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Sofa Story: A visual guide to 10 Iconic Forms

There are so many different styles of couches and sofas that it could never be expected of someone to know all the different variations off the top of their head. especially if they aren't a furniture salesmen or interior designer! 

Sofa is commonly thought to be a more sophisticated word to describe a couch. But regardless of what you call the cushiony bench you sit on at home,

 it is probably the center of the living room

Although there is no major difference between the word "sofa" and the word "couch," other than place of origin.

In my opinion, todays culture has trained us to believe sofa's are more sophisticated than their lax cousin, the couch.

For example, a sofa takes you back to an 1800's dinner party in France. Guests are sipping martinis and bourbon while politely discussing culture and politics. And then there is the couch. It reminds me more of where you lay with your dog in 2018 as you binge watch Netflix until three in the morning and eat an entire bag of cheese puffs for dinner. 

Now both of these options have their own advantages, don't get me wrong, and it really doesn't matter which you prefer as long as by the end of this article you have a better idea in mind as to which style sofa, or couch, is perfect for your individual needs.

Below are some designs to help you differentiate your style preferences.

Although these descriptions do not provide the full anatomy of the sofa, you can break down the comfort level, material, and finishings you prefer after you decide what basic style couch you like. 

Table Of Contents

  • Chaise Longue

  • Love Seat

  • Cabriole

  • Chesterfield

  • Camel Back

  • Lawson Style

  • Tuxedo Sofa

  • Mid-Century Modern

  • Sectional

  • Sleeper Sofa

    Chaise Longue
    Form : A long, reclining chair, often upholstered, with one raised side and four exposed legs.
    Function : Great for lounging in luxury.
    Fast Facts : Early versions of these long chairs littered the ancient homes of the rich and famous. Egyptian royalty lounged on day beds, while Roman nobility used their long chairs for dining.


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Love Seat

Form : An elegant sofa for two. Classic forms are high backed with taut upholstery. Current forms include modern lines and softer seats.

Function : Intimate seating, great for small spaces.

Fast Facts : Your favorite seat for snuggling was not intended for romance. Instead, the double wide seat was designed to accommodate a single woman, circled by the wide skirts in fashion in the 1800’s.

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Form : The form you picture in a parlor. Features curved legs, an exposed wooden frame, lowered arms, and no back cushions.

Function : Great for elegant entertaining with a touch of formality.

Fast Facts : This sofa takes its name from the cabriole leg, an s shaped support characteristic of the Louis XV period. You can also find the cabriole leg attached to elegant tables and chairs.

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Form : The iconic sofa of British gentleman’s clubs. Traditionally leather clad, known for its tufted, deep buttoned upholstery. Rolled arms and back are equal in height, with exposed nail head trim.

Function : A perfect choice for studies and libraries.

Fast Facts : Created in the 1700’s for Lord Philip Stanhope, the Fourth Earl of Chesterfield. Emblematic of upper class England, the Chesterfield design was exported by Royal Army officials to British Colonies far and wide.

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Camel Back

Form : A graceful form, marked by a curved ‘camel’ back. Like the cabriole, traditionally features exposed legs, scrolled arms, taut upholstery, and a lack of separate back cushions.

Function : A classic silhouette, anchored in elegance.

Fast Facts : Designed in the 18th century by Thomas Chippendale. The Chippendale style was the first genre of furniture to be named after a designer rather than a monarch.

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Lawson Style

Form : The American standard, generously sized with low arms and serious sinkability. A simple boxed shape, amply cushioned with three seat and three back pillows.

Function : Suited for casual spaces, focused on simplicity, comfort and ease. The best sofa for midday naps.

Fast Facts : The Lawson style was created at the turn of the 20th century for copper magnate Thomas Lawson, who demanded a simple style, with comfort as king.

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Tuxedo Sofa

Form : A square, pared back style defined by back and arms of the same height. Traditionally tall, with exposed legs and a single row of tufting.

Function : Suited for a stylish space with a nod to glamour.

Fast Facts : The Tuxedo sofa takes its name from the village of Tuxedo Park in New York, the same place that christened the formal suit. Tuxedo Sofas appeared in the 1920’s, and with their clean lines and simple shape, hinted at modernism on the way.

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Mid-Century Modern

Form : Contemporary, streamlined look, with low, exposed legs.

Function : The ‘it’ sofa for modern spaces and urban living.

Fast Facts : Mid-century modern was a design movement evolving from the mid-1930’s to 1965. Mid-century modern sofas were designed for post-war, urban living - slimmer for small spaces and lightweight enough for frequent moves. This style saw a surge in popularity following the Mad Men craze.

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Form : A multi-piece, modular sofa, often comprised of 3 to 5 parts. Commonly arranged in L-shaped or U-shaped configurations, and made to seat a crew.

Function : Great for entertaining. Provides generous seating, well suited for cocktail hour or Superbowl parties.

Fast Facts : Though earlier examples exist, the modern sectional found widespread popularity in the 1950’s, as American designers like Charles and Ray Eames reimagined furniture form.

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Sleeper Sofa

Form : A classic form that folds out into a guest bed.

Function : Excellent for expanding your sleeping space. Plays double duty : living room by day, guest room by night.

Fast Facts : The modern sleeper sofa was invented in the 1930’s by Bernard Castro, an Italian immigrant to America. The hallmark of his designs was that his sofas retained the sleek appeal of high end furniture, with mattresses seamlessly hidden from view.

No matter what your style may be, there is a couch, or sofa, out there perfect for you and your lounging needs. 

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