Six Most Popular Sofa Styles From 19th Century Through Modern Times


Tight back and seat describes a style of chair or sofa that has neither seat nor back cushions. This form of construction provides a firm and supportive upholstery that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when chairs were used for activities such as reading, embroidery, and engaging in conversation. Tight back and seat furniture is firm but generally well padded, so that it is supportive without being too hard. GETIX.ID


The addition of seat and back cushions was a development from the tight back and seat style. Furniture with loose seat and back cushions has been around since the mid 19th century, but the invention of the radio followed by television in the 20th century heralded a change in people’s attitude toward their seating arrangements. There was a move away from formal, firm seating and toward softer and more relaxing sofas and chairs. Furniture makers sprung seats and backs with shorter springs and used less padding to accommodate deep box cushions so that the sitter could sink into furniture, rather than sit upright on it. Loose cushion furniture remains the prevailing style of most modern furniture.


During the Art Deco period, the fashion was for sofas with backs that looked as if they had loose cushions but were incorporated into the upholstery. This style, known as split back, was again popular in the 1970s and still remains a common shape. Split back sofas combine the best elements of the tight back and box cushion seat style, so that the seats are soft and comfortable, and the backs provide more stable support.


From ornate, colonial bergere furniture with its women cane infilling, to the common dining chair with a drop-in seat, many styles of sofas and chairs have elements of an exposed frame. You can tell what color and type of wood is in fashion at any given point in time by looking at the exposed frame furniture being produced. For example, dark, carved woods were popular in the late 19th century and plain, pale, bleached woods are often seen in modern Scandinavian styles.


Tufting, also known as buttoning, is a traditional style of upholstery that gained popularity in the mid 19th century when leather hide became a popular furniture covering. The irregular shape and size of hide, and the fact that it is difficult to stitch together, necessitated the development of an upholstery style that incorporated hidden joins. The solution was the “Chesterfield’ style of sofa with its low back, distinctive deep buttons, and diamond pattern folds. Tufting remains an essential technique for large area of leather upholstery. Using either a shallow or deep tufting pattern, furniture makers incorporate its decorative effect in many different styles.


Modular or sectional sofas comprises separate units, usually including a corner unit, which can be combined according to individual requirements. It ends with one arm and also includes a table or tables.

The design only became possible with the advent of modern upholstery construction methods. It became very popular in the minimalist era of the 1970s, and is still popular today as a practical solution to long seating areas in waiting rooms and offices.

Sofa styles are also affected by cushion shapes. Here we illustrate most popular kinds of cushions that have used since late 19th century to the present.

Now let’s look at sofa cushions, which affect the look of a sofa and how comfortable it will be.


These seat or back cushions are shaped to fit around the front or over the tops of arms. “T” describes the shape of a seat cushion on a chair that fills the area of the seat, and the recesses in front of the arms. On a sofa with recessed arms and three seat cushions, the central cushion will be square and the two outer cushions will be “L” shaped. T-cushions come in two types: square ended and round shouldered.


Turkish cushions are large floor cushions that traditionally have one or both sides covered in carpet.


Long, with flat ends and a round profile, bolster cushions are used predominantly as decoration on sofas and chaises with recessed or ornately shaped inner arms. They were very popular with furniture makers of the 19th century, but are not so common in modern times.


Arm shape is one of major factors determining a style of a sofa. The four main arm types are roll arm, bridge-water arm, tuxedo (straight or square) arm, and no-arm at all. Consider the arm shapes and make sure how that will match your decorating style.


The rolled arm is the most common and enduring shape for upholstered arms. Describing an arm with a rounded top, the term is used for both plain and elegant styles, with either flat or recessed fronts.

The distinguishing feature of the rolled arm is that the front of the arm forms the shape of a scroll. A variation on the rolled arm is the inset panel, which was developed in line with modern upholstery methods to do away with the need to hand-stitch scrolls. It comprises a separate upholstered panel, which is applied to the front of the arm to neatly finish and cover the fabric ends.


With a padded inside face and flat outside, the Bridge-water is a simpler style of arm.


With its thin, squared-off style, the Tuxedo arm is found predominantly on modern styles of furniture including modular furniture from the 1970s onward. A Tuxedo arm is the same height as the back of the piece of furniture.

Skirts, Legs, Feet

Last but not least, you should pay attention to the skirts, legs and feet of a sofa. Many interior designers prefer dressmaker style skirts that start just below the cushion. If there are not many sofa or chair legs in your living room, you can also choose showing the foot of the sofa.

Legs are often the only wood exposed, and you can tell a lot from the legs about quality. This is particularly true of older furniture, indicating that a piece is an original or a reproduction. The twist turned legs and stretcher were popular in the early 19th century.

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