Types of Sofa Styles

February's blog covered the key sofa measurements: length, width, depth, and height. But once you've figured out the relative dimensions of the sofa you'd like to buy, you still have thousands of options to choose from. To help you narrow down your choices, here are a few of the many kinds of sofa arms and bases you may see.

Sofa Arm Styles

There are dozens of types of sofa arms (Drexel Heritage has a short list here), so for simplicity I'll stick to the three most popular styles. Remember, what one company calls a "Rolled Arm" might be another company's "Panel Arm," so print out a picture of the style you like and bring it with you when you go shopping. 

The quintessential English Arm sofa by George Smith; this version has a T-cushion and tapered legs with casters.

The quintessential English Arm sofa by George Smith; this version has a T-cushion and tapered legs with casters.

The English Arm

English arm sofas are classic, and George Smith  is the originator of this type of arm. They've been in style for decades, and they'll still look beautiful thirty years from now (assuming you keep it clean, of course). These sofas are comfortable as they are often quite deep, and they tend to have a tight back and a rolled arm. Compared to other types of arms, English arms are generally shorter, giving you plenty of room to put your feet up and take a nap.

This couch has rolled arms with nailheads, a straight cushion, and square legs.

This couch has rolled arms with nailheads, a straight cushion, and square legs.

The Rolled Arm

This is a more casual look for your sofa. It's typically higher than the English arm and comes in several forms including sock, panel, pleated, and pad. It's popular with slipcovered sofas, but you can make the look more formal by choosing a rolled arm with nailheads (as above) or by using a plush fabric.

Josef Hoffmann's Kubus sofa has a track arm, straight cushion, and exposed legs.

Josef Hoffmann's Kubus sofa has a track arm, straight cushion, and exposed legs.

The Track Arm

The track or straight arm is perfect for smaller spaces because it doesn't roll outward. This type of arm is rectangular, and can extend fully up the height of the sofa or stop partway up. Track arms are more formal and modern, and some clients find them less comfortable than rolled arms. But with the right fabric and appropriate cushioning, these sofas can be just as welcoming - and stylish - as any other.

Cushion Style

Cushion style is also important when you're choosing an arm. If the arm extends all the way to the end of the seat, it's called a straight cushion. This works well with traditional and transitional interior decorating styles. If the cushion wraps around the front of the arm, it's a T-cushion. This is a classic cushion style that works well in many environments.

Sofa Base Styles

There are two primary types of base styles, although there are seemingly limitless variations within each one. Whether you prefer one or the other is a matter of taste; either base style can look formal, casual, modern, or traditional depending on the decorative elements you select. 

A sofa with bun feet, rolled arms, and a straight cushion.

A sofa with bun feet, rolled arms, and a straight cushion.

The Leg Base

This type of base has legs rather than a skirt, and it's exploded in popularity over the past few years. There are dozens of kinds of legs for sofas, and this feature often plays a key role in defining the "look" of your furniture. You can get bun feet, Queen Anne feet, square feet, tapered feet, carved feet, and many others. Legs also come in varying heights: a modern or contemporary sofa may show a bit more leg than a traditional one, and some sofas have "invisible" feet which can't be seen at all.

A skirted sofa with two pleats, rolled arms, and a straight cushion.

A skirted sofa with two pleats, rolled arms, and a straight cushion.

The Skirted Base

If you prefer the skirted look, you've got plenty of options. A skirted sofa still has legs, of course, but they are typically concealed by a flap of fabric. Skirts can have several pleats (or no pleats), boxed pleats, kick pleats, ruffles, or even fringed tassels!

There are many, many design elements to consider when you're purchasing a sofa. Don't let it overwhelm you! For the most part, you'll know if a sofa makes your short list within seconds of looking at (and sitting on) it. Consider your likes and dislikes before you start furniture shopping, and you'll be better able to communicate what you're looking for. 

Want help? If you're going shopping in High Point, North Carolina, give me a call at (336) 404-1040. I'll talk you through the most popular sofa designs, and help you find the sofa that works for you, your budget, and your interior decorating style. And my shopping advice and insider knowledge comes at no cost to you. Call me today, and let's get started!