Know your Knowle – Your guide to Knowle Sofas in 2022

Know your Knowle – Your guide to Knowle Sofas in 2022

Whether you find your interior inspiration by exploring the ornate chambers of Britain’s stately homes or by curling up at home with an episode of Downton, you’ll have encountered the grandsire of the modern settee: the Knole sofa.

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Whether you find your interior inspiration by exploring the ornate chambers of Britain’s stately homes or by curling up at home with an episode of Downton, you’ll have encountered the grandsire of the modern settee: the Knowle sofa.

With hinged sides tied to wooden finials by fabric cords, the Knowle’s distinct silhouette set a precedent for comfort and style, and upholsterers have never looked back.

Today you can find Knowle sofas for sale across the UK, in various shapes and styles, proving its enduring appeal. Our Stowe Knowle and the Minster Knowle honour Britain’s oldest and perhaps quirkiest sofa, with antique details and modern design.

Read on to find out more about the Knowle sofa’s royal pedigree and how you can design your own.

A Sofa Fit for King and Queen

Lucia Sofa

Can you believe that sofas weren’t popular until after the 17th century? Our ancestors had to make do with bench-style seating, which would be shoved against a wall for support. Ancient ‘sofas’ were cold and hard – not exactly a cosy spot to curl up with a book (or some embroidery!)

The original Knowle style sofa was made around 1640 and is housed at Knowle House, in Sevenoaks, a National Trust property that’s home to an outstanding collection of Stuart furniture from Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace. It’s open to the public, where the carefully conserved original sofa can be viewed at the Knowle Conservation Studio, where it’s kept behind glass in environmentally stable conditions in the Leicester Gallery. As the Howard Chair revolutionised coil sprung seating, the Knowle drop arm sofa, finials and high sides changed the face of furniture design. The Knowle sofa’s high, adjustable side (kept in place by braided, tasselled cord wrapped around finials) meant sitters stayed toasty in draughty Tudor halls. The sides could also be lowered to make room for napping. And it wasn’t just a favourite of monarchy; England’s literary crowd also embraced the Knowle’s drop down arms and lounge-ability.

In the novel In High Places, the Knowle sofa shares centre stage with a fine Kerman antique carpet. Derek Marlowe namechecks it in Memoirs of a Venus Lackey and Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf likely sat on the three hundred year old original at Knowle House.

Acting royalty Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were famously pictured on their Knowle sofa in 1946.

Minster Knole Sofa

Today a sofa with finials and high sides adds a regal flavour to a room.

Our Knowle sofas are built by master craftspeople in the UK, using traditional methods passed down through the generations, alongside the best modern techniques.

Knowle or Knole?

Stowe Knole Chair

The name Knowle is derived from the Saxon ‘Cnolle’ which means a small hill. It appears in documents as ‘Gnolle’ ‘Knolle’, ‘Knole’ and ‘Knoll’ before the present spelling became standard from about the mid-19th century.

The name of the sofa is spelled either as “Knole” or “Knowle”, and it has no relation to the furniture company Parker Knoll.

However you spell it, a Knowle sofa is the last word in opulent, heritage furniture.

Stowe Knowle or Minster Knole?

We have two types of Knowle sofas for sale in our UK showroom: the Stowe Knowle and the Minster Knole.

Stowe Knowle

This majestic Stowe Knowle Sofa offers real presence within a room. Its high back and sides make it very attractive and very comfortable. Made with traditional coil springs and Qualofil fibre seat cushions as standard. A matching footstool, armchair and love chair available.


  • Wood Finish
  • Leg Style
  • Castor Colour
  • Cushion Filling
  • Choice of Finials (Acorn or Rocco)

Please note the price shown does not include the cost of your chosen fabric.

knowle sofa

The Minster Knole Sofa

The Minster Knole Sofa, a classic design. Adorned with traditional fabrics, antique finials and grand tie backs, it can make a real statement. Or drape in contemporary sheens with Swarovski tie-backs and patent finials to be stunningly unique and ultra-modern.

This gorgeous Minster Knole Sofa features a coil sprung seat and hollowfibre seat cushions. Duck feather and down side & scatter cushions and polished tapered wood legs complete the look. A matching armchair is also available.


  • Wood Finish
  • Castor Colour
  • Fixed or drop arm available
  • Finials available in 6 styles

Please note the price shown does not include the cost of your chosen fabric.

Use our bespoke online design tool to customise your Minster Knole sofa!

Packed With Period Charm

More throne than a sofa, the Knowle sofa is a regal classic that envelops you in a cosy, opulent embrace.

We love the unconventional silhouette of the traditional Knowle sofa, which inspired our modern version.

A sofa with drop-down arms allows the sofa to be used as a bed, and when raised, the arms keep out the cold, creating a snug hideaway to nestle in all the evening.

Elegant, carved wood finials add class and period charm. A finial is an ornament at the top of a piece of furniture, lamp, spire or gable. Finials can also be seen at the end of drapery rods and are a decorative attention to detail often associated with period furniture.

When you design your custom Knowle sofa with us, choose between acorn or rococo finials.

Your choice of fabric also determines how modern or traditional your custom Knowle sofa will look. We have hundreds to choose from in our fabric library.

How To Style Your Knowle Sofa

A Romantic And Relaxing Lover’s Nook

Rushcliffe Sofa

A Knowle style sofa’s high sides mean two people can face each other for an old-fashioned tête-à-tête instead of scrolling in silence. Pile on the cushions and get lost in conversation. We love this luxurious, cream Knowle sofa.

Gothic Lite in Dusky Lavender

Chippendale Sofa

For stately homeowners, actors and royalty, a Knowle sofa is the first choice to add drama and elegance to a home. What about this lavender Knowle? If ‘Light Gothic’ isn’t already an interior design trend we think it should be!

French Chic – Ooh La La!

Marlow Sofa

Quintessentially English

Stowe Knowle Sofa

A sofa with finials feels quirkily, quintessentially English. This petite version shows that you don’t need a stately home to be the proud owner of a Knowle style sofa.

Make Your Sofa the Centre of Attention

Rushcliffe Sofa

If you’re lucky enough to have a large living room with high ceilings, make your Knowle sofa a statement centrepiece, Velvet upholstery will add a luxe, jewelled finish to your showstopper sofa.

Pick A Side – Bold Maximalism or Chic Minimalism?

Elise Sofa

Try grey or neutral tones for a minimal, modern look or go bold with printed cushions and bright upholstery for a home that exudes personality. We’re torn between the delightful pop of colour in an otherwise minimal palette from Layla Grace and this bold and blue styling from Leighton and Associates. Whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist, there’s certainly room for a Knowle sofa in your life.

Isabella Sofa

The fittings and furnishings around your Knowle sofa will change its look dramatically. The Knole is a bit of a chameleon sofa, looking every inch the modern, sleek sofa when surrounded with contemporary elegance and is equally at home surrounded by grand maximalism.

And if you needed one final stamp of approval, the famous ruby red Knowle sofa on the features on the set of Downton Abbey!

Blending form and function, a Knowle sofa is an investment piece, but it gets the royal seal approval (and ours!) for being a stylish sofa built to endure whatever style trends the decades throw at it.

View our Knowle sofas for sale and design your luxuriant, dream interior with The Original Chair Company today.

Further Information


We are pleased to offer a delivery service to any UK mainland address, please contact us for a quote.

Overseas buyers are welcome, please contact us before purchasing to discuss shipping and payment options.


Bank transfer immediate payments are preferred, however, we also accept credit and debit card payments. All payments must be made within 7 days from the date of purchase.

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