What’s in a Name: Sofa vs. Couch

We designers often have a specific way of speaking, whether because of the way we were trained in school, or years of unspoken tradition. One of those traditions is we refer to a upholstered piece of furniture meant to sit two or more people, as a sofa But 90% of Americans refers to the same piece of furniture as a couch. What’s the difference? Not one little thing! So why do designers do it? Not a clue! But we all do!

But wait, there’s more! We designers have so many specific names for different styles of sofas (or couches), it can make your head spin. The sectional, as you all know, is a sofa with the addition of a second armless sofa to make a L shape. It basically has infinite variations, which is why it’s so popular for use in family rooms and media rooms - it can go from seating two people, comfortably lounging, to seating an entire party! 

 Jamie Bush + Co

Jamie Bush + Co

The cloud sofa is a free-form piece, named after a design by Isamu Noguchi and popularized by Vladimir Kagan in the '50s and '60s. Its unique design is perfect to float as the sculptural center of a room.

 Pierre Yavonovitch

Pierre Yavonovitch

A banquette is a sofa that almost looks like a built-in, typically armless and often running along a wall. 

 Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler

A settee is a smaller sofa seating two or three, but on higher legs. Think of a loveseat in high heels.

 Jean Louis Denoit

Jean Louis Denoit

A Chesterfield refers to a tufted sofa, traditionally with large rolled arms, but anything with turfing can be referred to as “Chesterfield style”. 

 Sally Wheat

Sally Wheat

A chaise is basically a sofa with one arm cut off, and sometimes the back, too.  Also has been referred  to as a fainting couch, but that’s not used so much these days.

 Joseph Dirand

Joseph Dirand

The below photo contains not one, but two sub-types of couches. The piece in back is called a gondola sofa, because its shape is reminiscent of a Venetian gondola. Its signature feature is an open space between the back and the seat, so it’s often used in front of windows since it has an open, airy feel. The sofa in front that has the two curled arms at the ends but no back? It’s referred to as a tete a tete, which means conversation in french. It is so named because two people can relax on either end while enjoying an intimate conversation. 

 Jean Louis Denoit

Jean Louis Denoit

And I could go on and on! For more seating and lounging inspiration, please visit my Pinterest Page.

Warmly, 

Beth