Iconic sofa designs. Chesterfield sofa suite and matching ottoman.

From Chesterfield to Tuxedo: A Visual Guide to Iconic Sofa Designs

Throughout the centuries, sofas have served as an iconic design staple, adorning homes, venues, and businesses worldwide. Each sofa style has its own unique history and cultural significance, and each possesses unique aesthetics, functionality, and design.

There are a huge variety of iconic sofa designs that have stood the test of time, with many being as popular today as when they were originally designed.

As these iconic sofas boast an array of distinct features, including size, shape, colour, texture, and styles, you may not know where to begin when selecting one for your home. However, never fear, we are here to help!

In this blog, we will take you on a visual journey through the most popular iconic sofa designs on the market today, and we will look at the unique features that make them instantly recognisable, as well as a firm favourite amongst both designers and décor enthusiasts.  You can also learn everything from A to Z on purchasing the perfect sofa for your home in our Ultimate Sofa Buying Guide.

Iconic sofa designs

The following are a sample of some of the most popular sofa designs on the market down through the years:

18th century chesterfield sofa

The chesterfield sofa is a classic and timeless choice and is ideal in both traditional and contemporary spaces. Lord Philip Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield, commissioned the design of the original chesterfield sofa, as he wanted to create a seating solution with a low seat and a high back to allow gentlemen to sit comfortably without creasing their suits. And so, the chesterfield was born!


18th Century mustard velvet chesterfield sofa with matching velvet ottoman.

The chesterfield sofa was also made popular by the famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud. Freud believed that his patients would talk more openly when relaxed and comfortable, so he travelled globally with his favourite tried-and-tested sofa, the luxurious chesterfield. To this day this sofa remains synonymous with psychoanalysis.

The design features of the chesterfield sofa are instantly recognisable, and include deep button tufting, rolled arms, plump seat cushions, and a low back. The result is the epitome of elegance and opulence.

Chesterfield sofa’s have remained as one of the most popular and enduring sofa choices down throughout the centuries. They look stunning in a variety of leather and fabric materials and, as a designer’s favourite, this masterful couch will work well in any setting. From traditional to contemporary, and alternative to retro, the classic chesterfield has you covered.

18th century camelback sofa

Created by the infamous English furniture designer, Thomas Chippendale, the camelback sofa was designed in response to the demand for more seating in living rooms. Chippendale’s vision was to create furniture that combined multiple design styles and cultures, and his ‘Chippendale’ furniture was the first style of English furniture named after a cabinet-maker instead of a monarch.

yellow camelback sofa

As the name suggests, a camelback sofa is characterised by a pronounced hump or two on the back of the seat, and varies in design, with some sofas featuring a single or a double hump and others displaying small dips or slightly curved backs.

The camelback sofa is extremely versatile, and its enduring elegance, comfort and charm complements a variety of décor styles, from ornate and classical to modern and shabby chic.

19th Century English Roll Arm Sofa

The English roll arm sofa is a variation on the traditional sofa developed in the 1800’s. It was made popular by the German designer George Smith, and is best known for its distinguishable arms, classic lines, and slick design.


19th Century English roll arm sofa.

Designed with low, set-back rolled arms, an angled back and a deep seat, the English roll arm sofa is one of the most popular sofa styles on the market today. Made with the highest quality materials, including hand-tied, coil springs and hardwood frames, this iconic sofa is durable and timeless. It works very well in both traditional and transitional spaces and it fits seamlessly into any décor style.

The English roll arm sofa is a firm favourite amongst designers and homeowners alike, this is due to its timeless elegance, versatility, comfort, and reliable sturdiness.

Early 20th century lawson

The Lawson is a gorgeous, classic sofa designed for comfort, elegance, and style. The back and seat of the sofa have rows of cushions that are either loosely attached or separate from the frame, and the cushioned design provides the ultimate experience in relaxation and support.

Early 20th Century Lawson light grey fabric sofa and ottoman.

Known for its durability, the Lawson sofa is sturdy and designed to last. With many customized versions of the Lawson available on the market, these sofas work in any home, no matter what style, interior design, or genre.

20th century tuxedo sofa

The glamorous and understated tuxedo sofa is characterised by its high and slightly curved and streamlined arms that are the same height as the back. It also has one large, cushioned seat and no back cushions, and is found mostly in contemporary or modern interior design.

20th Century dark grey velvet Tuxedo sofa.

Just like the suit, the tuxedo sofa was named after Tuxedo Park in New York, where it originated from. It is the ideal example of a minimalist, beautifully structured, and timelessly elegant sofa, and it will undoubtedly add an air of sophistication and elegance to any home.

No matter what iconic sofa design you are drawn to, you can adapt various elements from different genres and combine them to make the ultimate sofa for your home. The different fabrics, sizes, cushions, and arm and leg styles are endless, so feel free to let your creativity flow.

Consider your space, general requirements and overall décor when selecting the ideal sofa to suit your space. Most importantly, make sure to choose a sofa that speaks to you, as you will be spending far more time on this sumptuous piece of furniture than you may initially think.

Don’t delay in making this important choice. We’re here to help make it easier. Explore our curated collection of sofas today and find the piece that truly resonates with you. With a variety of styles and designs to choose from, your perfect sofa is just a click away.

Nicola O'Sullivan

Nicola O’Sullivan

Nicola O’Sullivan holds the position of PR Manager and Interior Design Writer at Corcoran’s Furniture, where she applies her sharp eye for interior design. She is in the process of earning a diploma from the globally recognised Interior Design Institute, further enhancing her expertise in the field.

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