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Caspar: the engineering behind the design

Caspar: the engineering behind the design

Several seasons ago, our design team created Caspar – a club armchair that’s all about heritage, from its oak legs and brass studs to its tan leather upholstery. Its neat proportions, its ever-so soft sit and its old-world curb appeal all went down a storm and soon, many of you were asking whether a sofa shape could one day come into the collection. You spoke, we listened, and this autumn, we reveal Caspar in two-seater and three-seater sofa form. Here, Henry from our design team shares some of the secrets behind the much-awaited design.

“I call it an occasional sofa”

“Knowing that so many people were asking for a Caspar sofa didn’t completely surprise me. We had got to the point in our collection where we wanted to create a more modest, what I call an ‘occasional sofa’ – one without the substantial scale and footprint as, say, Long Island. There was a niche that needed filling for a sofa that might be better suited to city apartments and townhouses, like the classic Victorian terrace that can be very huge and very beautiful but is typically very narrow too. Caspar, therefore, made perfect sense and was ripe for transforming into this precise aesthetic and necessary role. We knew we could broaden its scope and interest.”

“A crucial aspect to its design was reapplying the armchair’s extraordinary comfort – it is, after all, one of our most comfortable chairs.”

“Of our occasional chairs, Caspar is the only one with eight-way hand-tied springs. It’s more costly to create, as you might expect, because it takes more experience and more time to produce. This is principally why we don’t offer it on every chair design, otherwise it would price everything much more highly, and we’ve always been keen to provide a model that spans budgets. Caspar is a smaller piece, however, and has a more straightforward shape to which this spring structure can be applied. With a more complex shape such as Audrey or Amelia, anchoring the springs to their curved form is difficult, hence why they lend themselves better to the serpentine spring construction. Similarly, to use eight-way springs on the Long Island or Olivia sofas would perhaps be unwise as their sheer surface area would quite dramatically inflate the price.

When we introduced the eight-way springs on the Caspar armchair, the comfort level became one of its defining features. As such, a crucial aspect to its design was reapplying the armchair’s extraordinary comfort – it is, after all, one of our most comfortable chairs. Unlike a serpentine spring that flexes and bends as force is applied to it meaning, from front to back, there’s one component managing weight distribution across the length of the piece in one movement, an eight-way spring, by comparison, is hourglass in shape, laid in a grid within the seat and bound together by string horizontally, vertically and diagonally – hence, eight-way. This allows each spring to react to weight independently. For example, there’s a difference between how much pressure your back applies to a sofa versus your legs – they require different levels of support. With eight-way hand-tied springs, each part of the seat can adapt as necessary, flexing and bending with great fluidity and intuition.”

“Comfort is, of course, in the cushion too. In the sofa, we sought to better what had been done with the Caspar armchair. We saw it as an opportunity to re-engineer.”

“The Caspar armchair had a supreme level of comfort, and like with all of our pieces, we went to great levels of testing various filling ratios to achieve a feathery sort of sit but one that eases you in. But we too are great believers in constantly reassessing, reevaluating, gathering feedback from our customers, and revisiting our pieces to improve where we might. Indeed, the eight-way springs provide an impressive base for comfort, but comfort is, of course, in the cushion too. In the sofa, we sought to better what had been done with the Caspar armchair. We saw it as an opportunity to re-engineer. By revising the fill ratios in the base and back cushion (we’re now at a 70:30 split of fibre with a goose and duck feather wrap) and the weight of the fill, the cushions are now at their most sublime. They bounce back to maintain Caspar’s tailored look, but are incredibly generous in comfort too. At the same time, we’ve slightly increased the height of the front leg to improve the rake – essentially so the sofa’s positioning holds your weight better and eases you into a reclined pose – and added some extra cushioning to the lumbar area for comfort but also to ensure the back cushion doesn’t tilt forward in any way as a result of the curve of the backrest.”

“It might seem simple, but the uniformity of the Caspar sofa is one of the design features that I find most pleasing. It very much is the armchair doubled and tripled, but there’s a science behind the art of sharing it with another.”

“Not every sofa is as straightforward as multiplying the armchair size to create either a two-seater or three-seater sofa. But with Caspar, this was precisely the approach taken. It might seem simple, but the uniformity of the Caspar sofa is one of the design features that I find most pleasing. It very much is the armchair doubled and tripled, but there’s a science behind the art of sharing it with another. The challenge comes in anticipating the various ways people enjoy using a sofa. Unlike an armchair, which is more predictable, some people will enjoy putting their feet up, or sitting at an angle or curling their legs underneath themselves with a throw. So, we looked at how best to split the cushions on a smaller sofa. By keeping the individual cushion proportions, especially on the three-seater sofa, it became easier when sharing for one person to spread out across two cushions whilst not changing the sit and comfort the second person enjoys, which can sometimes get compressed. It’s a small difference, but they’re the ones that add up to make a big difference.”

“Determining the arm height is primarily about comfort and understanding its likely application. The position for a reading chair is much different to a seat for watching the television.”

“While form influences much of what we do, design is always a balance between both function and form. With the Caspar armchair and sofa, we certainly wanted to achieve the club-style aesthetic, which naturally has a lower seat, higher arms and a more squared shape, but the arm position was even more informed by use. Determining the arm height is primarily about comfort and understanding its likely application. The position for a reading chair is much different to a seat for watching the television, for example. In Caspar, we could actually imagine it being used for both, so the arm height needed to be high enough for elbow comfort when resting with a book, but not so high that it lost its curl-up-in-front-of-the-sofa appeal. Every little detail in design has to be considered this deeply so that its use in the home isn’t just a joy for the here and now but for the decades to follow.”

“In total, it took somewhere in the region of 21-24 months to design the Caspar sofa. Good design isn’t something to rush.”

“People often seem interested in how long it takes to achieve a design, from start to finish. In total, it took somewhere in the region of 21–24 months to design the Caspar sofa. Good design isn’t something to rush. It was, however, an evolution from the original Caspar armchair, which took 12–15 months to design. We had strong foundations to build upon, so I’d say the enhancements that went into designing the sofa lasted nine months or so. The biggest hurdle of course was COVID-19, and adapting our design process to a remote situation. It was quite the moment when we were able to safely return to HQ to see the piece as a team and feel unanimously pleased and proud of the result – a sofa that will suit a variety of homes, a sofa that is smart in appearance and soft in sit, a sofa that was missing but has now been found.”

See the Caspar sofa in person at your local Neptune store and design it your way with our Tailored service and extensive range of fabrics.