Is there a difference between a sofa and a couch?
Time and design have blurred the distinction between sofa and couch. Here in New Zealand the terms 'sofa' and 'couch' are used interchangeably.
Even Wikipedia defines a sofa as "a piece of
furniture also called a couch".
It does however provide a hint towards their differentiated
origins suggesting - "although a couch is used for seating,
it may be used for reclining and napping".
History of the sofa and couch
If you delve into your history books, the sofa and couch
had significantly different beginnings.
To quote the historians...
"in the 17th and 18th century a couch was usually an
armless chair with a greatly elongated seat, a slanted and
sometimes hinged back used for reclining or sleeping during the
This ability to recline or sleep on a couch seems to
provides its clearest distinction from a sofa.
The term 'couch' is derived from the old French noun 'couche'
meaning to lie down. It originally referenced furniture for
lying and sleeping on.
It would seem that whoever coined the phrase "couch potato"
had a strong appreciation for its origins. The couch also has
strong links to doctors and psychologists rooms. However in the
late middle-ages the couch suggested a daybed.
Corner couch - interior by Bespoke Interior Design
The Collins Dictionary's definition reinforces
this distinction stating a couch is "a piece of upholstered
furniture, usually having a back and armrests, for sitting more
than one person. It is also a bed, especially one used
in the daytime and by patients of a doctor or a
Taking our lead from the English
We can probably look towards the English to blame for initially
blurring the lines suggestion that a couch "can be used as a sofa
by day and a bed by night". Sofa is the preferred term generally
used in the United Kingdom while the North Americans are more
inclined to use couch.
Sofa originates from the dias on which a Grand Vizier (Muslim high official) sat in the
17th century. The term 'sofa' comes from the Arabic word
Belgravia sofas by Designers' Collection - Interior by Trinity
The sofa evolved from the upholstered armchair. Today
the term sofa is largely synonymous with settee, despite the settee
beginning life as a double chair furnished with
Furnishing the homes of wealthy ladies
In the 19th century, the sofa was often thought of as a
ladies' lounging seat furnishing the drawing rooms of wealthy homes
in England and Europe. It was not until the industrial
revolution that sofas began to appear in the homes of the general
According to our friends at Collins Dictionary, a sofa is
"an upholstered seat with back and for two or more
Given our English heritage, we tend to title our designs as
But the reality is (according to the definitions above) that at
Collection we are in fact delivering tailor-made sofas and
couches into homes all across New Zealand.
As interior architecture has evolved with our lifestyles, homes
have become larger and living spaces have become more specific.
Some homes now have formal lounges, family rooms and/or home
We tend to see our sofas specified for sitting, reading and
conversational spaces. Couches that allow you to sit or lie tend to
find their way into more casual areas and often where the screen is
located. This has helped drive the popularity of modular corner couches.
So next time you hear the terms sofa and couch used
interchangeably, you can enlighten the speaker as to why it is a
sofa or a couch.