When it comes to design, the sofa will often set the tone for a living room, family room or other space where it’s placed. Yet there are a variety of different styles from which to choose, each of which will impact the decor and other furniture and accent pieces in order to arrive at an aesthetically pleasing, cohesive design. With that in mind, check out these 10 popular types of sofas and tips for how to design for them.
While many Canadians of a certain age will equate “chesterfield” with a generic term for sofa or couch, “chesterfield” these days typically refers to a deep-buttoned sofa, with the back and the arms at the same height. When designing around a chesterfield-style sofa, one tip is to introduce other buttoned pieces, such as a buttoned ottoman, stool or banquette. If the room lacks a visual focal point, a brightly coloured chesterfield sofa will definitely do the trick. Another design idea: if you have the space, think symmetrically and face two chesterfield sofas opposite each other.
The French cabriole sofa was popularized by Louis XV in the 1700s, with the name taken from the term used at the time to describe a carriage or cab. The cabriole (or cabriolet) sofa mimics the carriage seat’s curved exposed-wood back, and is best suited for an ornate design theme that invokes a French provincial or French chateau look. A cabriole sofa looks amazing when surrounded by antiques, but could work well within a more contemporary setting.
An 18th-century design that has never gone out of style, a camelback sofa is characterized by the graceful lines of its dramatically arched back. Camelback sofas are versatile enough that they’re well suited for both ornate, classical designs as well as a more modern design ethos, or even a “shabby chic” look. Typically, camelback sofas are most often seen within a Colonial setting, while the versatility of a camelback presents a wide array of options designing around it.
Mid-century modern furniture has been making a big comeback in recent years, with mid-mod sofas prized for their sleek, minimalist designs. A good rule of thumb when designing around one of these sofas is to include other mid-mod pieces; stay away from anything rustic or farmhouse-y. When looking for complementary pieces, look for similar clean lines and profiles, as a mid-mod sofa in the middle of a Colonial or other traditional design style is likely to stand out like a sore thumb.
The Bridgewater sofa features low, set-back arms and a sleek profile. The bottom is typically skirted, and may have a gently rolled back. The look of a Bridgewater sofa is usually one of casual comfort, offering a modern look while evoking traditional styles. A Bridgewater sofa in a neutral colour won’t steal focus, and is the perfect seating choice in a room featuring other more dramatic elements, and lends itself to a casual, eclectic setting.
English Roll Arm Sofa
An English roll arm sofa can be one of the most versatile sofas when it comes to design, as these type of sofas – which feature tight backs and rolled arms – work effectively with a variety of different furniture styles. Placing an English roll arm sofa in the midst of a contemporary setting can make for a beautifully dramatic look. Another idea is to pair one of these sofas with a slipper chair – just ensure the chair is wide enough to balance the depth of the sofa.
The Knole sofa has a long history dating back to England in the 1600s, when it was originally an upholstered throne upon which a monarch would sit when receiving visitors, and can be identified by its high back and sides. Designing around a Knole sofa is really dictated by the style, as some are ornate and traditional (often using from velvet and trim), while others are more contemporary and would thus be complemented by more modern pieces. In any case, the high back and arms of the Knole sofa can easily dominate a room, so keep that in mind; smaller, more subtle pieces will keep the focus on the sofa instead of creating a battle for attention.
The Lawson sofa – so named for American furniture manufacturer Thomas W. Lawson – is characterized by its low-profile arms (either square or rolled) and large back cushions. A Lawson sofa works well in either a contemporary or traditional setting, and can contribute to a clean, streamlined look. A pair of English roll arm chairs can make a great combo with a Lawson sofa, but the key is to ensure that whatever pieces you use to complement the sofa are of a similar proportion in order to create a harmonious balance. Also consider depth; a deep Lawson sofa and shallow chairs won’t work well together.
A settee is less a sofa than it is an extra-wide chair, sort of straddling the grey area between chair and loveseat. Because of a setee’s compact size when compared to other sofa styles, it’s an ideal seating option in a smaller space, offering style and comfort without taking up a whole lot of room. Settees are available in an array of designs, and can work well as an alternative to a loveseat when paired with a sofa.
The Tuxedo sofa is distinguished by its boxy shape and decorative tufts, with its arms and back roughly the same height. When designing around a Tuxedo sofa, it’s a good idea to add some circular pieces (such as coffee tables or end tables), since the monotony of room full of square-shaped, angular furniture will be broken by adding some curves to soften things up.