Sofa 101: Style Guide


We obviously love sofas-- so much so that we have been in the upholstered furniture industry for over 40 years! We have created almost every imaginable type of sofa for our clients over the years. Below are 14 common styles and types of sofas to help determine which sofa style is right for your tastes.

English Sofa

The distinguishing design element of the English sofa is its low arms in relation to a high back. These sofas are cushioned all over and the upholstery pulled tight. The cushions are generously sized and add a touch a warmth to modern homes. People with more traditional tastes tend to prefer the English arm sofa.

Photo Credit: Pheobe Howard Interior Design

Sectional Sofa

A sectional sofa is a multi-piece sofa that is able to be arranged in a number of configurations. They are widely popular and are thousands of styles, designs, and materials to choose from. The common number of pieces to a sectional sofa are 3 and 5. Two common configurations are the L-shape and U-shape. Some sectionals are smaller while others can be enormous to fill large rooms.

Chesterfield Sofa

The Chesterfield Sofa is known for its “tufted” or “quilted” style. Some versions can have the tufting on the seating bench along with the back and arms. The arms are the same height as the back of the sofa. The masculine back of the Chesterfield make this sofa a staple for libraries and studies. This style of sofa is extremely popular now especially in various rich shades of velvet fabric as shown below.

Photo Credit: The Glitter Guide & 1stdibs.com

Camelback Sofa

The camelback sofa has an arched back that rises to higher point in the middle and again slightly at the ends. Other traditional features of this sofa include rolled or square arms, exposed legs, and usually no back cushions. The back of the sofa is slightly inclined to allow people to sit in a less rigid posture.

Photo Credit: Eye for Design & Luxe Source

Lawson-style Sofa

Lawson-style sofas signature element are the back pillows which are separate from the frame. The reason for the design is to create a softer and more comfortable sofa with the large cushions that are not taught to the frame of the sofa. At Barnes Custom Upholstery, we offer loose boxed pillow back and loose knife pillow back styles of this sofa that you can customize with different types of arms, legs, dimensions, and fabric.

Photo Credit: Estillissimo & Apartment Therapy

Mid-century Modern Sofa

The Mid-century modern sofa is all about minimalist design and clean lines. There are many variety of this style of sofa and has been making a comeback. While it is not as plush and comfortable as the Lawson, with the right home design it can look incredible.

Photo Credit: Wonder Forest

Bridgewater Sofa

The Bridgewater sofa can be defined as casual and comfortable. The arms are slightly rolled to the side and are lower than the sofa back. This style is also known as a birch-arm or English three-seater. Typically, the Bridgewater sofa has a skirt that conceals the feet. This sofa design is a staple today and is easily fits into most room designs.

Photo Credit: Camille Styles & Style Me Pretty

Cabriole Sofa

The trademark design of the cabriole sofa design is continuous, equal height back and arms. This sofa is neat, elegant in the neoclassical French parlor style. There are no back cushions and wood trim may display some baroque style carving which is contrasting to the tight- fitted upholstery.

Photo Credit: Eye for Design

Chaise Lounge

Simply put, a chaise lounge is a chair that extends long enough to support the legs. There are numerous modifications to the chaise lounge (ex. arm or no arm).

Photo Credit: Phoebe Howard Interior Design & Homedit

Loveseat Sofas

The loveseat sofa is a sofa made for two people and are often part of a living room set. Loveseats come in all types of designs and styles just as regular sofas.

Photo Credit: Architectural Digest & Decoholic

Divan Sofa

A divan is a sofa without a back. They require placement against a wall so you can arrange pillows for a cushioned look.

Settee Sofa

A settee is a wide chair. Today’s closest version is the loveseat but historically settees were narrower than loveseats. Also, they are less plush and comfortable as they were designed as a wide dining chair with arms.

Photo Credit: Isuwannee & Architectural Digest

Tuxedo Sofa

The tuxedo sofa style is clean and modern and can be used as a focal point without overwhelming the decorative aspects of the rest of the room. It is known for tightly tailed upholstery and arms that are the same height as the back. Think neat and clean silhouette that can utilize throw pillows to add multiple colors and patterns to a space.

Photo Credit: Modern Sofas

Knole Sofa

The Knole sofa is constructed with grandeur in mind, not comfort. This sofa features deep seats and high back and sides. The closed in framework was originally designed to ward of cold and provide privacy.

Photo Credit: Eye for Design & Architectural Digest

Learn more about sofa arm styles here

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Barnes Custom Upholstery

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