Sofas constitute one of the most diverse product groups, with designs that are meant to be comfortable, beautiful, practical, playful, formal or any imaginable combination of these. Countless architects, artists and designers have contributed their designs, whether as a wholly new innovation, or as a refinement of an earlier type.
For a traditional, old-world sofa, customers should take a look at the British manufacturer Fleming & Howland, whose extensive range of models such as ‘Bradwell’, ‘Cromwell’ or ‘William Blake’ are made to the highest standard using traditional techniques. For a blend between tradition and modernity, take a look the 1910 ‘Kubus Sofa’, designed by the Viennese Secession architect Josef Hoffmann and manufactured by Wittmann.
Modern classics are still popular and widely available, from Le Corbusier’s bulky, cubic ‘LC3 2-seater’ produced by Cassina, Florence Knoll’s restrained ‘Florence Knoll Lounge 3 seat sofa’ to Eileen Gray's unconventional ‘Monte Carlo’ sofa, manufactured by ClassiCon. These seminal designs still inspire designers today, be it in the grounded, but more relaxed forms of Philippe Starck’s ‘244 My World’ for Cassina or Marcel Wanders’s ‘boutique delft blue jumper’ by moooi, whose reduced elegant form is dressed in a knitted wool sweater.
And while some designs reduce the sofa to its archetypical minimal of a frame and a couple of upholstered seating cushions, such as Meridiani’s 2013 ‘Cloud Sofa’, other designs tend to explore sculptural possibilities. Artist Isamu Noguchi’s 1946 ‘Freeform Sofa’ by Vitra, described by its designer as a soft rock, is an icon in its own right. Not to be outdone, contemporary architects, such as Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel, explore their fascination with organic sculptural forms in the former’s ‘Moon System’ for B&B Italia and the latter’s modular ‘Circle’ for Walter Knoll.
However, it is not all serious business all the time. George Nelson’s 1956 ‘Marshmallow Sofa’ for Vitra deconstructs the seat and the backrest into upholstered, colourful discs, while Karim Rashid combines a screen with a sofa in his round-edged, pastel-coloured ‘Float’ for Sancal. And lastly, the surrealist master Salvador Dali takes inspiration from one of his own classic paintings, and sculpts Mae West’s lips into the ‘Dalilips’ sofa, now manufactured by Bd Barcelona.