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Couch vs. Sofa: What is the Difference?

By June 3, 2020January 23rd, 2023Interior Design Tips

sofa vs couch modern living room furniture San Francisco Design

The journey to finding the perfect sofa can include a lot of questions. One that comes up time and time again is whether you should use the term couch or sofa. You might hear a mother tell her kids to get off a couch. Another time that woman could call that same piece a sofa. It is a tricky distinction that not everyone understands.

Many people associate sofas with formal living areas and couches as more casual spaces. In the end, few people truly know the correct terminology for the couch and sofa. Should you say that you are sitting on a couch? Does a sofa look different than a couch? Will interior designers sneer at you if you say couch instead of a sofa? Even if you say the right one, do you fully know why you say couch or sofa?

Getting the answers to these questions will help you feel comfortable looking for a new couch or sofa. The interior design experts at San Francisco Design outlined each item’s origins and the subtle differences between the two in the breakdown below.

Let’s take a look at what you should know about couches vs. sofas.

Off-white modern sofa & modern living room furniture from San Francisco Design

The Origin of the Sofa

The term ‘sofa’ dates back to 2000 BC in Egypt and derives from the Arabic term ‘suffah,’ meaning wooden bench covered in cushions and blankets. Looking back at the original renderings of sofas will further clarify the definition.

In those days, sofas were an exclusive luxury for the upper class. Then the Romans started enjoying sofas in the form of chaise loungers. As time went on and the Industrial Revolution brought forth updated styles, designers started thinking of ways to appeal to the masses. Affordability and comfort took center stage with ornate designs getting thrown to the wayside.

Modern-day sofas now incorporate comfortable fabrics and cheaper textiles for an updated design. A few designers that popularized the production of modern sofas include Le Corbusier and Charles Eames. Their sofas looked beautiful without sacrificing function.

Today, sofa manufacturers are finding new ways of improving upon past designs. A few of the changes that hit the industry lately include additional fabrics, improved leather tanning techniques, and advanced foam engineering.tan modern leather sofa & living room furniture

The Origin of the Word ‘Couch’

The term ‘couch’ stems from the French word ‘coucher,’ meaning to lie down. The history of this furniture item is the same as the sofa. The terms are interchangeable. However, most in the interior design industry rarely use the term couch but opt for a sofa instead.

So, are you wrong if you use the word ‘couch?’ No.

A couch is something you lounge on, let your kids play on, and let your dog use from time to time. It is a big, fluffy furniture item that you find in man caves and laid-back television rooms.

gray modern living room couch - San Francisco Design

The Difference Between Couch and Sofa

The difference between couches and sofas really comes down to style and function. You can associate sofas with formal living spaces and hosting opportunities. Sofas sit a few people, rather than an entire family or group, and you probably wouldn’t use them every day.

Couches are the opposite. You use your couch often for sleeping, watching television, and spending time with your loved ones. They can come in various sizes and styles, but it probably sits more than four people.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you use the word couch or sofa. Our designers advise that you try not to stress about it. If someone corrects you, take it with a grain of salt. The minuscule differences between the two might make a difference but be confident in whatever word you choose.

Modern Blue Sofa & Living Room Furniture from San Francisco Design

Browse Couch and Sofa Collections at San Francisco Design

San Francisco Design offers a selection of modern and contemporary sofas for your living, dining, and bedroom areas. Our contemporary sofas and couches look great without sacrificing any comfort. Our online store and Utah showrooms are stocked with living room furnishings in a range of materials, including cloth and leather.

You can even receive advice from our interior design specialists to help you find the perfect living room furniture that brings your space to life. Browse our online store to see a few of our hand-selected items that are in-stock and ready to ship. You can also visit our stores in Salt Lake City and Park City to see what else we have on-hand.

Come in today and get started on outfitting your living room with the latest couches and sofas.

Family in Living Room With White Modern Couch