10 Iconic Sofa’s Throughout History

Table Talks
June 23, 2021
Mavis Zhou

People have perched their bums on sofas for thousands of years, but seating was limited once upon a time. Only trunks, benches, and beds provided room for more than one person to sit. The need for functional seating has changed radically over the years, stirring the hearts and firing the imagination of designers who pioneered bold creations as time went on. These artisans crafted sofas that are infinitely comfier, and inspired by architectural ideology, shaped to become art forms of their own. This case study explores the love humankind has for classic and robust sofas throughout time and demonstrates how these styles can transcended into today's modern homes.

Chaise Lounge

Think of the Romans and you’ll likely envisage them lounging on something similar to a chaise lounge, nibbling grapes whilst being fanned. Well, that was not a luxury for the lower and working-class Romans who would recline on stone after a long day’s work before the popularised upholstery of the modern chaise lounge was invented by Europeans in the 16th century. It was designed as an elongated seat to provide comfort for one, to stretch out upon while sitting upright using a supported backrest with or without arms.

Édouard Manet - The Yorck Project (2002) 1, distributed by DIRECTMEDIA.

The chaise lounge can be positioned near a window in any living, making it the perfect resting spot and a divine reading corner. Additionally, the piece can be fitting in the bedroom, specifically a closet, if there is enough space to assist with outfit changes. For laid back interiors, you will find there is always a place for the chaise lounge.

Chesterfield Sofa

In the mid-1800s, Chesterfield Sofas were a practical, elegant, and visually stunning choice. It was the era where furniture makers like Thomas Chippendale started to produced intricate details within furniture design. The origins of this sofa are somewhat a mystery. Still, many believe the low back, rolled arms and deeply buttoned upholstery originated with the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Phillip Stanhope. This style of sofa soon became common place throughout households.

Timeless Chesterfields

The Chesterfield sofa can take on a modern look with a corner unit to maximise the space. You can echo its vintage curves by using other similar furniture in the space, such as an oversized rounded coffee table and ottoman or curvy chairs like the Mulan Chair crafted by our artisan 12H.

Neoclassical Sofa

Neoclassicism started in Rome in the mid 18th century, it fostered a talent and mastery that created the iconic Pompadour Sofa in 1994. The neoclassical sofa is inspired by a traditional antique frame found in an early 19th-century neoclassical design, handcrafted with luxury contoured fabrics.This sofa became an overnight best seller in the UK and is the signature model to the Beaumont & Fletcher name. The clean lines and deep-seated cushions are crafted using traditional, time-honoured techniques.

The iconic Pompadour Sofa

This style is recognised by its soft palettes of creams, ivories, off-whites and metallic gold and silvers to create a neoclassical atmosphere in your space. To add that unmistakable elegant flavour to your neoclassical furnishing solutions, choose embellished lamps and golden details top embellish the room.

Loveseat Sofa

De Sede has been a manufacturer of leather since 1965, they are known for their beautifully curated, soulful, and powerful pieces of furniture. The iconic and long-lasting DS-P two seated, reclining sofa was designed by Robert Haussmann for De Sede and captured the market between 1971 - 1979. It was one of the most iconic models during that time, known best for its luxurious aesthetic and comfort brought by its honeycomb stitching, on top of that, it has flexible extending legs that add up to 15cm in height.

DS-P Leather Sofa Switzerland by RobertHaussmann

The loveseat is a fan favourite and styling it can be pretty easy by creating a relaxing focal point. Weave in vibrant colours against soft textures to finish the warm and inviting style. The loveseat doesn't take up much space making it a practical way to add additional seating. What's not to love?

Mid Century Modern Sofa

Florence Knoll Bassett had years of experience in architecture when she joined the furniture design industry. She applied her knowledge in architecture to create mid-century modern sofa's that successfully became icons of industry during the 1950s-1960s. Bassett's attention to detail and her eye for proportion created the contemporary aesthetic for many admired and celebrated designs worldwide.

Cowles Publication interior, designed by Florence Knoll Bassett Image from the Knoll Archive.

