Sofa Design: Types of Sofa Styles

Sketches of designer sofas

The options, from Chesterfields to Tuxedo sofas

Sofas—we relax on them, read on them, socialise on them and maybe even fall asleep on them. But, despite their familiarity, sofas in all their various guises can still be confusing.

Sofa styles (there are a lot of them!) range from high-back sofas to corner sofas and modular sofas to loveseats. There are traditional sofas and contemporary sofas and, these days, sometimes a sofa hybrid-part-traditional sofa, part-contemporary sofa.

If you're finding yourself confused at the difference between a tuxedo sofa and Mid-century sofa, read on to discover the main sofa shapes any furniture buyer should know.

Traditional Sofas

Traditional sofas prioritise fine hand-rendered craftsmanship, extensive decorative detailing and, typically, showcase curved, opulent silhouettes.

Rolled arms, deep buttoning, fringing, tassels and other forms of decorative trims, carved wood frames, shaped wooden skirts, legs and feet and elaborate fabrics like brocades, chintz and tapestry are just some of the characteristics of traditional sofas.

Sofas are often characterised as traditional if old-time upholstery techniques have been used in their construction. Historically, sofas of this type were rarely larger than 3 or 4 seaters however, these days, traditional elements can be applied to much larger, modern sofas.

Camelback Sofa

As its name would suggest, the camelback sofa is characterised by a pronounced hump (or two) on its seat back. Slender rolled arms are the traditional choice although modern-day designs often use the more contemporary shelter arm as seen here. Leg styles range from the most traditional of a straight Marlborough or cabriole leg to more modern bracketed options.

Designed in the 18th century by furniture maestro Thomas Chippendale, this sofa has retained its sophistication over the years.

Luxury camelback style sofa at LuxDeco

Chesterfield Sofa

The Chesterfield sofa is one of the most iconic sofa shapes and a popular formal sofa design. Dating from the 18th century, the handsome sofa design sports a relatively low, rolled back which continues through to the arms, creating an even-height silhouette, plump seat cushions and deep buttoning.

Antique Chesterfields were often rendered in a rich leather whose deep tones would be accented by the use of the deep button-tufting, however, modern Chesterfields come in various fabrics, offering a different aesthetic.

Luxury chesterfield style sofa at LuxDeco


Part sofa, part bed—a daybed sofa is a lasting remnant from the Middle Ages. Modern examples range from occasional-use chaise-like designs to regularly used beds with headboard or backrest-like panels and mattress base. They are often constructed of upholstered, wooden or iron frames.

Trundle daybeds are space-saving workhorses and are often found in kid and teenage rooms to be used when friends come to visit. For an adult-friendly use, daybeds with storage work well for smaller loft spaces.

Luxury grey daybed at LuxDeco

English Roll Arm Sofa

A classic Victorian sofa which is as loved today as it was 200 years ago, the English Roll Arm sofa has low, set-back rolled arms, a deep seat and a gently reclined tight back, although some designs may have loose back cushions.

The design is one of the most popular sofa styles, lending itself to traditional and contemporary decor schemes, town and country homes alike. The style can be seen in the homes of actress Jessica Chastain and J.Crew’s impossibly stylish former creative director Jenna Lyons.

Luxury English roll arm style sofa at LuxDeco

Knole Sofa

An instantly recognisable sofa style, the Knole sofa is arguably the most unique sofa shape. Its ingenious design is found in the ability to drop its detached sides in a leaf-like manner. These folding panels are held upright by a system of hinges and decorative corded ties which add a functional beauty to the piece.

Because of their collectability and designer kudos, Knole sofas tend to be used as statement pieces in their truest form and are rarely modernised, however, updated versions do exist with modern materials and accents.

Luxury knole style sofa at LuxDeco

Contemporary Sofas

In contrast to their elaborate traditional counterparts, contemporary sofas are interested in streamlined design. Less focus is put on the frame of a contemporary sofa—in fact, the frame is usually almost completely concealed under the upholstery.

