Terminology Time: Knole Sofas

Like many people, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the specifics of furniture. I see something, I like it, I can’t afford it, so I write about it here. The end. But a little education can go a long way when one is at the designing stage of outfitting one’s home (which is when one needs knowledge and imagination more than money). With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to go against the grain and spend at least some time thinking about the specifics of furniture. And writing about, since that’s what I do!


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First on the list: The classic Knole sofa (or Knole settee). When I say classic, I mean Jurassic because you don’t see many new Knole sofas in furniture shops. First made in the 17th Century, with the original having been produced sometime between 1610 and 1620 for the Knole House in Kent, it was not intended to be a comfortable seat for one and all, but rather as a formal throne upon which royalty would have sat while receiving visitors.


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The main defining features of the Knole sofa are the adjustable side arms that rise as high as the back, deep seating, and the carved finials in the rear corners. Those are what make the Knole sofa’s side arms adjustable, actually, for the side arms are tied to the back of the sofa with decorative braided fabric, as shown below. It’s quite distinctive, but also quite old fashioned, so I’m not surprised that the Knole sofa is slowly going the way of the dinosaurs.


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2 Responses to “Terminology Time: Knole Sofas”

  1. Pam March 31, 2010 at 8:10 am #

    These look fabulous and you’re right, I’ve never seen one in a furniture store. Bummer!

  2. Lee Hevey November 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    Love old fashioned couches, but only place I’ve seen them is in old historic houses and museums. Is it weird that I want to smuggle one out in my jacket?