The Ultimate sofa style guide

Know your Chesterfield from your Tuxedo with Ideal Home’s essential guide to sofas

When it comes to choosing a sofa, you won't go far wrong if you opt for a tried-and-tested classic style. Not sure where to start? We've done the legwork and narrowed down the choice to the 12 most popular styles of sofa - and who they suit best. All you have to do is sit back, relax and choose your favourite.

Comfortable contemporary
A popular, classic shape with removeable seat and back cushions, rounded arms and a low base. The base is often skirted or has chunky wooden feet.

Good for: families; plump cushions and padded arms make it comfy for relaxing

living room with sofa and floral carpet

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Our pick: the Mansfield large sofa in barley beige, £799.99, Dunelm

Traditional sofa with low, slightly rounded arms set back from the front of the seat. Well-stuffed seat cushions. No skirt, but turned wooden legs, often on castors.

Good for: both style and comfort

living room with green textured wallpaper and sofa set

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Our pick: the Bluebell four-seater sofa in deep turquoise pure cotton matt velvet, £1840,

Traditional style with a rolled, button-upholstered back and arms. The seat can be upholstered or have separate cushions. Wooden legs, no skirt.

Good for: most settings; an iconic design that can be dressed up or down

living room with leather sofa and dark carpet floorig

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Our pick: the New England Newport leather Chesterfield sofa, £2525, Furniture Village

Mid-century modern
Post-war design, with a boxy, streamlined shape, low back and narrow arms. Tailored, rather than overstuffed; the back sometimes has cushions or can be tightly upholstered. Square legs, usually no skirt.

Good for: the design-conscious

living room with white wall and carpet flooring

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Our pick: the Peggy Mid-Century sofa in cayenne, £1399, West Elm

Historic 17th century style with a high back and high angled sides. Sometimes the sides can be raised or lowered by means of cords secured to finials on the back.

Good for: traditional schemes; its lofty proportions are ideal for larger spaces

living room with wallpaper and sofa set

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Our pick: the Langham two-seater sofa in New Annelise copper, £1800, Laura Ashley

Modern, no-frills style with a squareish back and low, flat, chunky arms. Floor-skimming base with squat legs and no skirt.

Good for: versatility - can suit a modern or trad scheme; low, boxy arms are great for napping

white living room with green sofa and potted plants

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Our pick: the Chalk four-seater sofa in Lime Combination, £1098, French Connection range at DFS

Boxy design with arms the same height as the back, sometimes with separate back cushions, no skirt and plain legs. The name comes from Tuxedo Park in New York, where it's thought to have originated in the 1920s.

Good for: making a style statement

white living rom with grey sofa and wooden flooring

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Our pick: the Balfour three-seater sofa in silver, £1840, Sweetpea & Willow

Formal style sofa with a tightly upholstered, gently curving back (the hump). With high rolled arms, often a tight seat and either a skirted bottom or elegant turned-wood legs.

Good for: those who like a firmer back support; suits a more traditional setting

white living room with blue sofa and wooden flooring

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Our pick: the Dashing Duke large sofa in Slumber Denim, £1969, Sofa Workshop

Compact, upright style once popular in town houses. High, straight, tightly upholstered back and fixed seat cushion with narrow, tapered arms.

Good for: smaller living rooms; firm seats are ideal for those needing additional support

living room with purple walls and sofa set

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Our pick: the Abbington sofa in Monsoon Home by Multiyork Socrates Rose/Lavender fabric, £1139, sofa, Multiyork

Two-seater sized small sofa (or large armchair) also known as a loveseat. Roomy enough for one person to curl up on or a cosy seat for two.

Good for: couples; can be handy if space is tight

green walled living room with sofa and carpet flooring

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Our pick: the Marlborough snuggler in cotton/linen mix, £795, Within

Contemporary seating system made up of different components that can be tailored to suit the space, including corner units, armless seats, chaises and footstools.

Good for: socialising; works well in larger open-plan living spaces

grey living room with sofa set and cushions

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Our pick: the Sonoma modular in textured weave fabric, £2546, Next

Chaise end
Similar to the modular (above) but instead of small components it takes the form of an L-shaped arrangement made up of a regular sofa with a chaise section at one end. It can be left or right-facing.

Good for: larger living rooms; great if you like to stretch out

white living room with sofa set and white flooring

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Our pick: the Crumpet large chaise sofa, right hand, in Thatch house fabric, £1995, Loaf


Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.