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Sofa Vs Couch: What's The Difference?

You've probably used these terms interchangeably, thinking they're synonyms. Most people use the word sofa to refer to a couch and vice versa. In some contexts, a couch is seen as an informal type of seat for lazing around especially during Netflix and Chill days. A sofa, on the other hand, bears a more serious connotation. It's the kind of seat you'd find in a formal setup or a family house with several mature members. Interestingly, these are just popular stereotypes, but they may not be far from the truth. If we are to differentiate these two terms, we have to take a trip down the memory lane;

What is a couch?

couchHistorically, the word couch can be traced back to the Old French word 'couche' which means "to lie down". A couch was seen as a type of bench which one could lie on. Ancient Roman and Egyptian furniture depict couches that were primarily benches with no arms of backrests. Initially, they were not upholstered but over time, carpenters began to fill the seats with fillings and cushions to improve comfort. Today, most couches lack arms and may not accommodate as many people as a sofa would. They're often upholstered or filled with fiber fillings rather than lined with cushions. Couches are also relatively smaller in size compared to sofas. The most popular and distinct modern pieces of furniture which fit this description of a couch would be a chaise lounge or a reclining chair. However, other types of couch designs are not necessarily structured like day beds or recliners. 


What is a sofa?

The term sofa is commonly used in the UK, but it originates from the ancient Arabic world. It was derived from the Arabic word Suffa’ which has two meanings; first, Suffa was used to refer to a room commonly accepted as a living room in ancient Turkish and Persian countries. It also refers to a type of seat that looks like a bench. A Suffa’ chair was originally made of stone or brick before carpenters adapted wood. Later on, people added cushions and blankets to make the seat comfortable. Today, a sofa refers to a type of seat with arms, cushions and a backrest. Most sofas are fixed, in that the parts cannot be separated or adjusted (as in a recliner) but some designs like sectional sofas are more flexible than traditional sets.

traditional suffa

In a nutshell, the most significant distinction between a sofa and a couch is in the design. Sofas have arms, cushions, and backrests while couches may not have these features. They're instead upholstered and structured to accommodate fewer people. 


Which seat is right for you: Couch or Sofa?

Now that you know the differences, you may need to choose between the two when shopping for living room furniture. Whether to buy a couch or a sofa is a matter of personal choice and taste. However, each of the two types is suitable for different scenarios. Here’s what you need to consider before making your choice;


Availability of space

Couches are smaller than sofas. They may, therefore, work better if you’re furnishing a small space. For instance, their lack of arms makes them easy to fit in small living rooms. Sofas, on the other hand, have more features and they’re rigidly structured. They may not be convenient for a studio apartment However, sectional sofas which have become quite popular may save as much space as a couch. Sectionals are flexible enough to occupy wall corners which would have been left bare if ordinary sofa designs were used.


Family composition

sleeping on white sofaWhen you were just launching your life after college, one small couch was enough. However, if you welcome new members to the family, you will need more seating space. Sofas are well suited for bigger families as they provide more seating space. In a house with toddlers, a sofa may also be suitable because cushions offer more flexibility. You can remove and clean them regularly, unlike couch upholstery which can only be wiped. Besides, it’s safer to place a baby on a sofa with arms and a backrest than on a couch with limited features. Overall, a family living room is busier as it encounters more human traffic. It would, therefore, be advisable to invest in sofas which can bear the everyday demands of such a family. 


Interior decor trends

The interior décor world is so much like the fashion landscape. Trends determine the kind of furniture available in the market. If you’re buying as per current trends, you may want to invest in an accent chair. Accent chairs add character to a room by standing out from the rest of the furniture. Certain couch designs such as chaise lounges make unique accent chairs. Their distinctive one-arm design and their small sizes work well in complementing any set of sofas. 

However, if you’re looking for something timeless, rather than trendy, you may want to go for leather sofas. Leather is always in season and it’s a durable and easy to clean option. 


Personal needs

There are times when you just want a beautiful chair to add personality to your living room and there are times when your circumstances demand certain types of chairs. For instance, after a long day at work, you may come home with swollen feet and a headache. After all, when you stand for too long, fluids rush to the bottom of your feet thus causing them to swell. What you need is a comfortable reclining chair to not only improve blood circulation but to also relax. Other times, needs extend to other family members. For instance, you could require a chair that works as a bed at night if you have extra family members in the house. In such a scenario, big three-seater sofas may serve the purpose better. 


Conclusively, the difference between a sofa and a couch may not be as significant today but it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Asking for a couch when you need a sofa may lead to confusion if you’re dealing with a well-versed furniture dealer. Most importantly, a chair’s features are more important than its name. Factors such as the seat’s material, size, shape, design, and durability should guide your decision when making a purchase. Ensure each feature in a chair is aesthetically and functionally significant. 



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