A couch, commonly confused with sofa and loveseats, is a piece of furniture for sitting or reclining, though far different from the pieces of furniture mentioned prior. It is designed to seat more than one person, and usually has a back and armrests.
In homes, couches are normally found in the family room, living room, den, sitting room or the lounge. They will also be found in hotels and parts of commercial offices, waiting rooms, furniture stores, etc.
The term 'couch' is used in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The word is derived from the old French word 'couche', which literally means 'Bed'. It originally denoted an item of furniture for lying or sleeping on, more like a chaise lounge, but now refers to sofas in general.
Other terms synonymous with the above definition of couch are sofa, settee, chesterfield, divan, and canapé. The word sofa is derived from the Arabic word 'suffah', which roughly translates as an upholstered raised platform. The word settee comes from the old English word, 'setl', which was used to describe long benches with high backs and arms, but is now generally used to describe upholstered seating.
The most common types of couches are the "loveseat" and the settee or sofa, with two or more seats. A sectional sofa, often just referred to as a "sectional", is formed from multiple sections (typically two to four) and usually includes at least two pieces that join at an angle of 90 degrees or slightly greater, used to wrap around walls or other furniture.
Other couch variants include the divan, the fainting couch (backless or partial-backed), the chaise longue (long with one armrest), the canapé (an ornamental 3-seater), and the ottoman (generally considered a type of footstool). To conserve space, some sofas double as beds in the form of sofa-beds, daybeds, or futons.
In the United Kingdom, a Chesterfield is a deep buttoned sofa, with arms and back of the same height. It is usually made from leather and the term Chesterfield in British English is only applied to this type of sofa. The word chesterfield was used to describe a couch in the 1900s. The first leather chesterfield sofa, with its distinctive deep buttoned, quilted leather upholstery and lower seat base, was commissioned by Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773). The word Chesterfield may now refer to any sofa, settee or couch with the button and quilting used on this particular sofa design.
In Canadian, the term "chesterfield" is equivalent to a couch or sofa. The use of the term has been found to be widespread among older Canadians. This term is quickly vanishing from Canadian English according to one survey done in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario in 1992. Northern California is the only place besides Canada where "chesterfield" is a synonym for couch or sofa.
In the United Kingdom, the term "three-piece suite" is often used to describe a furniture set consisting of a sofa with two matching chairs. Other less specific terms for sets with at least one sofa include "chesterfield suite" and "living room suite."
A couch consists of the frame and the covering. The frame is usually made of wood but can also be made of steel, plastic or laminated boards. The wood used under the upholstery is made from kiln-dried maple wood that is free of knots, bark or defects. The show wood of the legs, arms and back can be maple, mahogany, walnut or fruitwoods. Sofa coverings are usually made out of soft leather, corduroy or linen fabric coverings.
A pale taupe couch in a couch shop
- John Gloag, A Short Dictionary of Furniture rev. ed. 1962. (London: Allen & Unwin)