Sofa Types for Home Decor

Sofas, Divans, and Settees

An Upholstered Divan
An Upholstered Divan. Photo: Vera Berard

When you are buying furniture for a new design or remodel, where do you start? I usually recommend starting with the largest and most expensive item, which, in the case of a living room or family room, is usually the sofa. The sofa is usually a focal point, the seating area most often used, and, if the wrong choice is made, the source of the most complaint. It's important to chose the right sofa style and size for your design.

You have several choices to explore:

1 Traditional sofa. The scale of the traditional sofa (in form, not in style) is usually from 6 to 8 feet, although longer, or shorter, sofas can be custom made. The average sofa fits three people comfortably and is the piece most often chosen for the living room. In terms of style, sofas can be found in a wide range. Look for differences in the arms, legs, back, and sofa cushions (loose or attached). Varying upholstery details will also set traditional sofas apart on the showroom floor

2. Convertible sofa. This sofa can be converted into an extra bed for guests. The newest convertibles have an inflatable mattress, making the bed more comfortable than in years past and ensuring your company will stay longer, which may or may not be a pleasant circumstance. Contemporary sleeper sofas may simply flatten out to create a bed, and is perfect for when you don't want extra cushions laying on the floor in the middle of the night.

Although sleeper sofas aren't known for comfort, you can purchase padded mattress covers to place on top of the provided mattress.

3. Love seat. This smaller version of a sofa will sit two people and is perfect for smaller rooms. For more seating in small rooms or even as a conversation area in larger room, two love seats can be positioned facing each other.

Love seats are also sometimes referred to as "apartment-sized sofas" as they are a smaller scale and better suited to smaller spaces. Some love seats can also be perfect for bedrooms, kitchens, or entry ways.

4. Divan. Think backless sofa. It is usually placed against a wall with pillows added for comfort. A version of this sofa with one side angled to recline is called a "fainting couch" - ideal for those with a more delicate temperament.

5. Settee. This is a form of love seat. It usually has a wood frame, open arms, and an upholstered seat. It is considered more formal (and usually more uncomfortable) than a love seat and sits a bit higher. Read more about the history of the sofa here.

5. Sectional sofa. A 9 to 16 foot sofa separated into several sections that can be repositioned to fit the room. Its ideal for large rooms or large families that need seating for more people. Some styles have reclining sections. Sectional sofas are generally large pieces of furniture so be sure you measure not only the room, but the entranceways into the room. It would be a shame to purchase a piece and not be able to get it through the door! 

Whichever style you choose for your family, there are several things to consider:

  • Will the sofa fit through the door?
  • Will it be used for family TV watching or occasional guests?
  • Will it overwhelm or underwhelm the room?
  • Is it constructed to last?

To help answer these questions, visit my article on buying the perfect sofa.