7 Sofas With a Story
Historic Sofa Styles add 'Collected' Class to All Kinds of Interiors
Purchasing a sofa is no joke. It's expensive, especially if you want one that will last. And, given the amount of space it takes up (physical and visual), often sets the tone for a room. There are so many different styles — and hybrids — that settling on one is most difficult, especially in this age of transitional, eclectic and collected decor. Let's check out a few styles with deep historic routes that are easily (and beautifully) incorporated into contemporary homes.
This settee feels a little bit Queen Anne-ish (1700-1745), with its graceful, dainty rolled arms and high back. Velvet upholstery, as seen here, was typical, as were formal damasks and brocades, with chintz and taffetas coming in at a close second. The straight tapered legs of the settee suggest a more Neoclassical style popular from the late 1700s through the mid-1840s.
This bench, which evokes Spanish, or Colonial/Mission-style furniture of the 18th century, is the original sofa style. Most were upholstered in leather. The heavy, sturdy proportions speak to the Spanish influences, but the simple, functional silhouette with geometric designs give it a simplified, Santa Fe bent popularized in the 1920s through 1940s. It works beautifully as a landing pad in this entry.
The canape featured in this photo is reminiscent of Louis XVI (1774-1793), with its elegant, graceful silhouette and carved wood frame (which were often gilded, painted or lacquered).
The style is highly versatile, as it coordinates beautifully with this traditional-modern interior, complete with contemporary artwork and transitional lighting.
The camelback sofa, a mainstay of the Chippendale furniture fro the mid- to late-1700s, was influenced greatly by the Queen Anne-era furnishings, but has a more masculine form. Still, it is quite ornate, with detailed carvings, cabriole legs featuring leaf or shell motifs, and a distinctive hump (or humps) on the backrest.
Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI's main squeeze, lent a feminine flavor to the rectangular forms in favor during her time. The Chaise Longue pictured here evokes the Louis XVI style (1774-1793), with its oval back (similar to that of the bergere chair), and straight, tapered legs.
The early 1800s brought French Empire furniture into vogue. It's usually characterized by massiveness and a rectangularity that favored form over function, but I think this Meridienne Sofa, a chaise-like daybed with one end higher than the other, looks pretty comfortable for some high-end relaxation!
One of my personal favorites, the Chesterfield, is a deep buttoned sofa, with arms and back of the same height, usually made of leather. Chesterfield sofas evoke dark, gentlemanly smoking rooms of the 1900s, but can look fresh in less traditional settings — and in highly colorful ones, as architect James Crisp proves here.
More: How to Choose the Right Sofa
Browse: Find sofas in the Products section
Ideabook updated on July 18, 2011.
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