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Chesterfield chat



The classy leather chairs have the charm of a Kanjeevaram sari.

I SANK into a genuine Chesterfield in Bangalore, not in 18th Century England. And I lapped up the comfort of a spacious single-seater of rust-brown Mouton Fauve lambskin from France, sourced from Australia or New Zealand, hand-finished with vegetable dyes. It felt silky to my fingers on the rounded armrests. Minutes later, I tried a stonewashed denim sofa, just as comfortable as my favourite jeans — creased at the joints, elegant with usage.

Both experiences were possible at 1995-launched Chester's, the fine furniture brand. One that graces the offices of Honda, Enterprise Nexus, Reliance, Biocon, and Hindustan Lever, besides other gracious spaces in South-East Asia and Europe. Today, its first showroom at a quaint Queen's Road bungalow sets the stage for a foray into local homes and reception areas.

"We designed the store with the objective of giving our customers a feel of what their Chester's masterpiece would look like in a home," explains its Managing Director, Ramesh Ramaswamy, escorting us past the assymetrical courtyard to pastel blue or ochre rooms, complete with paintings, cabinets, coffee tables, and table-lamps. Settling into a settee upholstered with South African aniline bovine skins, Ramaswamy drifts easily into history: "The 18th Century English Earl of Chesterfield loved playing pool every afternoon. But he didn't want to return home for a siesta. So, he ordered the creation of a comfortable, classy long seat with a backrest, perhaps in brocade, that he could rest on between rounds. That gave birth to upholstery as a trade. And the original Chesterfield."

Other nuggets of furniture history soon come our way. That the original lambskin Chesterfields are made solely in Bangalore, Belgium, and Holland, besides Romania and Portugal because of their cheaper labour, so on and so forth. "These classic leather chairs have the charm of Kanjeevaram saris," asserts Ramaswamy. "They are both traditional, yet contemporary."

How does Chester's persuade clients to invest Rs. 30,000 upwards on a classic leather chair? Till the showroom opened, Ramaswamy would take them to his 6,000 sq. ft. Bangalore factory, where they could watch its assemblage. From the solid Indian teak frame, the strong jute webbing, the composite spring support, layered by hand with fine coir matting, polyurethane foam and felt, fastened with steel staples. Then came the leather layer, free of Azo and Benzedine dyes, safe for human use.

But this sheer deconstruction of furniture cannot have won Chester's plaudits from Shirai Choichi (advisor to Honda), Sanjay Mariwala (former vice-chairman, Spices Board), and Mohammed Khan (chairman, Enterprise Nexus). Passionately, Ramaswamy narrates the account of a Surat-based diamond exporter who had invested in Chester's ware worth Rs. 21 lakh. While in transit between offices three years later, some chairs were damaged. Chester's replaced each, free of cost. Today, Bangaloreans have an opportunity to furnish their homes with the care lavished on the cabins of the top 50 Indian corporate houses. And if leather Chesterfields seem an impossible dream, the sofas could be upholstered in customer-picked chinos, denims, chenilles, damasks, or even cheap kora cloth, fitted to unzip for a quick wash.

Chester's is at 19, Queen's Road. Phone: 51148108

A.D.

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