Popular Types of Couches and Upholstery Options

Types of couches are varied and distinct. These designs are a product of decor trends that were popular at certain times throughout our history. The most beloved designs have endured over time. Knowing the vocabulary for the various couch types is useful. It increases your expertise in interior design and will allow you to understand which couch complements your particular home style and the reasons it works.

Couches are one of the most important pieces of furniture that you will buy. You will save yourself endless time and money by getting this purchase right the first time.

Popular Types of Couches

With all of the different types of couches, it is confusing to know what to consider. From couches with tufted backs and rolled arms to straight modern styles, we have gathered some of the most distinct couch silhouettes to help you decide what you like best.

Tuxedo Couch

The equal height of the back and arms lend a retro feel.

A tuxedo couch is one where the side arms are the same height as the back. This gives this couch a look of formal symmetry. This type of couch works just as well in modern as in classic and traditional design styles. This style was named after Tuxedo Park, an exclusive town in New York, home to the likes of J.P. Morgan, Dorothy Draper, and William Astor. This sofa originated in the 1920s.

Rolled Arm Couch

A classic shape can work in a variety of interior designs.

A rolled arm couch is a design that features arms that roll back in on themselves. This is a traditional couch design that is comfortable for lounging and for family use. Another version of this sofa is called the English Roll Arm. The traditional style of the English Roll Arm couch has a tight back and a “T” cushion which extends out beyond the arm to form a half “T” shape.

Rolled Arm couches work well in traditional homes design. Some of the more tailored types of this sofa can also look great in more modern and contemporary homes that want to add a touch of luxury.

Chesterfield Couch

Rounded Wedge Arm Sofa

The Chesterfield is a traditional couch design that is thought to have originated in the 18th century. It has high rolled arms that have a similar height to the back, similar to the Tuxedo. It has a tufted back and sometimes exposed nailhead trim. It does have a classic look and works well in traditional design, but it also works well blended with modern design.

Camelback Couch

Details and upholstery choice determine the formality of a classic camelback sofa.

A camelback couch features a design with a hump along the back of the sofa. Camelbacks were designed by Thomas Chippendale. The classic version of this couch features curved arms and wooden legs, though there are many variations of this style. These may feature different style arms and legs but will always include a hump or two along the back of the sofa.

Slope Arm Sofa

Sloped arm couches are another classic shape.

A slope arm sofa features arms slope in a continuous line from the back to the front. The arms end at a much lower height than the height of the back of the couch. The continuous line of back and side line gives the couch a sleek, tailored, and streamlined style.

Cabriole Couch

A cabriole sofa has a more formal, fussy appearance due to the curves and detailing.

The Cabriole couch is a distinct style that originated in the 18th century. It is named after a cabriolet which was a French carriage. This was a single horse drawn carriage with a seat in the shape of this version of the couch. Classic versions of this sofa have exposed wood along the back and sides of the couch. Modern versions have padding along the arms.

Lawson Couch

The Lawson is a modern cousin of the classic round-arm sofa.

The Lawson couch is a basic style couch that works well with a variety of home styles because the Lawson has a form that varies in a slight degree from couch to couch. In general, the Lawson has comfy cushions and a long form, around 88 inches in length.

This couch has an angled back that makes it comfortable for seating. Lawsons can have exposed legs or skirts on the bottom of the couch. They feature slight lines that can appear boxy in shape. Lawsons also feature three movable seat cushions and either squared or rounded arm styles.

Mid Century Couch

Vintage mid-century modern sofas are hot -- and expensive -- pieces of furniture.

Mid century couch designs are noticeable because of their clean lines and simple style. They have a low-slung and rectilinear shape. The type of couch with a mid century design has exposed legs with wooden or metal legs. These couch designs were popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Mid century couches are one of the most popular forms of couches today. The slim and spare style works with modern and updated traditional home styles.

Curved Back Couch

Couches with round backs have been less popular until recently.

A curved back couch features a back that curves around in a circular shape from the back to the front of the sofa. This curved back design became popular in the 1960s and 1970s after the spare and rectilinear mid century couch shapes. This couch style works well to add a touch of romanticism and softness to any room.

Sectional Couch

Sectionals are very popular and come in a range of design styles.

Sectional couches are one of the best type of couches to modify to your particular needs. Sectional couches are also known as modular couches because you fit them together out of various shaped pieces. Fit them together in traditional “L” shaped forms or add chaise sectionals for stretching your feet out without the use of an ottoman.

While sectional couches are used most often in large rooms, you can modify them to fit into smaller spaces. These couches work well for family spaces so that everyone can sit together while giving each other space.

Pullout Couch

Sofa beds and futons are handy for the occasional overnight guest.

