22 Most Common Types of Couches and What Makes Them Special

One of the most important purchases for your home is the sofa and this can be difficult because there are so many different types of couches to choose from. From a design standpoint, it anchors your space, and with regard to usage, it is usually where most people spend their time sitting.

What Style to Choose?

The many different types of sofas available are categorized by overall silhouette, arm style and back shape. Your lifestyle and décor preferences will drive the choice among types of sofas because they have varying levels of formality. You also need to consider the style of your space and how much you will use the sofa. Is it meant for entertaining or for everyday family use? Does it need to hold up for use by groups of teenagers or will it sit in a lesser-used room of the home?

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

Different Sizes are Available

Sofa sizes range from compact to positively massive!View in gallery
Sofa sizes range from compact to positively massive!

Some types of sofas are also known for being of a large or small size, so it’s important to know the dimensions of your room and the amount of space you have available for the sofa.

Interior Construction is Key

Make sure to consider the internal construction because quality is key.View in gallery
Make sure to consider the internal construction because quality is key.

Just as important as the style is the sturdiness of the sofa, which hinges on the quality of the frame. Kiln-dried hardwood makes for the strongest, most durable sofas. If they are separate pieces, the sofa’s legs should be attached with metal screws and brackets or wooden dowels. Next, consider the part of the frame that provides suspension. The cushions are typically supported by coils or webbing. You can feel the support system by running a hand on the part of the seat under the cushions. Wire coils shaped like an S tend to be the most comfortable type of support.

Upholstery Options

Upholstery choice can make a couch more or less formal.View in gallery
Upholstery choice can make a couch more or less formal.

And you thought choosing among types of sofas was difficult! The upholstery options for couches are nearly endless and should definitely be driven primarily by your lifestyle and the level of maintenance you are willing to undertake. Decide if you need something durable like leather a microfiber textile, or outdoor fabric, or if you can opt for something more opulent or special.

Turning back to the different types of couches, here’s a guide to 22 kinds that are available and what décor styles they work with best:

Loveseat

Loveseats are a good option for smaller spaces.View in gallery
Loveseats are a good option for smaller spaces.

Actually, a modern loveseat is a smaller version of a sofa and often it is sold as a matching piece with many types of couches. In addition to being a companion piece of furniture, people who live in small spaces who still want a two-seater can opt for a loveseat instead of a full sofa. Loveseats likely got their start back in the late 1700’s when wide upholstered chairs made an appearance. They became popular thanks to the very full skirts on dresses in those days. As the dressed shrank in width, the loveseats grew in popularity as a sofa for two.

Sectional or Modular Sofa

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

As houses and families grew larger, so did couches, giving rise to the ever-popular sectional or modular sofa. Modern sectional sofas sprouted in popularity during the 1950’s, at a time when iconic American designers, such as Charles and Ray Eames, redefined the shape and style of furniture, reports Furniture of Dalton.

These types of couches are actually a combination of smaller sofa units that can be combined in different configurations and sizes. Sectional sofas provide more flexibility in furniture arrangement and room configuration. Sometimes, a sectional is more useful in a compact space because the arrangement can be less linear. Sectionals have a more casual vibe and are most often found in family and rec rooms where people gather to watch television or play games.

Sofa Beds and Futons

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

Futons are popular in small spaces because the back can be lowered in order for it to become a bed. This is generally a more comfortable option than a sofa bed. These types of couches look like a regular model, but the seat – usually the part under the cushions — folds out into a full-size bed. The issue of comfort is a big one because many of these use a thin mattress for the sleeping surface and the support structure can usually be felt through the padding. Today’s options such as inflatable air mattresses are a more comfortable choice for the occasional houseguest than a sofa bed.

Classic Round Arm Sofa

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

These types of sofas are a classic design that has been around forever, which leads some people to call them a grandma sofa. While hers might have been covered in chintz, modern versions are upholstered in updated textiles that bring this classic look into a contemporary realm. The well-recognized silhouette is perfect for any room and the formality can be determined by the upholstery fabric and the other pieces in the space.

