Over the last few centuries, sofas have gotten pretty square. While antique couches are all curves and flourishes, most contemporary designs are simple, streamlined, and rectangular. The more modern the design, the more pronounced this trend is, with many contemporary designs sporting nothing but perfectly straight lines and sharp angles. The corollary to that, though, is that simply adding a little curve back into the design is an easy way to make your sofa look a whole lot more interesting. For example, the sofas and couches from Jennifer Taylor use a few antique inspired elements to evoke a glamorous old Hollywood style, but keep it simple enough to avoid feeling overly formal.
Almost all antique sofas have shaped backs – curves and peaks, dips and grooves and flourishes aplenty – but most traditional antique designs are also edged with woodcarvings. In a world where upholstery and maybe a pair of metal legs are the standard for sofas, even a little bit of wood can feel way out of place. But keeping the silhouette of those distinctive designs while stripping away the wood frills produces a look that has the elegance and sophistication of an antique, but a distinctly softer, more contemporary feel.
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Another look that’s pretty common among antique designs, but not so much with a more modern aesthetic, are sofas that are intentionally designed to be asymmetrical. Sure, you might find L-shaped sectionals or chaise/sofas in a modern design, but fainting sofas with only one arm and an asymmetrical back are relatively unheard of. This style is particularly evocative of an old Hollywood style, because one-armed chaises and divans show up a lot in classic movies, and have that sense of refinement and elegance often associated with this glamorous style. Again, these sofas often lack wood accents, and are plusher and more touchable than older antiques because they’re really made for lounging.
Distinctive Arms And Cushions
Most contemporary sofas pair high backs with low arms. Depending on the style, the difference might be greater or slighter, and the backs and arms might have more or less shape to them, but you don’t often see sofas with backs and arms that are the same height, or even integrated into a single piece. This look is much more common in midcentury designs, and gives the couch a more streamlined appearance. Sometimes sofas that have integrated backs like this will have detached cushions, either pillow-style backs, or small rolled armrest cushions, which make the design functionally more comfortable, but also give it a very decadent, lavish look and feel.
Unusual Sizes and Shapes
You can also find even more unusual shapes, particularly in sofas that are slightly on the smaller side. Settees, benches, and throne-style loveseats rarely adhere to the dimensions and designs typical of contemporary sofas, with tall arms, scooped backs (or no backs at all) and other unique features that are intended to make the seat more comfortable for lounging, to give it a more distinctive style, or both. These smaller sofas generally aren’t a good choice for a primary sofa simply because they aren’t suited to seating more than one person, but they’re a great choice if you want to add a single distinctive accent piece.
The Little Details
Of course, you don’t have to completely change the size and shape of a sofa to make it more visually interesting; smaller details can have a big impact on the overall style as well. Button tufting is a great example, because it’s relatively rare on contemporary sofas, but instantly creates a more classic, old-world feel. For a glamorous, old Hollywood style, the tufting is usually just on the backs of the sofas, but you can also find designs where the dimpled surface extends onto the arms and seats as well. Nailhead upholstering is another nice, classic detail that will give a sofa a slightly more formal feel without making the design feel too stuffy or old fashioned.
Antique sofas often also have much more interesting upholstery than contemporary designs. Really ornate, traditional designs typically sport intricate brocade fabrics with beautiful floral designs and a pronounced tactile element. For an old Hollywood style, though, you want to opt for something softer and smoother, but with a little bit of a sheen. To keep with the glamorous, movie-inspired feel, the fabric should be enticingly touchable and just barely catch the light. Even just switching from a contemporary cotton or leatherette to something velvet-like will totally transform the appearance of your sofa, even if the design itself isn’t particularly ornate.
Sofas with just a hint of antique inspiration in their design – whether it’s in the size or shape of the sofa or something as simple as the fabric – are a great way to add a fresh, unique style to your living room. And pieces with an old Hollywood inspiration have a glamorous, old world elegance without being too overwrought for a contemporary space.