A sofa is a piece of furniture that seats two or more persons in the form of a bench with or without armrests and is used for seating and entertaining guests. However, we think that the sofa has transformed over time to become something more than a place to sit and has become more about comfort and relaxation. The term couch is slang for the word sofa and is only used in North America and Australia but its definition is more appropriately described as a place to lie down. Various popular sofa designs today are either fully upholstered or upholstered with exposed wood framing and come in multiple sizes to fit the needs of the space. Some of our favorite sofa manufacturers use modern variations combined with historical detailing giving the sofa a unique one-of-a-kind look. We have listed some of the most popular and relevant sofas styles that are available today but keep in mind each manufacturer carries different variations and designs.
A Tuxedo Sofa has a straight back with arms are the same height as the back. This sofa is considered to be one of the first modern streamlined sofas but when combined with classical tufting or bolster pillows it can still look great in a traditional space. We like to combine this type of sofa with chairs that have some sort of curvature so that the room has visual interest. Some tuxedo sofas look as though they would be quite uncomfortable to lie down on but if it is made by a reputable manufacturer such as Drexel Heritage it can be quite comfortable.
A Modern Sofa refers to "Mid-Century Modern" when the post-world war ideals of anything used in excess was eliminated to save time, labor and money. The modern movement promoted anything that could be mass produced or anything that promoted functionality rather than decoration. The Bernhardt Modern Sofa shown in the sketch above is a spin-off of the Mid-Century Modern sofa by adding comfort with the tapered arms on the interior of the sofa.
English Roll Arm Sofa
The English Roll Arm style sofa has a high back with low arms and sometimes the arms are so low that you can barely tell that there are arms at all. Even though this sofa was designed with comfort in mind, we think that it can be hard to lounge on in a slightly upright reading position since the pillows can sometimes fall over the arms. This Lexington sofa sketch above is shown with a skirt but can easily be made with wood feet. There are many modern arm styles and spin-offs that will fit into this category of sofa and can be used in a wide variety of spaces.
A Chesterfield sofa has deep tufting (buttoned leather) on the interior of the back and rolled arms with a low seat base. It is similar to the Tuxedo Sofa in which the back and the arms are all the same height. It was designed in England so that a gentleman could sit down in comfort without wrinkling his garments. It represented a sought-after elite status in luxury, class and style. The Chesterfield remains as iconic today as it was when it was first made in the 1700's and can be used in both modern and traditional settings.
An American Sofa is considered to be overstuffed with loose seat and back cushions that are separate from the frame. It was originally designed by Thomas Lawson in Oregon for himself. One of the benefits of the Lawson style sofa is that the cushions can be rotated and fluffed up which will help spread out the wear and tear of the sofa. Each cushion usually has a zipper so that the covering can be washed or dry-cleaned. Arm, leg and cushion styles vary with each manufacturer and can provide great comfort in most casually designed spaces.
A Chaise Lounge is technically a large chair with a seat long enough to support the legs. The Egyptians used the chaise for lounging during the day and to sleep on during the night. Chaise Lounges were called fainting couches in the 19th Century because women were actually fainting because their corsets were too tight, restricting blood flow. In modern times, they are often seen in front of a window or near bookcases for reading in a reclined position. Manufacturers and designers have modified the chaise lounge into more modern designs but each modern design is a version of a classical design such as the ones listed below.
The Duchesse is a chaise lounge divided into separate sections similar to two chairs and an ottoman in the middle.
The Recamier has two-raised ends and nothing on the long sides which was made for two people to relax facing each other.
The Meridienne has a high headrest and slopes downward toward the arm.
Double Chaise Lounge (Recamier)
The Double Chaise Lounge has two headrests and is made for two people to relax facing each other. This particular design is a Wesley Hall modern version of the Recamier. We think that this can be used in a living space in lieu of a second sofa. Double Chaise Lounges add interest to a space while providing comfortable lounging and/or seating.
A Sectional Sofa is formed from multiple sections and has at least two sections that join at a ninety-degree angle. With the wide variety of sectional options available that can include a choice of a loveseat, sofa, recliner, chaise and/or a corner wedge choosing the arrangement can sometimes be difficult. It is best that your room be measured and it is suggested that it is drawn on paper to make sure that it fits in your home before you make this large purchase. Some manufactures give more options than others so it is important that you shop around for the sizes that best fit your space. We are seeing more people purchasing the sectional type sofa for the family-friendly designs in family rooms but staying with a more traditional look with sofas in their living rooms.
A settee is a seat for two or more persons with an upright back and two arms. A settee is similar to a sofa but is much smaller and more petite. It is usually placed in an entry/foyer or pulled up to a dining table in lieu of two chairs. There are several different types of settees that have become popular throughout the years but most of the modern-day settees are fully upholstered and have a mixture of some of the historical detailing in the settee styles below.
The Cabriole style settee has a continuous curved line from the back to the arms with an exposed wood frame with wood detail. The feet may or may not have the ball and claw design. This sofa was popular in French salons.
The Empire style settee has curved arms, an exposed frame and curved legs with carvings. There are often bolster pillows on each end of the bench. Empire era carvings include eagle motifs and animal paw feet and were popular during the Federal on America.
The Neoclassical style settee resembles a two person chair rather than a sofa. It has an upholstered seat and back with exposed wood arms and legs. This settee was popular in the 1600's.
The Two Chair-back settee looks like two chairs infused together and ranged in styles from Queen Anne to Colonial America.
The Camelback style settee has a sloping back similar to a camel where it is high in the middle and drops to the same height on each side. This was a Thomas Chippendale design.
A Bench is a long seat that can be with or without arms or a back. Benches can be made in a wide variety of materials and range from extremely modern to traditional. Benches can be used both indoors and outdoors depending on the durability of the materials used. The petite upholstered bench in the image above would look great at the end of a bed. In residential design benches are also placed in entryways in lieu of the settee and sometimes used in a common area for extra seating, as a footstool or, in some cases, a coffee table.
Daybeds are a cross between a sofa, bed and a chaise lounge. They can be used for lounging, reclining and seating in a common space such as a living or a family room. Daybeds can also be used in guest bedrooms for sleeping or seating and can have additional storage or a trundle bed underneath. We are beginning to see more and more of these used living rooms rather than having a second sofa. They are great for reclining and can seat several people if you are entertaining. We think that the daybed can be quite flattering in most room designs.