Retro Square Arm Sofa

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

Squared off arms on a sofa immediately give the piece a clean, retro look. Often used on a Mid-Century Modern piece — especially with spare, visible legs — this classic form is as fresh today as it was in the 1950s. A square-arm sofa takes on a completely different look when combined with a slipcover, skirting, or a style where the frame extends to the floor. Whether it’s a vintage piece you reupholster or a new reproduction, these types of couches are extremely versatile for a more formal living room space or a comfortable family room. It is sometimes called a track arm sofa as well.

Hard Wedge Arm Sofa

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

This arm profile might be recognized the Stockholm sofa and chair, but this style of arm can be found on many sofas. The higher back that usually accompanies hard wedge arms is given a lighter feeling by the tapering and angle of the sofa arms. This is an attractive detail that lends a bit more formality to a hulking sofa. A similar style is the Shelter arm, which also angles out, but has a more rounded padded surface in the seating side of the arm. These types of couches are great for a living room or family room.

Rounded Wedge Arm Sofa

Rounded Wedge Arm SofaView in gallery
Rounded Wedge Arm Sofa

This is a close cousin to the hard wedge arm but is oh-so-much-more user-friendly. The arm angles outward but it is very rounded and therefore super comfortable. These types of sofas have more a designer look because the arm style gives it a contemporary vibe.

Sloped Arm Sofa

Sloped arm couches are another classic shape.View in gallery
Sloped arm couches are another classic shape.

This is another classic design that has seen a resurgence in popularity, with models showing up on popular contemporary furniture store websites. The gentle slope is comfortable for the arm and gives the sofa a more open feeling that one with uniformly high sides. This style has long been a fixture of living rooms and can be formal or casual, depending on how it is upholstered and the style of the legs. For a far more casual look, these types of couches are often slipcovered.

Belgian Roll Arm Sofa

This Belgian roll sofa by Nick Alain is uber stylish.View in gallery
This Belgian roll sofa by Nick Alain is uber stylish.

These types of sofas combine the sloped arm style with a roll arm, creating a hybrid that can be casual or formal. They can be low to the ground and deep, or can have a slightly less bulky appearance with leaner, exposed wooden legs. Comfort is king with this style and today’s versions are frequently upholstered in natural textiles in a neutral palette of colors for understated sophistication.

English Roll Arm Sofa

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

Another classic style, English roll arm sofas can take on a variety of different looks: A touch of mid-century modern with lithe legs or a more hulking profile that sits directly on or close to the floor. The more tightly upholstered, the more formal the piece. Recent styles take advantage of the trend toward more casual environments by leaning toward the overstuffed and slouchy. Loose cushions on the bottom make it a super comfy choice. The back of the seat is typically tight – meaning that the cushions aren’t removable.

The updated contemporary styles of this classic style have made these types of couches very popular because the low arms are comfortable for lying down. This style originated at the turn of the century and are generally typical of the English countryside. Distinguishing characteristics generally include low exposed legs, soft, generous cushions, a tight back and recessed arms.

No-Arm Sofa

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

These modern types of sofas  — often sectionals – don’t have any arms at all. The styles are varied, from those that have a mid-century modern flair to a chesterfield style that is tufted across the back or whole sofa. These types of couches can also be low slung and sit directly on the floor, a bit reminiscent of sitting on Middle Eastern style cushions. Sofas without arms are extremely chic with little pretense. They are perfect for a minimalist living room or a family room made for lounging.

Wooden Arms

Sofas with wooden arms are best for a living room or office.View in gallery
Sofas with wooden arms are best for a living room or office.

Wooden frames take the spotlight in these types of couches. With the bulk of the sofa covered in upholstery, the arms lighten the visual weight of the piece. Often, these are of a Scandinavian or mid-century style, however, the wood can extend onto the frame as the visible structure or a design accent. Either way, these are best for living rooms, dens or offices where users are less likely to want to lie down as the arm provides no padding.

Tuxedo Sofa

Tuxedo sofas have a distinctive silhouette with equal height all the way around.View in gallery
Tuxedo sofas have a distinctive silhouette with equal height all the way around.

A Tuxedo sofa is defined by its silhouette, where the arms and the back are the same height. This is one of the more common modern types of couches. It has a tailored appeal with clean, angular lines and features has tufting. These types of sofas are said to have been the bellwether of more modern designs in the 1920s. Some say this couch took its name from Tuxedo Park in New York, but others maintain that it is named after the classic fancy men’s suit.

