The sofa is one of the most important pieces of furniture you’ll ever buy for a room. The best sofas are versatile, comfortable, trendy and affordable, allowing you to create a cozy and functional space that looks chic and fits your home decor. With so many different sofas to choose from, it’s essential to choose the right furniture for your personal needs. Some couches come in certain shapes and sizes that will influence your interior design, while others offer levels of support that may impact your back and posture. Understanding the unique characteristics and features of different styles of sofas and couches can be a great way to ensure you pick the perfect option for your living room. To inspire you with ideas, we’ve compiled a guide to the most popular types of sofas to consider when decorating your home. From modern to transitional to traditional designs, explore these unique couch styles to find comfortable, stylish, and well-made furniture you’ll love.
Types of Couches
Sectional sofas came onto the scene in the 1950s to provide ample seating as family sizes grew larger. Smaller sectionals tend to be a single piece with a chaise on one side. Larger sectionals tend to consist of several smaller seating units that can be arranged in different ways. Also known as modular sofas, these interlocking pieces may be moved around to create an L-shape or U-shape design to fit the room.
Sectional sofas can be large in scale, which makes them an excellent choice in a large room. They can anchor a seating area in an open floor plan living room because their natural shape creates visual lines despite the lack of interior walls.
Many people don’t realize that sectionals can also be great in smaller spaces. Because this sofa style can fit right into a corner, it can provide extra seating without taking up too much room. Just make sure your sofa is scaled to the space.
Chesterfield couches have one of the more recognizable sofa silhouettes. With their high rolled arms, tufted backs, and lushly overstuffed appearance, Chesterfields embody an old-fashioned elegance.
It is rumored that the original Chesterfield sofa was commissioned by Lord Philip Stanhope in the 1700s. But the iconic profile featuring arms and back of the same height was refined and popularized later during the Victorian era.
This decadent sofa style can be enhanced by the material you choose as upholstery. A deep brown leather Chesterfield is a classically masculine choice for a home office, while a velvet Chesterfield in a rich jewel tone would work in an elegant sitting room.
The Lawson-style sofa was designed to be comfortable and easy to sit in with large, soft cushions. This sofa gets its name from financier Thomas Lawson, who wanted a furniture style that was modern in aesthetic and cozy. As the Victorian era drew to a close, Lawson grew tired of ornate and uncomfortable furniture. He led the push for couches with simpler and modernized lines and a more inviting feel.
Lawson-style couches feature straight, almost boxy lines and low-profile squared or rounded arms. The back is often quite high, with a seat that tends to match its depth with the height of the back for extra comfort. Unlike many other types of sofas, the back cushions of a Lawson couch are detached, letting you position the cushions for maximum comfort.
The loveseat is a type of small couch designed to hold two people. Similar to a settee, this sofa for two is made with comfortable and warm materials for a cozy feel. In a large room or house, loveseats may come as part of a living room set with a couch, armchairs and coffee table. In a studio apartment or smaller home, the loveseat may be the perfect couch for your living room.
Loveseats actually started as wide chairs where women could sit and spread out their voluminous skirts. Later, when fashion became more streamlined, courting couples would sit together on this cozy, small-sized upholstered furniture. That’s what lends the loveseat its romantic name.
The Cabriole sofa has an upscale and elegant look thanks to its exposed carved wood frame, generous curved lines, and eponymous cabriole legs. A cabriole is a popular and iconic furniture leg with a knee that curves outward and an ankle that curves inward.
This kind of sofa comes complete with a decorative foot. The curve is similar to the bend of a ballet dancer’s leg when they perform a cabriole jump.
Cabriole legs first came into fashion in the first part of the 1700s during the reign of Louis XV. They can also be found on Chippendale furniture and other ornately designed pieces that were made throughout the Victorian era.
Mid-century modern couches were ubiquitous in American interior design between the 1930s and 1970s, and continue to be embraced by homeowners and designers today. Mid-century modern couches combine the sleek lines of more contemporary furniture with the comfort of family-friendly furniture.
Mid-century modern style evolved in large part because of technological advances in furniture manufacturing. As the economy soared, families began settling in new suburban areas. These homes needed to be built and furnished quickly.
Mid-century couches were faster to make because they lacked ornate detailing found in early furniture styles, and the clean lines also allowed for more efficient packing and shipping. The look of this distinctive 20th-century Bauhaus-inspired style is largely informed by its functionality.
