Know How: A guide to sofa styles
Mid-century, Tuxedo, Howard, Chesterfield, Knole; what do any of these names mean? If navigating sofa styles is a bit of minefield for you, then follow our easy to use sofa guide to help you choose the best sofa for your living room. Use our guide to sofa styles to understand the different shapes and some of the history behind their design and evolution.
The Chesterfield sofa is drenched in history and oozes class and comfort. Thought to have originated in the early eighteenth century, the Chesterfield sofa features a deep buttoned back, comfortable seat cushions and often has scroll arms. It looks stunning in most plain fabrics and exquisite in luxurious leather. It’s a traditional style sofa that works in period properties, however, upholstered in the right fabric, perhaps a bright wool, or light linen, it’ll be transformed into a contemporary-looking piece. Our Darcy is the perfect example of a traditional Chesterfield sofa.
Do you know your Knole? A Knole sofa typically features curved sides, the same height as the back, which can be tied with elaborate fastenings, such as tasselled rope or cord. It’s a traditional style sofa that works in almost any room. Designed by Victoria Sangwine, our Heywood sofa is a contemporary take on the classic Knole, with an Arlo & Jacob twist. The distinctive arms arch outwards, creating a dramatic silhouette.
English Country Sofa
The English Country sofa is traditional and comfortable. With a straight or slightly curved, softly-rolling back, it has plump, fully-stuffed seat and back cushions, and sometimes, additional scatter cushions. Our Hartfield and Helena are prime examples of English Country sofas, with their cushioned backed, scroll arms and castor legs. The arms are lower than the back and can often have pleat or stitch detailing. The covers are sometimes loose and like our Jackson sofa, can have a box-pleat skirt for that relaxed country interior look.
English Club Sofa
Just like the English Country sofa, a classic English club sofa is a design staple. An ever-popular style, it has had many reincarnations in its lifetime. Characterised by the fixed sprung back (sometimes curved) and the low-level arms it is an extremely comfortable sofa, which often has very plump seat cushions. The arms are usually quite a strong feature of the club sofa, whether they’re a squared-off ‘T’ shape like our Holmes or the rounded, padded arms on our Cartwright.
The Tuxedo sofa is known for its boxy, geometric shape. The arms are the same height as the back, and the overall effect is very clean and modern. It originates from the late 1920s and its name, like the suit, derives from Tuxedo Park in New York. A perfect example of a smart, structured Tuxedo sofa is our Tennison, which is part of the House & Garden Collection. The arms and back are level, and the angular shape encourages an upright sitting position. However, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s not as comfortable as some other sofa shapes – thanks to the smooth, fibre-padded bench style seat cushion, the Tennison belies a deep sense of comfort.
Style and design in the fifties and sixties evolved at a rapid pace. Furniture design, in particular, took on a whole new look with slimmer silhouettes, tapered elongated legs, and slender, straight or sabre-style arms. Shapes became more elegant and refined, and choosing furniture was more about making an interior statement than purely for practicalities in terms of comfort.
Many of the designs that we now associate with the mid-century era came from designers from what is known as the ‘Bauhaus movement’. The Bauhaus University was a design school in Germany and many of the famous mid-century furniture designs that are still replicated today were designed by students of the Bauhaus school.
Since mid-century sofas are still incredibly popular today, it’s no surprise that we have plenty for you to choose from at Arlo & Jacob. Our bestselling Philo and Earnshaw families are classic examples of mid-century design. However, if the angular edges aren’t your cup of tea, then our George or Elton ranges have beautifully curved backs, with a slim, elegant frame and tapered legs.
Mid-century Modern Sofa
With many of the same features as a mid-century style sofa, the mid-century modern sofa also has some more contemporary touches, like metal and ski-style legs, angular arms and very geometric shapes. As you can see with our Dixon sofa, the silhouettes are similar, but the shiny, chrome ski legs bring this sofa firmly into the twentieth century.
Modular (Sectional) Sofa
A modular sofa (or, as it’s sometimes known, a sectional) is all about versatility and flexibility. A modular sofa is made up of individual units that usually clip together in the configuration that best suits your space. What’s more, modular sofas, like our Bertie, can also come with additional elements, like sofa beds, or storage units, making them an ideal choice for smaller homes. Our Crawford is likewise a modern, modular sofa that can be built to suit the space available using the different seat units.
A Howard sofa is a timeless British classic. It has curved, low-level arms, and a smooth, sprung, slightly curved back. Our Knightley is our version of the Howard sofa, with its heart-shaped, sprung back, low, pleated arms and beautiful turned wooden legs.
Loveseat or Snuggler Sofa
A snuggler sofa or chair is sometimes called a loveseat. It is effectively a small sofa that is made for one or two people to share. They are ideal for hallways, bedrooms, offices and all living rooms. It is said that the larger sized chairs become popular towards the end of the seventeenth century to accommodate women’s larger dresses, and they were then sold under the name of ‘loveseat’ from the start of the eighteenth century. Depending on the style of snuggler you go for, the size can change drastically. For instance, our mid-century style Elton snuggler is much smaller than our Cartwright or Theodore snuggler – in fact, almost all our sofa families have a snuggler option, so there really is no limit on size or shape.
A Georgian sofa is often described as slim and elegant. They have narrow arms and in the Georgian period, were considered more for their looks than for their comfort value. Jump forward to the twenty-first century, and some of the stunning design features have remained, with the addition of exceptionally comfortable seat cushions and arm coverings. Our Morse sofa is the perfect example of an updated, classic Georgian sofa. Likewise, the Matilda is influenced by fine Georgian design, with the addition of a full-feather seat cushion which transforms it into an ultra-comfortable modern piece.