True to its name, a living room is the space we find ourselves spending most of our time in the home. It is where we nap, eat, watch TV, read, have conversations and live our leisure time. As we spend our time living in this area of the house, mostly along with others, it is essential that we furnish it with comfort and cosiness.
The big contributors to our comfort and our cosy time, are the couches or sofas we choose to bring into the room. These couches and sofas have become part and parcel of our lives – often adding to the sense of history and nostalgia in the room. We often reflect and jokingly state that someone has become ‘part of the furniture’ when they have been a welcome guest for very long.
But what is the history of these familiar pieces? What is the background to the iconic couch or sofa and why do we differentiate between the two?
Historically speaking, there is a difference between the two. The word couch stems from the French word coucher which translates to lie down and sofa is an Arabic term derived from the word suffah which describes a wood bench with some type of cushioning. Thus, a sofa is a comfortable seating area with soft arms that is large enough for a few people to sit on - making couches a more casual seating.
Further to their different origins, they also have distinct histories – a story of their own to tell- about their journey from way back when into the modern home. Understanding the background of sofas or couches may assist in decision-making when furnishing a setting but it also serves as an interesting topic for conversation. Starting with sofas, let us take a short journey into their history and what made them the characters they are today.
The Chesterfield Sofa
The birth of the chesterfield sofa is believed to be a sofa commissioned by Lord Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield in the 18th century. The Earl desired a piece of furniture on which a gentleman could sit upright in the utmost of comfort allowing sitting without wrinkling the garment. Like our Charlietown couch, the Chesterfield is an easily noticeable design with quilted or tufted backseat, a deep button tufting all over, with a bun or with turned feet and rolled arms that are equal to the size of the height of the back.
The tuxedo sofa is said to have been invented in the 1920s, and it originates from the same location as the tuxedo: Tuxedo Park in New York. The tuxedo sofa, along with other pieces of furniture today, is also regarded as one of the pieces that acclaimed the new age of furniture. Even though the style is still common, many people who own such a sofa or couch do not know how to discern a tuxedo sofa from a Chesterfiel. However, the arms and back of the tuxedo sofa are the same height as the Chesterfield sofa. According to McGrath II, unlike the Chesterfield, the sofa is clean-lined and geometric, with silk upholstery. The modern, buttoned-up look is the replica of the suite it is founded after, and is design to look classic and contemporary.
The Lawson sofa has clean lines, reflecting a desire for a simpler, more comfortable and more modern construction than the ornate Victorian styles of the time - however, the comfort we expect from upholstered furniture today owes a debt to Victorian developments, which changed the shape of seating with new types of springs, increased padding and added buttoning for definition. Although rich in history, this sofa suits decors from contemporary to traditional.
Knole sofas have a long and distinguished history dating back to the 17th century. It was one of the first-ever designs of its kind. Created as an upholstered settee for the historic English house of Knole. The Knole sofa paved the way for several future sofas and couches. The contemporary settee with flexible arms and a deep seat usually had exposed wood decoration, finials, and braided or tasselled side arms that are attached to the back of the sofa. This sofa would have been referred to as a couch chair in the past, with the original having hinged armrests that match the back's height. In a household, a large Knole sofa can be a show-stopper when wrapped in plain linen or velvet to highlight its enclosing contours. Its essential spirit is captured in versions of firm upholstered back, big or loose plus cushions can be added for extra comfort.
Mid-century Modern design
The Mid-century Modern design movement was characterized by elegance, practicality and simplicity. Just like our very own Venito blue couch. This style of sofa can never be confused with contemporary furniture as it reflects the iconic style of its origin – the source of avant-garde. It has brought minimalist design and clean lines to many homes for decades.
Like family members and guests, each sofa or couch adds to the spirit of the living room. Knowing about their history also rings in a future, since the history can be passed on along with them to generations to come.
Enjoy the sofa or couch that suits your space best.