Distinguishing one sofa design from another can be a tricky task. How do
you tell a Lawson style sofa from a Chesterfield sofa? How do you
properly pronounce “chaise lounge”? And what does a tuxedo have to do
It may sound arbitrary, but these details can make a huge difference
when out sofa shopping—or when you’re trying to show off your innerDesign
Starwith friends and family. From sofa styles to
sizes and materials, we’ve created a mini crash course with all you’ll
ever need to know about sofa design.
TYPES OF SOFAS AND LOVESEATS
This classic sofa design is known for its deep button-tufting and high
rolled arms. The sofa arms reach the height of the back seat, creating a
dramatic silhouette. Traditionally, the classic Chesterfield sofa was
made of leather and commonly found in gentlemen’s studies or libraries.
Nowadays, the Chesterfield sofa can be found in a wide range of colors
and upholsteries, making it a great fit for a variety of spaces. Smallerloveseat
versionsare fantastic for small spaces in need of a
Use this in formal or traditional rooms. The high-drama details and
upscale vibe make the Chesterfield sofa and loveseat a perfect match for
these types of spaces.
ENGLISH ROLL ARM
You can tell it’s an English roll arm sofa when it features a high back
with low, rounded arms that are tucked in (also known as “Charles of
London” arms). The seat cushions will be loose with attached back
cushions. It’s a common sofa design that can be found in fabric
upholsteries or inleatherfor
a luxurious touch.
Use this in a relaxed, contemporary space. This sofa style is casual,
friendly, inviting and will never go out of style.
This silhouette of a Lawson is fairly similar to the English roll arm
sofa, with the exception of loose back cushions and higher, untucked
sofa arms. These arms are an ideal height for napping and are typically,
but not always, rounded. This is a popular design for a reason—it’s
cozy, comfy and simply chic.
This is perfect for casual spaces. The Lawson style sofa isall
about comfort, making it perfect for everyday lounging. It’s extra
refined when covered in leather.
Consider it a modern take on the Chesterfield sofa. The tuxedo style
features the same high, sheltering arms, but they are square shaped
instead of rolled. You’ll oftentimes see this sofa sporting a
Use this in modern, or even mid-century modern spaces. The sleek, clean
lines perfectly capture the look, even if designed withfanciful
Similar to the tuxedo sofa, the track arm sofa is known for its linear
profile. The arms are mid-height and square with a clean silhouette that
complements most decor styles. You can find the track arm sofa style in
all kinds of upholsteries, fromleatherto
microfiber to linen.
Because it works virtually anywhere, place this in modern, mid-century,
transitional or contemporary spaces. Thetrack
truly versatile and work in most spaces. Try pairing it with a similarlysleek
The camel back sofa has a distinct “hump” shape on the back seat. It is
the only detail that truly characterizes this sofa design, which means
you can find this type of sofa in a wide range of styles, although most
tend to remain on the traditional side. For a truly regal look, try
pairing it with anelegant
Use this in traditional or formal spaces. The overall design of a camel
back sofa tends to follow the elegant curve of the back seat, which can
be subtle or dramatic.
Sectional sofas provide an ample amount of seating in one cohesive look.
The two main shapes areL-shapedandU-shaped.
While shopping for sectional sofas, you will often see the terms “RAF”
and “LAF”, which are abbreviations for “right-arm facing” and “left-arm
facing”. This refers to the position of the arm when you face the piece,
which is important if you want to place your sectional along a specific
wall in your home.
Place this in casual or contemporary spaces that require of a larger
size sofa. This type of sofa is inviting and perfect for large families,
or for those who love entertaining.
Reclining sofas come in all kinds of styles, materials and sizes. Most
have an attached back and seat cushions. If you enjoy lounging in total
comfort, or if you know you may have overnight guests, the reclining
sofa is a great solution. And, there’s always areclining
loveseatoption for those who may be tight on space.
This is perfect in relaxed or informal spaces. The reclining feature
makes this the ultimate type of sofa for lounging, which feels just
right in a casual setting.
This ultra-convenient sofa comes in a wide range of styles, fromtraditional tocasual tocontemporary.
Flimsy mattresses are often associated with the sleeper sofa, but
technology and design has come a long way. You can find them with
foam mattressesthat your guests will love for
Anyone who plans onhosting
guestsonce a year or more. Or, a memory foam sleeper
sofa in lieu of a bed could be a great solution for small studio spaces.
WHICH SOFA SIZE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Choosing the right sofa size seems easy enough—a small sofa fits in a
small space and a large sofa fits in a large space. In reality, there
are many crucial factors to consider when it comes to choosing the right
BEGIN WITH MEASUREMENTS
Measure the length, width and height of your living room. Ceiling height
plays a big role in illusion of space, so finding the right sofa size to
complement that can make a big difference. If you have low ceilings, a
sofa with a low seat height will help create the illusion of a larger,
open space. However, if you have high ceilings, sofas with low seats
might look awkward. Another measurement to remember is the width of your
hallways and doorways—it won’t matter if you’ve found that perfect couch
you can’t bring it inside.
