Couches 101: The Ultimate Glossary of Sofa Styles

By: Sarah Beaumont

August 30, 2016

Image via Article

There’s no denying that we love our couches, but how well do we really know them? We know what kinds of sofas we love to curl up on. We know that some are better for conversation than others.  And that long, deep sleeper makes an ideal bed for visiting guests. But with so many shapes and styles out there, how do you pick the perfect one to serve your needs, complement your space and provide a cushion for your inner couch potato? From loveseats to sectionals, this guide to sofa styles will put you on the right seat every time.

Related Stories: The Return of the Big, Comfy Couch; What Makes a $10k Sofa Worth the Splurge?

Armless Sofa
Couches 101: The Ultimate Glossary of Sofa Styles, Laurel & Wolf, via Stadshem / Nordic Days

via Stadshem / Nordic Days

Sleek and simple are the name of the game with this modern shape. Because they have no arms, they’re not a great choice for those looking to lounge. But that more formal feel means they work well in offices, encouraging visitors to sit up and stay alert. The clean lines are perfect for contemporary spaces, and the armless shape make it a more flexible seating option (and a great one for small spaces).

Couches 101: The Ultimate Glossary of Sofa Styles, Laurel & Wolf, via HGTV

via HGTV

Cabriole sofas are always ready to make a statement. Born in the 18th-century, this Neoclassical number is known for the consistent curve of its body — note how the arms curve out and down. The Cabriole is elegant and sophisticated so it works well in traditional sitting rooms and foyers, but we love the contemporary iterations that come in fun, vibrant colors like bubblegum pink and emerald green.

Couches 101: The Ultimate Glossary of Sofa Styles, Laurel & Wolf, via Architectural Digest / Rethink Design Studio

via Architectural Digest / Rethink Design Studio

What has two humps, four legs, but doesn’t spit on you when you sit on it? A camelback couch, of course! As you might guess, this sofa is a lot like a camel. Its arched back usually has one or two humps and reaches a high point in the middle and on each side. Like the Cabriole, it brings a more traditional feel to your room. But we also love to see it as a traditional counterpoint in more contemporary spaces.


Traditionally, a chaise contours to your back and often features ornate wood detailing around the frame. But the most defining factor of this type of sofa is its body, which is basically just a very long chair. It often has no arms, but unlike other armless sofas, this one was made for lounging. We love the look of these in the bedroom or in a study.

Couches 101: The Ultimate Glossary of Sofa Styles, Laurel & Wolf, Chesterfield

via Montse Garriga for Elle Decor/ Binti Home

A Chesterfield is the kind of couch that lives in the private library of an old professor. The easiest way to identify one? The deep button tufting on the back and rolled arms. Often upholstered in leather or velvet, it can read as sophisticated and masculine but it also elevates the look of more funky boho spaces.


The English sofa may as well just be called the classic sofa because it’s as true a classic as can be. It fits in just about any living room and is super comfortable due to its loose, downy cushions and plush, rounded arms. Though the seat cushions are thick and removable, the back is typically tight, meaning the cushions are built in.


Mid-century sofas are wide-ranging, but you can almost always expect them to have clean lines and tapered wood legs. It’s as much a staple these days as the English sofa. We love this shape in a high-quality, textured linen or (to contrast the more tailored look) a super soft chenille.


Also known as a loveseat, a settee is the perfect spot for two to sit. It’s practically made for small spaces and also makes an excellent statement piece if it’s more for show and less for relaxing.


Sectionals can truly fall under any design category, but what characterizes this long, modular sofa is that its pieces can be separated and arranged in multiple variations. It’s perfect for families, overnight guests, and lazy days spent lounging with the dog. The sectional is the most versatile couch out there, adopting every silhouette and style in the great sea of home design. And lately, we’ve seen more of these overstuffed, comfy couches replace tailored midcentury ones as the hottest new living room trend. READ MORE: The Comfy Couch Is Back

Couches 101: The Ultimate Glossary of Sofa Styles, Laurel & Wolf, Tuxedo

via Houzz

This luxuriously buttoned-up sofa is the furniture version of the clothing it’s named after – it’s both timeless and classy. Like the Chesterfield, the arms and back of the sofa are the same height but the tuxedo’s silhouette is much boxier.

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