Stylish, versatile, and adored by many, you can style the mid-century sofa in the modern home with very few simple touches. Adding colour from the cooler palettes such as olive greens, greys, teals, and dusky blues with geometric prints unites a bold feel.

Sustainable Bamboo Seating

Jeff Dayu Shi is a bamboo furniture designer in Asia. He focuses on pieces that reconnect with the past and is a strong devotee to bamboo. The emperor-style design concept is "YinXian", which translates to conceal and manifest. This aesthetic is defined by dematerialising and rematerialising. The bamboo slats appear vertically and horizontally to hide functional elements but also showcases playful lighting.

Jeff Dayu Shi Screen Chair Series

Bamboo is an indigenous material produced mainly in China. However, the western world has too embraced the design aesthetics of the East. Incorporating bamboo most definitely brings a sense of storytelling through the various types of rattan crafts, a style rich in history and refines with age.

The Modular Sofa

The Strips Sofa designed by Cini Boeri in 1968 started a revolution in the living room. The modular sofa is often crafted with wood and steel, then upholstered in various plush materials. This sofa can transform into a sofa bed, the quilt cover opens up as a sleeping bag providing an easy to clean process and immediate comfortability. This piece won the Compasso d'Oro Award in 1979.

Strips Sofa, designed by Cini Boeri 1968

The modular sofa is designed with various dimensions and curves that give each module a unique and minimalistic expression. If you prefer a flexible couch that can adapt to accommodate your living space, the modular sofa covers all your needs. The modular sofa works best with a simple coffee table, a textile rug and large art to complement it.

The Modern Architectural Sofa

The famous Le Corbusier is one of the most respected architects in the world. The LC3 collection is now a collectable, cherished for its industrial and elegant aesthetics. The most iconic feature of his Le Grand Confort design is the reversed minimal industrial steel pole placed along the outer frame of the leather padded box cushions. This helped to create a new level of modern aesthetics, never before seen.

Le Corbusier LC3 Collection

This modern industrial design can feature sculptural lighting and concrete finishes. To add these attractive architectural sofas to your home, you should elevate the space with mixed textiles and ideally situate it in an open floor plan. This type of design lends itself nicely to exposed interiors, typically with high beamed ceilings.

The Togo Sofa

Michael Ducaroy designed the Togo Sofa while working at Ligne Roset, and it's best known as the ‘ultimate chill spot’. The design was featured in the media in the 70s and is still beloved by the public for the ergonomic design that makes it visually attractive and physically welcoming. The instantly eye-catching, playful shape and deep pleated folds have retained a classic style and comfort over the past 40 years. The iconic sofa form is manufactured with no structural elements but instead is upholstered using five dense layers of foam.

Togo Sofa by Michael Ducaroy

The Togo Sofa is an attractive piece of furniture and widely loved. It works best in slouchy Bohemian interiors or minimalistic spaces enriched with art. This sofa is at home in office corners, living rooms, movie rooms and even outdoors.

The Flap Sofa

The Flap Sofa was designed in the Millennium by Francesco Binfare, who embraces innovation and artistic tradition. A specialist in intelligent design, he revolutionised upholstered furniture by creating intriguing puzzles to be unpacked and enjoyed. As a result, this contemporary sofa provides optimal support and comfort whether seated, used for dining, or for sleeping. The phenomenal process uses Smart Pillow Technology, which allows its users to adjust the cushions according to the user's movement.

Edra Flap Sofa by Francesco Binfare

The futuristic style Flap Sofa is wanted by many. This elegant and contemporary style caters to the needs of the modern home proprietor, giving new meaning to the word "convertible". It is styled easily in a minimalistic, open-plan space, as a centrepiece to any room.

As you may have gathered, what started as rather a simplistic approach to seating, the history of sofa's has come a long way. From sitting on a wooden or concrete bench to the iconic revolutionised modern sofas of today. In the 21st century, we can now express beauty and function in a myriad of styles, colours and fabrics with various sizes and seating options. The sofa is relied on in many living spaces, where laughter and tears are shared, memories are cherished, where weary heads rest and the naked soul replenishes.