Style 1 – TIGHT BACK AND SEAT
Tight back and seat describe a style of chair or sofa that has neither seat nor back cushions. This form of construction provides a firm and supportive upholstery that was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when chairs were used for activities such as reading, embroidery, and engaging in conversation. Tight back and seat furniture is firm but generally well padded, so that it is supportive without being too hard.
Style 2 – LOOSE AND ATTACHED CUSHIONS
The addition of seat and back cushions was a development from the tight back and seat style. Furniture with loose seat and back cushions has been around since the mid 19th century, but the invention of the radio followed by television in the 20th century heralded a change in people’s attitude toward their seating arrangements.
There was a move away from formal, firm seating and toward softer and more relaxing sofas and chairs. Furniture makers sprung seats and backs with shorter springs and used less padding to accommodate deep box cushions so that the sitter could sink into furniture, rather than sit upright on it. Loose cushion furniture remains the prevailing style of most modern furniture.
Style 3 – SPLIT BACK STYLE
During the Art Deco period, the fashion was for sofas with backs that looked as if they had loose cushions but were incorporated into the upholstery. This style, known as the split back, was again popular in the 1970s and still remains a common shape. Split back sofas combine the best elements of the tight back and box cushion seat style, so that the seats are soft and comfortable, and the backs provide more stable support.
Style 4 – EXPOSED FRAME
From ornate, colonial Bergere furniture with its women cane infilling, to the common dining chair with a drop-in seat, many styles of sofas and chairs have elements of an exposed frame. You can tell what color and type of wood is in fashion at any given point in time by looking at the exposed frame furniture being produced. For example, dark, carved woods were popular in the late 19th century and plain, pale, bleached woods are often seen in modern Scandinavian styles.
Style 5 – TUFTED FRAME
Tufting, also known as buttoning, is a traditional style of upholstery that gained popularity in the mid 19th century when leather hide became a popular furniture covering.
The irregular shape and size of hiding, and the fact that it is difficult to stitch together necessitated the development of an upholstery style that incorporated hidden joins. The solution was the “Chesterfield’ style of the sofa with its low back, distinctive deep buttons, and diamond pattern folds. Tufting remains an essential technique for the large area of leather upholstery. Using either a shallow or deep tufting pattern, furniture makers incorporate its decorative effect in many different styles.
Style 6 – MODULAR OR SECTIONAL FURNITURE
Modular or sectional sofas comprises separate units, usually including a corner unit, which can be combined according to individual requirements. It ends with one arm and also includes a table or tables.
The design only became possible with the advent of modern upholstery construction methods. It became very popular in the minimalist era of the 1970s and is still popular today as a practical solution to long seating areas in waiting rooms and offices.
Sofa styles are also affected by cushion shapes. Here we illustrate the most popular kinds of cushions that have used since the late 19th century to the present.