Find the Perfect Sofa Shape for You

Posted In Design - 08/19/2016

When shopping for a new sofa, you automatically think about the fabric, quality, and size. But here’s something that might not come as readily to mind: the shape of your sofa. Before you start scouring the market for a new sofa, it’s important to know what to search for – and what style you like or will work with your room. There are so many different sofa shapes, and variations of those shapes, including the styles of cushions, legs, arms, and more. Here we explore some of these differences so you’ll know what to look for when shopping for your dream sofa.

Common Sofa Shapes

There are a couple of classic sofa shapes that have become standard through the years. These include the Camelback, Chesterfield, Bridgewater, English, Lawson, and Tuxedo. These six sofa shapes originated throughout different decades (and countries) becoming classics that are continually reinvented with different variations and fabrics.

Chippendale Camelback

The Camelback sofa is a very traditional sofa, with a curved back and tight-back cushions. The arms are usually rolled, at a higher height and the sofa features exposed legs. These sofas tend to have uniquely round and arching backs (hence the name, Camelback). It can have a cabriole leg and exposed frame trim or not. The Camelback is meant to be a statement piece in a parlor so it’s typically placed in the center of a room rather than against the wall.


Casual and comfortable looking seating, a Bridgewater sofa has low arms that are set back from the front edge of the seat cushions. Originally this style boasted a skirt to hide the legs, but often today’s Bridgewater styles feature exposed legs. Plush padded, loose seat and back cushions reinforce the casual appeal of this style. Often Bridgewater sofas feature slipcovers.


The Chesterfield sofa originated during the early 1700s, believed to have been commissioned by trendsetter-at-the-time Lord Phillip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. He wanted a sofa with a lot of tufting (which at the time showed off wealth as the tufting process required more fabric and skilled craftsmanship), quilted leather upholstery, rolled arms, ornate wooden legs, and low-seat base. As Lord Stanhope aged, so did his Chesterfield pieces, thus showing off the distinctive look of the aged Chesterfield sofa. A stunning, updated example is our Knightsbridge Ivory Sofa.


The English sofa is also an English classic, with a low and deep seat, loose-back cushions (usually three), rolled arms with pleats, and differentiating front and back legs. The back legs are usually a sloped, tapered leg while the front leg is a tad more ornate, and sometimes feature a wheel. The English style roll arms feature a graceful roll that curves down toward the front rather than a larger flared roll. The English sofa tends to be a bit lower and with very deep seats, allowing for the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon lounging. If this is your sofa, then you’ll love the Bali Breeze or Azura Beige.


The Lawson sofa tends to be a more traditional sofa with rolled arms, loose cushions, and either traditional legs or a skirt. This sofa style leans toward a thicker, bulkier shape than other more delicately-shaped sofas. The Lawson sofa was originally commissioned for a wealthy Boston financier named Thomas W. Lawson in the late 1800s. He enjoyed furniture that was more comfortable and layered with pillows. We love our versions of the Lawson sofa: the Bellingham and Balencia in leather.


A tuxedo sofa is a much more contemporary shape, usually connected to Art Deco style and the look of early 1920s clubhouses. It was invented in the ’20s, with its name originating from the same place as the tuxedo – Tuxedo Park in New York. Similar to the Chesterfield, the Tuxedo’s arms are the same height as the back of the sofa, and therefore the back cushions are either tight-back or loose cushions that rise above the back of the sofa. Have a look at our High Rise collection.

Appealing Arms

There are three different shapes to arms: track arms, rolled arms and English rolled arms. Most of the time, English rolled arms tend to be the most traditional of the choices, while square, track arms tend to be more modern or casual. The distinction between rolled arms and English rolled arms is that rolled arms offer a generous sweeping curve out and away from the seat cushions whereas English rolled arms have a tight feel that curves gracefully forward and down toward the front. With track and rolled arms, the height of the arm itself can vary on the type of sofa. For example, a Chesterfield has rolled arms that are high (at the same height as the back of the sofa), whereas an English sofa has arms that are much lower, closer to the base of the sofa. A lower arm is great for smaller spaces, where it can make the space seem much larger than it actually is.

Distinct Legs

The legs of a sofa can really define its history — whether it’s mid-century modern from the 1960s or from the days of Marie Antoinette. Tapered, cone legs tend to be more common with the mid-century modern style — a thinner and sleeker leg holding up the weight of the sofa. Whereas a thicker block leg tends to align with a transitional or  contemporary sofa. And more ornate legs, with spindles, tend to be tied in with Chesterfield sofas, a much much older style. Many more formal and traditional sofas do not have visible legs, but rather a skirt which shows off luxury and conceals the legs.

Compelling Cushions

There are two different types of cushions — tight-back and loose-back cushions. A tight-back cushion tends to be more formal, although it can be less comfortable of the two as it has less cushioning than and is not as adjustable as a loose-back cushioned sofa. A more relaxed or contemporary loose-back sofa tends to have cushions that are either attached or not attached at the base. Those that are not attached are called pillow backs.

Also check out: Elizabeth Reich, Insignia Homes, Marcye Philbrook.

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