The style of a sofa is generally determined by three things: the arms, the back, and the legs or skirt. Certain arms and backs connote modern or traditional styles, but the way a sofa is upholstered and trimmed can also great influence its appeal. In addition to a glossary of terms describing backs, arms, seats, and legs, we’ve compiled some of the most classic and well-known styles.
This sofa has a slightly rounded arm set back from the front of the seat, often with a tight seat and slightly rolled back, no skirt, and low, turned legs on castors.
In the tuxedo sofa, the arms are as high as the back. It usually has fairly clean lines with straight or slightly flared arms. Some people find a lower arm more comfortable for resting, but with the right pillows, the tuxedo can be very cozy.
A more traditional, formal style made by Thomas Chippendale in the 18th century, the camelback sofa has a tight, serpentine back, high rolled arms, often a tight seat, and sometimes exposed legs and stretchers.
Based on an early to mid-17th-century sofa made for Knole, a house in Kent, England, and a classic of English country houses, this sofa has a straight, high back and angled arms that can be adjusted to open out or stand up straight (once useful for keeping out drafts). The back and arms traditionally connect with finials wrapped in cords.
The back of this 18th-century Louis XV–style sofa curves into the arms in a continuous line. It usually has wood trim and carved wood legs that may be curved. This example is a more clean-lined take on the classic form, which would have more downswept, curvy arms.
The Lawson has a low, squarish back, with arms that are lower than the back. The form can have square or rolled arms.
The Chesterfield conjures visions of English libraries or men’s clubs, with its tufted back, high rolled arms, and sometimes tufted seat. It is often upholstered in leather.
These sofas have straight, squared lines and a very streamlined form, with low, often squared legs.
This modular seating is configured from components that include armless sofas, as well as end and corner units, ottomans, and sometimes even recliners, sleep sofas, or chaises. Its style is usually clean-lined and modern.