Introduction to Sofas

The most simple description of a sofa is that it is a long, upholstered seat. It usually has arms and a back, but, with all the countless designs and interpretations of the standard sofa, these are not necessary features. Another term used for sofa is couch—the differences in usage are due to regional differences in English and do not reflect different properties of the furniture. The sofa is one of the more expensive pieces of furniture that many people own.

It may be safe to say that most living rooms have a sofa. It is often part of a grouped ensemble that creates a conversation area or a place from which family members can watch television together. Often you will find a four-piece set that includes a sofa, loveseat, chair, and ottoman; or a three-piece set with sofa, loveseat, and chair. Also available are sofa, loveseat, and rocker sets.

Types of Sofa

There are several different ways to categorize sofas. One way is by the style. Here are some of the most frequently found styles of sofa:

  • Chaise Lounge—a sofa that has a backrest at one end and no arms (also a reclining chair).

  • Chesterfield—a sofa with padded arms and a back that are the same height and which curve outwards at the top.

  • Chippendale—the style of sofa designed by Thomas Chippendale, an eighteenth century English furniture maker.

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  • Davenport—a large upholstered sofa.

  • Divan—a long, low sofa with no back or arms, often set against a wall with a backing of pillows.

  • Love Seat—a short sofa for only two people; it can also describe a sofa shaped like an S, so that two people sitting on it can face each other.

  • Sectional Sofa—a set of sections of sofa that can be configured as the homeowner desires, most typically in an "L" shape.

  • Sofa Bed—a multifunction sofa that folds out into a sleeping platform with a built-in mattress.

Another way to group sofas is by the number of people they are meant to seat.

  • One person—chaise lounge, divan
  • Two people—loveseat
  • Three people—(usually) chesterfield, chippendale, davenport, sofa bed
  • Many people—sectional sofa


Sofas can be upholstered in a wide variety of materials:

  • Plant Fibers—cotton (including denim) and linen
  • Animal Fibers—silk and wool
  • Animal Hide—leather
  • Synthetic Fiber—including acetates, acrylics, nylon, polyester, polypropylene (Olefin), and vinyl (Naugahyde).


A sofa is comprised of four basic parts: the frame (which gives it form and is often made of hardwood); the springs (which supply support); the padding, which creates a zone between the springs and the upholstery material; and the upholstery itself. A fifth element, cushions, may or may not be part of a couch, and is created from fill covered with upholstery.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

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