Sitting Comfortably?

I’ve recently put together a scheme for a school reception area and I really had to analyse what would and would not work for the area by way of seating. A sofa’s a sofa’s a sofa, right? But actually there’s a lot more to it than that. Proportions and style really do play a huge part in choosing the right piece for a space and the same is true of your home. First off, if your front room – or wherever the sofa is planning on being housed – is a dark space, do not choose something that is of a chunky build with a frame that goes right to the floor. This will make the space feel crowded and even more closed in.


These three leather sofas have similar proportions, they’re all three seater, they all have arms and removable seat cushions, but visually they are very different. You can see, its not just the dark colour that makes them feel ‘heavy.’ The way they are built, the style of the frame, and the distance of the frame from the floor really impact on the ‘weight’ of the piece. So, let’s look at some other shapes and analyse what their structure is doing visually.

2 seaters

These two seaters have a similar frame shape, they both go to the floor, they both have backrest cushions, but the shaped arm of the top sofa and the way the backrest is shaped to sit over the arm create a width that raises the eye level to the outer edges of the piece. Because the focus has moved, the sofa doesn’t feel as heavy. And when space is an issue, something that looks heavy takes up a lot of space in a room – with the same measurements, but different proportions – your room will feel less crowded.

sofa shapes

And here we have two traditional shapes, seen in many homes, that again illustrate a feeling of weight according to proportions. Both have arms of a similar height, both have removable seat and back cushions, but the top sofa seems more enclosed and less comfortable because the base goes to the floor and the cushions are contained inside the frame. The bottom piece seems more inviting because the cushions wrap the frame and although the two styles are very similar, it seems more contemporary because it has a wedge shape arms and the base is off the floor. Being able to see under a piece of furniture adds a sense of lightness to it.

And what about corner units? They’re a great use of space in homes that have regular shaped rooms, but usually theres only one place to put them. Naturally they work best in rooms with a dedicated activity – like a media room, or snug where the reason for being there is to curl up and relax in front of a big screen. But so many of us have front rooms that need to be multi functional and able to accommodate a number of people facing each for conversation. Corner units do not work well in that situation, because their seat cushions don’t tend to be as supportive and everyone ends up crowding together – not intentionally. They make rearranging the furniture almost impossible, so taking advantage of a log fire or the french doors being open is much less likely than something more freestanding and easier to move physically.

corner units

Again you can see how the proportions affect the overall weight of their appearances. The top sofa has a left-hand chaise and is smaller in dimensions than the other two, but all three have an open end designed for stretching out. The largest of all is the middle piece, but because of its slim metal legs, it appears more delicate than the bottom piece, which has a solid, chunky appearance. It looks robust, but a word of caution, such unstructured seat cushions will show wear quickly and look untidy much faster than the top or middle units will.

Sofa’s are not something to change every couple of years and as a result, they’ll be a part of your domestic life for quite some time. They have to stand up to the knocks and adapt to your changing needs. Choosing a sofa for a school reception area was very much an exercise in analysing shapes and with so many options available online, you can do the same very easily.

Try and be dispassionate and work out what is going to be the most versatile piece for your home. Get your ‘wish list’ together and look at the proportions, the style and the weight of the frame, before you decide that you absolutely must have it. Then when you go and look at them in the showroom, you’ll already know what shapes will work best in your space. You can sit on them and decide if they have the level of comfort you want, if you can seat enough people easily to give your room the flexibility it needs and then if you still love it – go get it!

Images sourced from, and – with thanks.