The Knole Sofa - Then and Now

The Knole Sofa is a timeless classic, still popular today. Its striking form has been a source of inspiration in the Be Seated workshop recently; completing both a traditional Knole commissionas well as launching our first ‘Contemporary Settle Sofa’, (influenced by the Knole Sofa) at Design Market in July.

But what makes a design Timeless? We decided to delve into the History of the Knole Sofa and find out.

It is thought that the first Knole Sofa dates back to around 350 years ago, where it can still be found today at Knole House in Sevenoaks Kent.

Although this seems like a reputable place to begin the history of the Knole sofa, the origins of its design are shrouded in folklore.

Illustration of a Traditional Knole Sofa

The stories range from the practical to the fantastical with regards to the Knole’s unique shape.

Some say its depth and high sides were to accommodate and ‘frame’ in a throne like fashion the ladies adorning the customary large dresses of the time. The bigger the dress, the further the adjustable sides were lowered and subsequently the more important you were.

Others believe that the Knole was created especially for the Lady of the house’s bedroom chamber. A sofa which allowed her privacy with her lover while her husband was out of town.

One side could be slightly dropped for comfort towards the keyhole to prevent any maids in waiting witnessing the mischief within; whilst the other side would be fully dropped to face the window so they could anticipate the husbands return.

Be Seated Linen Striped Knole

Dubious? Well the more likely explanation is to provide comfort though warmth in the days before insulation and central heating.

The high sides provided a shelter from drafts cutting through the house whilst collecting heat from the fire place.

Our recent commission for a Knole sofa was made for no other reason then great style to compliment a private home in coastal Cornwall.

The fabric chosen is Linen Union, ‘Stockholm Stripe’ by Vanessa Arbuthnott. This particular Linen is woven in heavier weight yarn making it a durable option for Upholstery.

Arne Jacobsen Mayor Sofa

StudioIsle Settle Bench for De La Espada

Whatever the reason behind its original design, its form is still being adapted today.

From the contemporary reinventions of the Knole reflected in Arne Jacobsens ‘Mayor Sofa’ back in 1939, to the launch of products such as the ‘Settle Bench’ for De La Espada by Studioisle recently winning international awards.

Bene/Pearson Lloyd  - PARCS Wing Sofa

The Knole can even be recognised in concept upholstered office furniture. Products such as thisParcs Wing Sofa by PearsonLloyd has become very popular for its privacy features in modern office spaces.

Further celebrating the evolution of the Knole, Be Seated Introduces the ‘Contemporary Settle Sofa’. Upholstered in ‘Kazan’ , part of the new fabric range by Manuel Canovas, this bright Sofa will be the focal point of any space whilst harking back to its traditional origins. We hope you can join us at Design Market 19th-21st July to enjoy it for yourself!

Be Seated Contemporary Settle Sofa