A pullout couch is one that transforms from a couch to a bed. This is one of the best types of couches if you have many overnight guests and no extra space for a guestroom. A pullout couch also works well in an extra room if you want to create a dual purpose guest room that can be used as a hangout space during other times.

Rounded Couch

Upholstery choice can make a couch more or less formal.

A rounded couch features a form that is rounded both in terms of the back and the seat form. Like all rounded furniture designs, the rounded couch came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. Just like curved back couches, rounded couches have a glamorous look and feel. They elevate any design style, but work the best with modern and contemporary design.


Loveseats are a good option for smaller spaces.

A loveseat is the ideal couch size for a small room as these are sized for just two people to sit. These are also great options for sunrooms where you want a comfortable seating perch or at the end of a bed to place odds and ends. Loveseats are a size rather than a style. You can find loveseats in both traditional and contemporary styles.

Armless Couch

Armless couches tend to be more modern and low slung, like this from Roche Bobois.

An armless couch is just what it sounds like, a couch without side arms. Many love this spare-style couch though this can be a hard style to relax in as there are no sides on which to lean. There are some of these types of couches that feature one side. These couches work best in areas where lounging but style is the priority.

Different Types of Couch Material

There are various types of couch materials both natural and synthetic. Review each type to consider which is the best choice for your sofa.

Common Types of Leather Couches

This hard wedge armed sofa has an additional cushion along the side.

Leather is a popular material for couch upholstery because it is durable and beautiful. Leather upholstery is available in various finishes and colors as it can be worked and dyed to create unique styles.

  • Full Grain – Full-grain leather is the most expensive and the most durable type of leather. It contains the full hide which makes it more resistant to wear.
  • Top Grain – Top grain leather has been split so that the top side is cut away from the underside. This is a beautiful leather but not as thick as top grain and not as durable.
  • Split Grain – Split grain leather is cut from the lower portions of the leather hide. The cutting of the hide produces a thinner leather that is less resistant to wear.
  • Nubuck and Suede – Nubuck and suede leather have a sanded surface. Nubuck is crafted from full grain leather and suede from split grain leather. These are beautiful but inclined to spotting and staining.
  • Faux – Faux leather is a synthetic material that is made to look like genuine leather. It is less expensive than true leather but it does not have the same beauty or durability either.

Common Types of Couch Fabric

The style and type of sofa you choose is driven by lifestyle as well as design.

Fabric couches are the most popular option because they are more cost-effective than leather couches. There are many types of couch fabrics both natural and synthetic.

  • Cotton – Cotton is a natural material that has a relaxed appearance. The durability of the fabric will depend on the weave and whether the cotton has been blended with other fibers to increase its strength.
  • Linen – Linen is another natural material with a relaxed vibe. While linen is durable, it is considered a more high-maintenance fabric.
  • Polyester – Polyester and its similar cousin, polypropylene, are both synthetic materials made from plastic. These fabrics are durable but not breathable. Polyester is often blended with other upholstery fabrics to increase their durability.
  • Microfiber – Microfiber is a high-wearing synthetic made from acrylic, nylon, polyester or a blend. This is a hard-wearing fabric that is soft to the touch. It can create static and attract hairs and other fibers.
  • Velvet – Velvet fabric is one of the best for creating a luxurious and elegant style. Depending on the base material of the velvet, it can be more or less durable. Velvet made from cotton is one of the most durable.
  • Wool – Wool upholstery is both beautiful and durable. Look for both blended wool and pure wool upholstery. Both are good options though blended wool is less expensive and still quite durable.

Questions to Consider Before Selecting a Couch

This modern take on an English roll arm couch is deep and comfortable.

Buying a couch is a major financial investment. Using these questions, you can help clarify what you are looking for to make sure that you make the best decision in your purchase.

  • What is my budget? – When you ask yourself this question, think about more than your budget in terms of one expenditure but rather the money you spend over time. For example, is it better to spend more money on a couch that will last longer over time rather than one that you will have to replace in a shorter period?
  • Who will use this couch? – The type of couch you purchase depends on who is going to be using it. Do you want a couch that your whole family can snuggle in for movie night or do you want a small couch for your personal sunroom? Will pets and small children be using the couch?
  • How long does it need to last? – The time period you will own your couch will impact the type and quality of the couch you buy. For example, do you want to have this couch for as long as you can or do you just need one until your daughter goes off to college?
  • What style couch will work best for my home design? – We all have preferences about couch styles and upholstery. This should be a major consideration. If you have a fixed style that you have loved for many years, choose a couch that will work with this style. If your style keeps changing buy a transitional couch that works with a variety of styles.