Your sofa's style is determined by its age and visible features.

Descriptions of Sofas

by D Ann Kross

Sofa descriptions have varied over the centuries, influenced by their country of origin. Some of the earliest sofa styles were created for Swedish, German and British royalty, such as Biedermeier, Regency and Victorian styles. Sofa-arm styles include tufted or English arms, which often have nailhead trim accents. Sofa cushions comprise corded edges, pillow-backed, boxed or rounded cushion shapes and features such as button-tufted or fixed cushions on the seats and backs of sofas.

1. Traditional Sofa Styles

In the United States, sofa styles reflect early European influences that featured artistic wood frames with ornate craftsmanship. The earliest American sofas typically had exposed wood frames, such as Shaker and Mission styles. Throughout the 20th century, traditional sofas have minimized or eliminated exposed-wood frames in favor of tufted and rolled arms, tailored skirts and fully upholstered frames. Fabric choices for your traditional sofa range from prints, solids, textures and damasks. Traditional sofa styles offer time-tested features that have the staying power necessary for active families.

2. Contemporary Sofa Styles

Contemporary sofas have sleek, tailored lines and possess universal appeal for a no-fuss style. Features such as straight arms, square legs and boxed cushions are trademarks of contemporary sofa styles, and they are often covered with solid colors, geometric prints and textured fabrics. Art Deco- or retro-influenced sofas often have curved edges and armless styling, as well as channel-stitched or button-tufted seat and back cushions. Leather gives contemporary sofas a style boost, especially when you choose leather in upbeat colors, such as mustard yellow or lipstick red. Curved and L-shaped sectionals in geometric fabrics and colorful leathers are often components of large-scale contemporary spaces.

3. Sofa Options

Specialty sofas, such as settees and chaise lounges, provide one-of-a-kind looks and are often customized with fabrics and embellishments that complement their surroundings, such as master bedrooms or family rooms. Sectionals are extended versions of sofas, with options for arm placement, extended seats and corner pieces that have multiple configurations suited to your room's scale and size. Sectionals can incorporate chaise lounges, thereby creating a versatile sitting and relaxing area for any busy, modern family.

4. Sofa Savvy

Whether your style leans to traditional or contemporary influences, as a busy mom, you appreciate the importance of what lies beneath the sofa skin. Some sofa features to consider before purchasing your new couch are fixed seat and back cushions, which can sometimes wear more quickly than loose-back reversible cushions. If your home is prone to dust bunnies, add a skirt to your sofa to minimize under-sofa cleaning. If a skirt isn't your style, anchor your sofa with a large rug for definition and dust control. Nailhead trim adds a rustic, "outback" touch to your sofa, especially on leather styles.

About the Author

As an allied ASID member, D'Ann Kross co-owned and managed an Interior design business serving the greater New Orleans area for 20 years, and has been the lead designer for a major home furnishings franchise. She has published several articles as a contributing editor for "Gulf Coast Woman Magazine."

Photo Credits

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