THINK OF FUNCTIONALITY
How many people will be using this sofa on a regular basis and what will
you be using it for? If you have a large household or entertain
frequently, you may want to pick a longer sofa with more than two
cushions (because nobody likes sitting in the awkward crack between
cushions). If you enjoy taking naps on the sofa, then it may be
important to choose a sofa size with greater depth.
CONSIDER LAYOUT & DESIGN
Too much furniture in one room not only looks crowded, but it can make
moving around difficult. Consider other items you plan to include in
designbefore choosing a sofa. For example, if you like
end tables, you should factor that into the sofa length you choose. Or,
if you already have plentiful seating with additional pieces like a
chaise lounge, you may want to reconsider that “must-have” sectional
HOW TO CHOOSE SOFA FABRIC
Since each type of sofa fabric has different characteristics, it’s
important to closely examine your lifestyle. For example, if you have a
household with pets and plan to place your sofa where it will receive
direct sunlight, you might prioritize durability and fade resistance
that can be found in microfiber sofas. However, if you plan to place
your sofa in a formal room of an adult-only household, then a linen sofa
might be preferred.
To identify your needs, you may want to ask yourself who will be using
the sofa and how often. Also consider the amount of people that will use
it and where the sofa will be located. Here’s a guide to help you choose
the ideal type of sofa fabric:
This is a very popular choice for sofas. There are different grades of
leather to choose from, with genuine leather being the highest quality
at a more expensive price point. If it fits in your budget, it can be a
great investment piece. Good quality leather is incredibly durable,easy
to cleanand develops character over time. The only
things you’ll need to watch out for is fading in direct sunlight and
damage with sharp objects or pets’ claws.
This natural fiber will provide good resistance to fading, but is less
resistant to soiling, wrinkling and fire. The durability of cotton
upholsteries will depend on the weave count. A tighter weave is a
stronger, higher quality fabric choice. Canvas and damask weaves look
nice, but tend to wear down faster and aren’t as easy to clean.
This sofa fabric is best for formal spaces or for households without
children or pets. Linen is a delicate fabric that soils and wrinkles
easily. If soiled, it’s normally recommended that the upholstery be
professionally cleaned to avoid shrinking. While caring for linen is a
bit more particular, it happens to resist fading well.
This synthetic fabric is a popular choice for those who want the
durability and look of leather at a less expensive price point.
This sofa fabric is a great choice for pet owners. Microfiber is a very
fine polyester that is soft, durable and easy to clean. Since the fabric
weave is extremely tight, pet hair, dust and lint do not stick or stay
trapped in the sofa fabric—making upkeep incredibly simple.
This is one of the most common synthetic fabrics used for sofas. It’s an
affordable option that touts many benefits. It is wrinkle resistant,
durable and easy to clean—making it a great upholstery choice for
families with children. While the material may not sound exotic or
sofascan be very stylish.
Chenille is a soft and elegant fabric that is surprisingly durable.
Tufted threads (from natural or synthetic fibers) give the fabric a
soft, almost fuzzy texture that is very comforting. Even though this
sofa fabric is durable and can last with heavy use, it is a
fabric sofasshould be regularly vacuumed to remove
dust, and any liquid spills may need professional cleaning. Since the
threads are tufted, the fabric can be snagged by claws of cats or dogs.
SOFA SEAT CUSHION TYPES
Understanding the quality of your sofa cushions will help you determine
which sofa is right for you. Foam is a common sofa cushion material, but
not all foam cushions are alike. The quality of foam is determined by
weight and density. A higher weight and density, like Ashley’sUltraPlush
cushions, means more support and a longer lasting cushion with
minimal maintenance. If you plan to keep your new sofa for a while, it
will be worth the extra money to choose a sofa with high-density
Feather-filled or down-filled sofa cushions are two other options that
offer a soft, “sinking in” feeling. Down, which comes from the soft
underbellies of geese, is the pricier option of the two. While these
cushions are incredibly soft, they do not offer much support and require
more maintenance. They may need to be plumped once a week or more to
continue looking and feeling good.
For exceptional support, comfort and durability,sofa
cushions with pocketed coilsare the way to go. These
coils provide a difference you can immediately feel with a comfortable
buoyancy. Plus, pocketed coil constructions are typically very
From cushion cores to upholstery, you now have inside-out knowledge of
sofa design and can officially impress friends and family with your
decor savvy. Oh, and about that pronunciation question we mentioned at
the beginning: “chaise longue” (shez-lawng) is French, and in American
English it’s pronounced “shayz-lounge”. Now go out and style on, design