Couch, sofa, settee... whatever you call it, we all look forward to sinking into one after a hard day's work. Etymologically speaking, the term 'couch' derives from the French word 'couche', meaning to lay down and originally described a chaise longue. Sofa comes from the Arabic 'suffa', meaning divan, an long padded backless bench and 'settee' derives from the old English word 'setl' which describes a long bench with a high back and arms, much like a church pew... but these days, all three terms describe a sofa; a large padded and upholstered chair which seats two or more people.

Couch, sofa, settee... whatever you call it, we all look forward to sinking into one after a hard day's work. Etymologically speaking, the term 'couch' derives from the French word 'couche', meaning to lay down and originally described a chaise longue. Sofa comes from the Arabic 'suffa', meaning divan, an long padded backless bench and 'settee' derives from the old English word 'setl' which describes a long bench with a high back and arms, much like a church pew... but these days, all three terms describe a sofa; a large padded and upholstered chair which seats two or more people.

 

Dating back to ancient Egypt and Rome, the sofa was the reserve of the elite; a luxurious item of furniture, lavishly decorated designed for sitting and reclining. It wasn't until the 18th century that sofas became commonplace in the average household. I for one am thankful I live in the age of the sofa as, after a long day at work, returning home to perch on a hand-crafted wooden stool doesn't have the same attraction as a large comfortable sofa. No wonder they used to work all day, every day back then!

 

These antiquated designs relied on straw, horsehair and feathers to provide the padding, but in the early nineteenth century, the spring was introduced to the sofa and a new level of comfort was discovered. In the post war years, polyurathane foams were cheap to manufacture, easy to cut and replaced the traditional horsehair padding in traditional sofas. This also meant that the sofa was much more affordable and new modern designs made the sofa all the more desirable, and disposable. Once upon a time we purchased a sofa to last a lifetime, today, we'll buy a new sofa almost as often as buying new curtains.