Breaking the Rules: Double-sided sofas...
Anything modular lends itself well to contemporary design, and two-sided sofas tend to be modular. Practically a defining characteristic of modular sofas is their lack of arms, which allows them to be repositioned ad infinitum. And how pleasing to walk into a room whose seating faces the entry and not a wall, while still allowing comfortable lounging and TV viewing.
If I could snap my fingers and have a single piece of furniture magically appear in my home, it would be this iconic modular sofa by Italian furniture company, Living Divani. Part bed, part sofa, part chaise, it does the work of several furniture pieces and allows for a flexible layout, especially in larger rooms where it can sit in the center and offer views all around. At first glance, one might gather that it’s more difficult to hold a conversation on a piece like this, but actually, it’s far easier to arrange oneself comfortably on such a wide platform than to crane forward on a conventional sofa to speak with somebody on the other arm.
This configurable sofa is just one tactic Natasha Barrault used to create a multifunctional, flexible living space for a Malibu residence that houses a young family. Almost like an oversized daybed, the custom design features moveable bolsters that act as backrests when the family wishes to use their piece as a sofa or as structural supports when kiddies’ imaginations dream up a fort.
The reality is, if you want a double-sided couch or sectional, it’s probably going to be expensive. Whether you go with Living Divani’s coveted modules or something more akin to this customized design, featuring two different cotton velvets, you won’t be getting “two for the price of one.” Still, if your family lives on the sofa and you intend to invest in a high-quality piece, the added functionality may be well worth the added cost. Just be sure to cover it in a durable fabric that will last!
A virtue of the double-sided sofa is its ability to host two groups engaged in two different activities at once. Yes, wives chatting over wine will overhear their husbands cheering for the game as they watch TV on the other side of the couch, but without having to face the same direction, the chatting party is better able to keep themselves engaged with the conversation when all the visual stimulation is behind them. This is made even easier with a tall back dividing the two sides.
With the previous photo, we merely dipped a toe into the pool of traditional options. Here, we see how a classic camelback can be the most breathtaking object in the room from every angle. If you see a double-sided sofa at an estate sale or vintage shop, first try to keep your cool, and then stealthily and swiftly snap it up before anyone else realizes the decorating gold that lies before them.
Here, a double-sided camelback is used for another purpose: Maximizing space in an oversized living room. Perfect for entertaining large parties, the double-sided sofa offers a tailored solution to creating zones in a large space as it basically bisects the room into two distinct conversation areas. In this view alone, you can see at least 12 different places for guests to perch.
As long as each module has some sort of attaching mechanism, or if your floor surface is such that the pieces won’t be prone to slip away from one another, you could feasibly arrange armless chaise and chair sections with ottomans behind them to create your own double-sided sofa. Custom sectionals are usually priced by the piece, allowing you to control your budget and configure the right layout for your space, but do expect that many multiples will add up.
As a more budget-conscious alternative, look around for a double-sided chaise instead. With reinforced corners, you and a friend can chat facing each other, or you can sit alone and have comfortably visual access to either side of the room: Perfect for vigilant moms who want to take a break without losing sight of the little ones.
An arm, while apparently limiting, can be another thoughtful measure for defining a space and even routing traffic flow through the room. A sofa arm, much like a sofa back, is a way-finder that signals to human traffic how they should approach, and which way they are to face. A taller arm like this one also serves to make that nook feel more intimate and isolated, a little psychological trick that becomes especially handy in an open floor plan that can lack intimacy, to some tastes.
If you like your furniture to be a cozy, intimate cocoon, maybe all the hip, modern modular sofas leave you wanting. It’s a conceptually simple thing for a furniture maker or upholsterer to bind together two complete sofa frames and upholster them as one whole. Perhaps you’ve seen double-sided Chesterfields in sumptuous old men’s clubs or historic drawing rooms; this photo riffs on those, with plush velvet tufting and thick walls that beg to be nestled into.
Last, by making the obvious “front” of this sofa deeper than the attached seating on the back, its designer has made it clear where people are expected to lounge, while the narrower posterior cushions invite pausing to put on shoes, respond to a text, or wrangle a dog into his leash: The activities you’d prefer to do seated, but don’t necessarily need to do in luxury.