Chesterfield Sofa

Tufting is the hallmark of a classic Chesterfield couch.View in gallery
Tufting is the hallmark of a classic Chesterfield couch.

Related to the Tuxedo sofa because its arms and back are of the same height. The Chesterfield is also a classic design that has a deeply tufted back. Traditionally, the arms are rolled and the sofa had nailheads, however, modern designers are constantly coming up with fresh takes on the basic design. It rose to popularity in the in the 18th century, and historical websites report that this iconic sofa has a slightly murky history. It is thought that the fourth Earl of Chesterfield commissioned it when he wanted a comfortable seat that allowed him to sit upright, however, there is no confirmation of this. The Chesterfield is an ideal sofa for a living room or a more formal office.

High-Back Sofa

High-backed sofas can be classic and formal or modern and minimalist.View in gallery
High-backed sofas can be classic and formal or modern and minimalist.

A high back sofa has a backrest is higher than the armrests. This is a very common silhouette that can be used in formal as well as casual settings. The upholstery and arm design determine the particular design and level of formality for the piece.

Round-Back Sofa

Couches with round backs have been less popular until recently.View in gallery
Couches with round backs have been less popular until recently.

Depending on the type of upholstery and the overall look, a round-back sofa can be a feminine piece or an 80s throwback. If carefully upholstered and combined with wood, the delicate look means the piece is more suited to a dressing room or more fussy parlor or living room. If the curved back is on an overstuffed casual sofa, it definitely belongs in a family room. These types of sofas are not among the most popular and a true round back can be harder to find, however, some modern designs are transforming this style.

Mid-Century Modern

Vintage mid-century modern sofas are hot -- and expensive -- pieces of furniture.View in gallery
Vintage mid-century modern sofas are hot — and expensive — pieces of furniture.

With the recent surge in popularity of the Mid-Century Modern design genre, this sofa style is hot. These are very versatile types of couches and are most often used in a minimalist or mid-century design scheme. They are great for adding a retro feel to any room. Exposed legs and a linear structure and characteristic of this style. In addition, most mid-century sofas  — but not all—have some tufting on the back.

Camelback Sofa

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

Just like the animal after which it is named, the camelback sofa has a hump, or maybe two. It’s a traditional style that became popular in the 18th century by Chippendale and families who wanted aristocratic, formal furniture often opted for this style. This can be an exceptionally formal style of sofa when upholstered in a luxurious fabric. More casual textile choice a would make it appropriate for a family room that is less formal. In either case, a camelback sofa typically has exposed legs, no back cushions and square or rolled arms.

Cabriole

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

Known for its exposed wood and elegant legs, reminiscent of the Louis XV period, the cabriole sofa has a distinctive silhouette. It was also a popular shape in the work of furniture maker Thomas Chippendale. Typically, the back is all one continuous piece without cushions and has an elegant curving line. The main aura of elegance derives from its overall shape and lithe legs meaning it will always lend a refined air to a room.

Lawson

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

Unlike the English Roll Arm sofa, the back cushions of a Lawson are also loose. The arms can be rounded or square, which is the more common arm style these days. This style is family-friendly and is very well suited for a family room.

Barrelback Sofa

A fish-leather sofa by Brazil's Campagna brothers has a barrel shape.View in gallery
A fish-leather sofa by Brazil’s Campagna brothers has a barrel shape.

Just like a barrel-shaped chair, the curve of the sofa back seamlessly extends to create the arms as it comes around the sides of the sofa. It’s a graceful shape that typically does not have separate cushions and is a sleekly upholstered piece. Although it can have a modern formal air, they are said to be very comfortable for family rooms as well.

Rollback Sofa

This type of sofa features the typical rolled arm, but it extends all the way around the back.View in gallery
This type of sofa features the typical rolled arm, but it extends all the way around the back.

This is another classic style that takes the shape of a rolled arm and applies it to the top of the sofa back. The curve adds a big design flourish to the back and is best for areas where the back is not placed against a wall. These types of couches are of a more traditional style and are best for rooms that trend toward the traditional. Rollback sofas usually sport rolled or rounded arms and have been an enduring style.