.