There is a tendency toward straight, uncomplicated and unbroken silhouette lines, the use of platform bases or simple legs and non-patterned fabrics. Their construction usually incorporates modern technologies and materials to produce the slimmest version possible and they can come in almost any size and shape.

Lawson Sofa

The Lawson is one of the better-known sofa designs but is surprisingly hard to characterise on account of its various makeovers and incarnations in the past. A true Lawson is a well-stuffed sofa design with rolled Lawson or sock arms (which can be either recessed or flush to the front of the sofa) and individual loose back and seat cushions which provide the sofa with its characteristic comfort. It is a favourite choice for family rooms and can be either traditional or modern.

Luxury lawson style sofa at LuxDeco


A loveseat sofa is the one sofa style which almost any room will benefit from. Small loveseats are akin to a 1.5 seater chair, making them an intimate spot for couples to relax in, whilst larger designs more closely resemble a 2-seater sofa and work well in a larger arrangement. Loveseats come in a variety of styles—both traditional and contemporary. Round designs have become popular of late, encouraging sitters to curl up with a tempting book.

Luxury loveseat at LuxDeco

Mid-Century Modern Sofa

Mid-century sofas have been some of the most popular of late. Whilst there isn’t a one-size-fits-all description for the Mid-century sofa, there are a few distinct design Mid-century design elements to look out for. Boxy shapes or long straight planes with rounded corners, round bolster cushions and splayed legs or a platform base are all classic Mid-century. As is shallow linear button-tufting, pastel shades and exposed wood framing or exotic wood wraps.

Luxury mid-century modern style Sofa from LuxDeco

Tuxedo Sofa

Reportedly named for New York’s sophisticated Tuxedo Park, this sofa is recognisable for its high square arms which wrap around the entire back of the sofa and crisp and tailored upholstery. It is, by nature, one of the more formal sofa styles but also one which works well in various settings. When upholstered in rich velvet, the sofa appears ultra-glamorous; channel tufted, the style is decidedly Mid-century modern; and, left plain, a tuxedo sofa seems so current.

Luxury tuxedo style sofa at LuxDeco in grey

Family Sofas

Family sofas are designed for two things—comfort and seating capacity. They are typically large sofas of informal design with a low profile, deep plush seats and cushions and sturdy construction. Family sofas are understandably popular in family rooms or informal living rooms.

Sectional Sofa

This contemporary sofa design is usually constructed as a complete piece (or with perhaps one join) and typically looks like a regular sofa with a long chaise attached at either or both ends. This placement determines whether the sofa would be a considered a left or right hand facing sofa or a U-shaped sofa. Many sofa styles have been given the sectional treatment, meaning there’s a chance you can find your preferred sofa style in this format.

Luxury sectional style sofa at LuxDeco

Modular Sofa

A modular sofa is so-called for its interconnected, interchangeable sections or units. Highly customisable because of their various configurations and endless possibilities, sofas can be created differently with unique combinations of the individual components. They can be U-shaped, curved or completely freeform. Recently, sectional sofas placed in the centre of a living room, with seating on all sides have become popular.

Luxury modular corner style sofa at LuxDeco

Creating Your Perfect Sofa

Although certain sofa styles have lasted the test of time in their original forms, the fun in designing a sofa is that you can take elements of different sofas and combine them to make something which is best for you.

The combinations of sofa styles, arms and legs are limitless so the most important thing is to choose your sofa based on what you want from the piece and the style of your room.

Once you know those two things you can create a sofa which is really right for you.

Shop Designer Sofas

Brice Sofa, Rocat Black
Brice Sofa, Rocat Black

Here at LuxDeco, our highly skilled designers are on hand to give their expert advice and help design your perfect sofa. If you would like help choosing your luxury sofa, contact our team at [email protected] or +44 (0)20 3322 8665.

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