Contemporary Mid-Century Modern Sofa
The contemporary mid-century modern sofa intentionally echoes the same features that made vintage mid-century couch feel so striking. This modern twist on the classic style tends to have clean lines with a low-profile. Discreet tapered legs can sometimes give the impression that the sofa has just naturally floated into place.
While some vintage examples of mid-century modern sofas are still around today, many people prefer to own newer furniture. Luckily, you can still get a mid-century modern look with new items since several contemporary furniture designers continue to put their own spin on the style.
A chaise lounge is technically more of a chair than a couch, but its elongated shape makes it an excellent place to stretch out and relax. In French, the phrase “chaise longue” translates directly to “long chair” and describes a chair that has a lengthened seat with a leg rest for comfortable reclining. Nevertheless, English speakers tend to use the term “chaise lounge” interchangeably with “chaise longue” to refer to these comfortable reclining chairs.
An indoor chaise lounge is an upholstered piece of furniture that combines features of chairs and daybeds. It’s often plush and covered in luxurious fabric that feels good to touch. While the most iconic silhouette features one curvilinear arm, chaises can also feature two arms or zero arms.
More streamlined chaises with weatherproof materials are often found as outdoor poolside furniture. This furnishing can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where royals and wealthy individuals enjoyed lounging on this type of sofa. This style continues to remain a big feature in affluent and high-end interior design.
The sleeper sofa comes in many styles and forms, ranging from the pull-out sofa bed to the futon, daybed, and convertible. As the most popular sleeper style sofa, the pull-out is versatile and comfortable when designed well. Many homeowners love this type of couch because it offers an excellent sleeping area for guests.
The difference between a pull-out and convertible sofa is that the convertible style doesn’t have a mattress. The bed part of the convertible sofa is created by the couch cushions. Depending on the engineering and quality of the material and cushions, this can be a comfortable bed for sleeping or a cozy sofa for lounging.
A divan is a long, backless sofa that typically sits low to the ground and tends to resemble an upholstered bench. It may feature low arms on one side or both sides, or it may have no arms at all. Divans are frequently positioned against a wall and topped with large, comfortable pillows. The intent is that people can use the wall to compensate for the lack of a back.
The divan has its origins in Persia (also known as Iran in the modern-day) where it served as a multi-functional piece of furniture. It provided additional daytime sitting, and at night it could be used as a bed for sleeping. It functioned very similarly to the way a daybed or sleeper sofa does.
A daybed is a versatile piece of furniture that combines the shape and silhouette of a couch with the functionality of a bed. Daybeds typically feature both arms and a back, allowing you to sit with ease and comfort. Instead of sitting on top of traditional couch cushions, you sit on top of a mattress. The most common mattress size for a daybed is usually a twin, but you can find this kind of couch with full, queen, and king-sized mattresses.
Daybeds are a great choice in rooms that have to serve multiple purposes. If you’re struggling to prioritize between a guest room and a home office, you can create a room that fulfills both of those needs.
Because a daybed is lower-profile than a traditional bed frame, this sofa style gives you room to also set up a desk. You can use that bedroom office whenever you don’t have guests, and then give them their own space when they are there.
Low-seated sofas play with our perceptions of how furniture should inhabit a space. While there is some variation in sofa sizes, you can generally expect a sofa to be about 17 or 18 inches in height when measuring from the floor to the top of the seat cushions. A low-seated sofa would be anything that falls below that 17 inch threshold. They also tend to feature low arms or no arms at all.
A low-seated sofa is a great choice for an older home with low ceilings and smaller rooms. Its minimalist footprint can help even a tight room feel more spacious. However, they aren’t always the best choice ergonomically for taller people. Be sure to make sure this sofa will physically accommodate everyone in your household before committing to it.
A recamier is a classic style of couch with a high headrest, low footrest and no back. As a backless couch similar to a divan, the recamier sofa is frequently categorized as a version of a chaise lounge. However, while a divan may or may not be armless, a recamier is characterized by its symmetrical rolled arms.
This dramatic piece of furniture was named after noted French society maven Madame Récamier, who found this sofa style to be an attention-grabbing conversation starter in a drawing room. Although this couch may not be practical in the living room, you’ll often find a recamier in the foyer or entryway of high-end, luxury homes.
Futons are similar in some respects to divans and daybeds, in that they can function as multiple types of furniture. This space-saving piece of furniture traditionally has a wooden frame, though the frame can also be made out of other materials, like metal. On top of the frame, sits a heavy and dense mattress with a removable cover. During the day, when the frame is upright, people can sit on it. At nighttime, the frame folds down, creating a flat place to sleep.
