A Complete Guide to the Most Common Sofa Styles

Your sofa, along with your coffee table, takes up the most space in your living room. The sofa is the centrepiece of the room and sets the overall tone of the decor. 

Not all sofas are created equal: different styles have existed over the years. When you're getting a new sofa, you should take some time and figure out how it will look among the rest of your living room decor. 

We've compiled a guide of some of the most common sofa styles, how to tell them apart, and how they work best in a room.

Mid-Century Sofas for a Retro Look

a mid century sofa in a designed space

A Mid-Century sofa showcases many of the looks of the 1950s. The sofa uses almost only straight lines; it doesn't curve or bend the way some other styles do. 

The Mid-Century sofa tends to have exposed legs made of delicately patterned and carved wood. When looking at upholstery, you can expect to see leather and tweed. 

These are hardy fabrics designed to take some heavy use. You might also see tufting on the cushions or seats. This sofa works best when you're going for a classic, but functional look. It has two or three seat sections, depending on the size of the sofa.

Lawson Sofas for Casual Lounge Rooms

a Lawson sofa in a designed space
The Lawson sofa has a wide, deep seating section, making it perfect for reclining or lounging with another person to watch TV. 

Most versions have a high back, also making it suitable for sitting up. The Lawson is a somewhat casual look for sofas, but it can work in a more upscale living room with the right accent pillows. 

Like many other sofas, the arms are lower than the back, but on this sofa they are straight. It evokes the image of crisp, clean lines without looking strictly business. 

Bridgewater Sofas for Utmost Comfort

a Bridgewater sofa in a designed space
The Bridgewater is almost identical to the Lawson except for the shape of the arms. Arguably, the Bridgewater offers more comfort because its arms roll over and don't have the sharp corners that straight edges do. 

The curves also look softer and blend in more seamlessly with surrounding design elements than do the straight edges of the Lawson.

Both of the previous styles of sofa can use a variety of fabrics for upholstery. Usually, you'll see them using suede, twill, or velvet depending on the price. 

You won't see too many leather couches in these styles. Leather is a more expensive material than most, and using it on a casual sofa probably seems excessive. Both the Bridgewater and the Lawson have low profiles with only a small amount of the legs being exposed.

English Sofas for Any Lounge Room

An English sofa in a designed space
English style sofas run a bit more formal than Lawson and Bridgewater styles. The English sofa has a low profile, which makes it blend in almost seamlessly with the surrounding furniture. 

The deep seat makes the couch even more comfortable and easy to sit in. One of the main distinguishing features of the English sofa design is the use of T-cushions. 

The arms, rather than extending all the way to the front, stop short, leaving the corner of the sofa open.  The English sofa style sees a subtle variation of upholstery fabric, usually between cotton and suede.

Cabriole Sofas For an Elegant Look

A Cabriole sofa in a designed space
The Cabriole style of sofa looks more ornate than others. Its exposed wooden frame and legs can be shaped into delicate curves and design. 

The curves are incorporated into all shapes of the couch. This sofa style evokes images of houses in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you're looking for formal, this style is probably your best option. 

You'll see light-coloured upholstery intended to create a sense of airiness and openness. Fabrics include linen and cotton, both of which are lightweight and easy to clean if you catch stains fast.

Camelback Sofas for a Plush Look

A Camelback sofa in a designed space
This style is just about as formal as the Cabriole but in a more subtle way. Where the Cabriole has exposed framework and legs, the Camelback keeps its framework hidden under lavish cushioning and skirts. 

On the Camelback sofa, you can instantly see the difference. Where most styles use a straight line, the Camelback uses gentle curves that move upward toward the centre. This design can incorporate one, two, or even three curves depending on the length of the sofa.

Tuxedo Style Sofas for Imposing Effect

a Tuxedo style sofa in a designed space
The Tuxedo style of sofa can look a bit imposing. It's a stark contrast to the Camelback and the Cabriole. Where those designs employ gentle, sweeping curves, the Tuxedo is all straight, all the way. 

The arms are the same height as the back of the sofa, which makes it look larger and more impressive even if it isn't as large. 

You can find Tuxedo sofas that use a variety of fabrics, which determine the setting in which you'd want to use it. Dark leather, for example, would work best in a study or a formal living room. Light suede or twill would work best in a more informal design.

Sectional Sofas for Big Gatherings

a L shaped sofa in a designed space
The sectional sofa is one of the most popular emerging designs. Instead of a single long piece, the sectional usually comes in L-shaped or U-shaped forms. 

Sometimes you can customise them for your needs depending on how the individual pieces fit together. Sectional sofas sometimes lack arms, but this is because they need to be disassembled and rearranged. 

If you plan on seating a crowd or have an irregularly-shaped living room, a sectional might be the best idea for you.

These are just a few of the most common styles of sofa you'll see on the market. Some of them feature clean, straight lines, and some of them use curves. 

The style itself won't influence the cost of the sofa but the materials will. A leather sofa is almost always going to be more expensive than a fabric sofa, for example. Exposed wood frame, depending on the design, will be more expensive than shorter legs. 

Also, check to see whether you can disassemble the sofa for easy moving. Some sofas will require you to take the legs off before you can get it in your home. Look at one of our showrooms and speak to a stylist to figure out which style of sofa is right for your needs.