Guide to sofa types


As the focal point of most sitting rooms, there’s an innate pressure to find a type of sofa that satisfies all requirements. Just like a bed, it will be one of the most frequently used pieces of furniture in your home, so it needs to tick all the boxes. But with so many styles of sofa available, how do you choose the right one? The two main factors that need to be considered when shopping for a sofa are form and function, each of which has an impact on the other. Firstly, think about how you use your sofa; do you tend to sprawl out for total relaxation or sit up straight? Will it be used frequently by a lot of people or sparingly as a decorative piece? After deciding your sofa’s purpose, it’s simply a case of eliminating the styles that aren’t suitable, leaving you with the perfect sofa for your home.

Of course, there are many variations on each sofa design – different legs, arms, backs and so forth – but here we focus on the eight most common styles of sofa and what they are best for. Is your favourite style amongst them?

What is an English or club sofa?

There’s no need to sacrifice comfort for style with a classic club sofa. A generous rolled back and deep seat cushions make this a sofa to sink down into at the end of a busy day, but the turned legs on castors and gently rounded arms give a nod to tradition.

What is an English or club sofa best for? Both comfort and style

What is a Camelback sofa?

A very formal sofa with gently scrolling arms, exposed wooden legs and a tight, humped back that arches in the middle (hence the name). Fashionable in the 18th century, the feminine silhouette of the camelback sofa would look wonderfully elegant in an entrance hall and will also work as an alternative to a chaise longue in a dressing room.

What is a Camelback sofa best for? A soft yet formal look

What is a Chesterfield sofa?

Probably the most famous style of sofa, the Chesterfield is often associated with old-fashioned drawing rooms or Oxbridge common rooms. Traditionally upholstered in hard-wearing brown leather, this iconic sofa features a low, deep-buttoned back (also known as ‘tufted’) with high scrolling arms, plus a deep seat and exposed wooden feet. The quilted design and elegantly curved lines make this a smart sofa that will never go out of fashion.

What is a Chesterfield sofa best for? Versatility

What is a Knole sofa?

This classic sofa was often a feature in English country houses, based on a design used in the mid-17th century. Its distinguishing features are a straight, high back, traditionally made with adjustable angled arms that can be opened out for a more relaxed look, or positioned upright to keep out drafts. The sofa pictured below is a contemporary update of the Knole sofa, with the arms and back fixed and lowered and the lines softened to suit present-day interiors.

What is a Knole sofa best for? Making a statement

What is a Midcentury sofa?

A contemporary sofa defined by its linear back, square arms and low square legs. Straight lines and leather upholstery make it stand out from the crowd, but the deep cushioned seat means it’s also extremely comfortable. A modern classic that will stand the test of time.

What is a Midcentury sofa best for? A minimal scheme

What is a Sectional sofa?

The perfect choice for the modern home, this completely customisable sofa lends itself to maximum reclining. Whether you choose to opt for an L-shaped corner sofa or a U-shaped configuration, a sectional sofa allows for a bespoke arrangement. Offering the ultimate in flexibility you can combine the separate units, such as armless sofas, armless chairs, and corner pieces, to fit the layout of the room.

What is a Sectional sofa best for? Socialising

What is a Tuxedo sofa?

Many consider this linear style of sofa to be a modern alternative to the Chesterfield. Smart and sophisticated, a Tuxedo sofa can be identified by the height of the arms, which are the same height as the back of the sofa. This makes it an ideal sofa for reading, and although not specifically designed for relaxation, an abundance of cushions can transform a Tuxedo-style sofa into a very snug seat.

What is a Tuxedo sofa best for? A contemporary look

What is a classic English country house sofa?

Like the Club sofa, a classic English country house style sofa features a curved back with low rounded arms, but is usually skirted for a more traditional feel. Exposed legs make a room feel more spacious, so by hiding the feet with a skirt, this sofa becomes the domininant feature of the space. Deep, padded seat cushions make this the perfect sofa for relaxing.

What is a classic English country house sofa best for? A country home