Futons originated in Japan, where living space is often at a premium. While Western-style futons are somewhat stylistically different from the ones used in Japan, they are a great choice for people who need flexible seating and sleeping options.
The camelback sofa is characterized by the swooping, curvilinear lines that delineate the back of the couch. This distinctive silhouette forms a single hump in the center or two symmetrical humps which give the couch its name. A camelback is also known for its exposed wooden legs, which often feature ornate carvings and can be in the cabriole shape.
Camelback sofas first came into fashion in Great Britain during the late 1700s. Until that era, notable English furniture styles were often named after the reigning ruler in power. But when designer Thomas Chippendale rose to prominence, his designs – which included the camelback, began to be known by his name.
A settee is a small decorative sofa that is just big enough for two people to sit on. Its name is similar to the word settle, which is an ornate wooden bench with a back that was popular during the Middle Ages. However, unlike a settle, a settee is at least partially upholstered in both the seat and back areas.
Settees first came into fashion in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Because of their diminutive size, they are often seen as the forebearers of the modern-day loveseat. However, while a loveseat is almost always fully upholstered, a settee may have an exposed wooden frame in some parts.
Recliners are a new type of couch with pop-up footrests that can be adjusted for a relaxing experience. While some people use the word recliner solely to describe an armchair, reclining sofas are also a relatively recent furniture trend.
A reclining chair features mechanisms that allow the back of the chair to lie back and also bring a footrest forward into an elevated position. You can typically use a lever or button to activate the reclining position. Reclining sofas generally feature two or three seats, each with its own reclining mechanisms.
A recliner often incorporates technology to enhance its already-luxurious features. These couches might feature extras like vibration, shiatsu massage, heated cushions, and even surround-sound speakers. Despite these high-tech additions, recliners are mostly renowned for their comfortable look and feel.
English Rolled Arm Sofa
The English rolled arm sofa is known to have low arms with a high back, but there are also many other characteristics you can use to identify this style. The rolled arms are often complemented by tight upholstery and seats that are deeply recessed.
English rolled arm sofas have been around since the 1800s, and even centuries later, they remain a popular furniture choice. They blend understated elegance with comfort to create a timeless piece that is ideally suited for a cozy and chic home. Whether you want a casual sitting room or a chic formal living room, this classic sofa type can work in any space.
Like the Chesterfield sofa, a tuxedo sofa features arms that are the same height as the back of the sofa. But while the arms on a Chesterfield are usually rolled, the tuxedo sofa showcases straight arms connecting to a straight back, giving this piece a very boxy silhouette.
A minimalist sofa made of straight lines and ninety-degree angles might not sound like the most comfortable thing in the world. However, tuxedo couches balance out their sharp angles with overstuffed tufted upholstery to better add function to form.
Rattan sofas get their name from the rattan plants that are used to make their frames. This style of couch, which is usually found outdoors, features a frame constructed out of rattan in the wicker style of weaving. The frame is usually topped with removable cushions covered in durable, weatherproof fabric like a treated canvas.
Rattan couches are ideal for outdoor areas like decks and patios, or sunny indoor areas like a screened-in lanai. Rattan plants make for exceptionally durable furniture material that can withstand a variety of weather conditions.
Also known as an English three-seater, the Bridgewater sofa is a classic sofa style that will add warmth and comfort to any room. The design elements that characterize it – softly curved high back, low arms that are slightly recessed, loose seat cushions, a tailored skirt – can feel somewhat dated. However, modern interpretations of the style will sometimes display exposed legs for a more updated take.
With their dramatic high backs and large scale, Bridgewater couches cut something of an impressive figure. But they are still unfussy enough to center an inviting and low-key living room.
Sofa and Couch Materials
From leather to fabric, sofas and couches are made with all types of materials. While picking out the style of sofa is part of the decision-making process, it is critical to choose a couch material that offers a balance between functionality and form. This means picking a fabric that’s both comfortable and durable, thereby enhancing the sitting experience.
There are many different kinds of fabrics you can choose from, all of which have their own unique features. There are natural materials like leather, wool, linen and silk as well as engineered synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, acrylic and microfiber. Your choice of fabric will depend on your interior design style and lifestyle.
A family with young kids may want a sturdy sectional sofa upholstered in stain-resistant microfiber. Meanwhile, men and women living in an art deco-inspired high-rise may be more well-suited for a velvet-covered tuxedo couch.
When deciding on your sofa materials, you’ll want to compare style, strength, stain-resistance, construction and price to find the perfect couch for your needs!