Tight back, slipcovered, skirted, tufted...Whether you're shopping for an affordable sofa online or planning to hit the furniture stores live and in-person, the first—and hardest!—step when buying a sofa is deciding what type is best for your room and your lifestyle. Luckily, we're here to take the guesswork out of the process. (After all, the sooner you buy the right sofa, the sooner you can move on to coffee tables, gallery walls, and other brilliant living room ideas.)
For a farmhouse or cottage look, a slipcovered sofa is a win-win. Win No. 1: The relaxed construction delivers a comfortable, welcoming look that invites all to sit down and kick back. Win No. 2: Because slipcovers can be easily removed and laundered, you don’t have to worry about messy kids and pets—especially if you choose a durable fabric such as cotton duck or twill. Don’t be afraid to go with white upholstery. It's the best choice for longevity, as you can easily—and affordably—change out throw pillows when your tastes change. And thanks to the magic of bleach, that white will remain crisp and fresh for years to come.
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A soft-as-butter leather sofa is the go-to choice for bringing warmth and texture to a family room or den. While leather sofas of the past may have been oversized and bulky, today’s choices offer frames in all shapes and sizes. And much like a well-loved farm table, these sofas only get better with age and use. Leather is a great material for a busy household with lots of traffic, but you need to appreciate the character of a well-loved patina.
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This streamlined bench-style sofa is a modern take on the classic Chippendale sofa. Its simplified lines deliver the signature thin arms and high, curved back but without some of the fuss, which makes it a solid choice for a smaller library or sitting room.
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Simple in shape and modest in scale, you can’t go wrong with a classic Bridgewater sofa. With details like low arms, a softly rolled back, and tailored skirt, this sofa delivers a pretty, inviting seat that’s ready-made for both easy conversation and a night of binge-watching. Customize the look with the cushion configuration—two is more relaxed and casual, while three is more traditional. The Bridgewater is also a great sofa for introducing some pattern. Go bold with a stripe or floral.
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Appropriately named, the camelback sofa is distinguished by its gracefully arched back. Thanks to exposed legs and scrolled arms, this stately sofa shape remains as popular today as it was when Thomas Chippendale first introduced the design during the 18th century. Bring the historic shape up-to-date by upholstering or slipcovering it in a solid fabric. Its more upright structure makes this a top choice for a room used more for conversation than lounging.
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The hunky chesterfield sofa always makes a strong statement. Characterized by its high arms, deep seat, and diamond-tufted back and arms, its wraparound design provides a cozy seat ample enough for the whole family to pile on. Keep in mind that its generous scale means this sofa needs a room with some size to help maintain balance.
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Woven furniture isn’t just for porches and patios! Bring a rattan sofa inside to give your family room a casual, laid-back vibe. Keep the finish natural for a more rustic setting, or choose a crisp white paint finish to bring in a hint of cottage charm.
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Like the chesterfield, the sexy tuxedo sofa's arms and back are the same height, which creates an upright, boxy shape. While they're often tufted, skipping the tufts and adding cushions makes this modern shape feel more relaxed.
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If you’re tight on space, head straight to the cute and petite settees! They deliver all the style and comfort of a full-size sofa in a slimmed down scale that is perfect for a bedroom, office, or anywhere you want to add a little comfy landing spot.
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Bring on the romance with a curvy French cabriole sofa. Its exposed wood frame often boasts pretty carvings, which look great painted for a more feminine feel or left natural for a French Country vibe. Keep the back upholstery tight and choose a single bench cushion for a modern look that reads way more chic than shabby.
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If your idea of a perfect Sunday involves a good book and a cup of tea, then the tight-backed English roll arm is the sofa for you. Its deep seat, soft curves, and low-rolled arms make this the sink-in, curl-up sofa that still delivers plenty of style thanks to detailing such as exposed turned legs, pleating around the arms, and optional tufting.
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If your style leans to the modern, look to midcentury-inspired designs. These low-profile, clean-lined sofas are perfect for smaller scale rooms or even nestled against a stairwell. Finishing details such as tapered legs, piped edges, and shallow button tufting add to the tailored appearance. If you're pairing it with other furniture, make sure your chairs and side tables are of a similar scaled-back size so everything feels cohesive.
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Caned furniture is making a big comeback, and a cane-back sofa delivers a sophisticated style that’s the perfect blend of traditional and modern. Soften—figuratively and literally—the structured, woven-wood frame with a loose-filled bench-style cushion and piles of pillows.
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If you've got a big family and the square footage to match, go ahead and say "yes" to the more-the-merrier sectional sofa. It’s like the minivan of sofas—practical with plenty of seating—and it's also going to become your favorite spot in the house. With so many options available, you don't have to sacrifice an ounce of style. Opt for a variety of big, fluffy back cushions and throw pillows to make your sectional even more of a sink-in spot.
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If you love the look of drippy chandeliers and chipped finishes, then consider a deconstructed sofa. Literally stripped of its upholstery—hence its name—deconstructed furniture celebrates the beauty of craftsmanship and humble materials like raw wood, natural muslin, and burlap. Be careful not to go too shabby and keep frayed edges short. Layer lots of cushy pillows for added comfort.
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With its squared arms and clean lines, a track arm sofa lends a modern-yet-traditional look to a room. Soften the angular sofa’s straight lines by finishing it with a tailored skirt and unpiped cushions, but lose the skirt and expose the legs if you prefer a more streamlined, contemporary style.
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Don’t forget about outdoor spaces! Turn your covered porch into a fully functioning living room with a nostalgic wicker sofa. If you choose natural-material wicker, paint the sofa with an indoor/outdoor primer and spray paint for a finish that will stay looking fresh. Cushions and pillows made from outdoor fabric add even more durability against traffic and outdoor elements.
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