Know Where You Sit – The History of the Sofa
Did you know that almost every major sitcom has shared a main character? From I Love Lucy to Family Matters to How I Met Your Mother, there’s been one consistent presence – the Sofa. This piece of furniture is so important to the lives of millions if not billions of people that if we didn’t see one in a living room on TV, it just wouldn’t look right.
The Sofa’s Ancestors – the Kline and Lectus
People have been sitting down since the moment we realized it was easier than standing. Almost immediately after that, though, we stood back up to work on making things that were more comfortable than the ground. Egyptians had lots of different kinds of furniture, even some proto-couches, but one of most clear examples of an early couch would be the Greek kline. This bed-like piece had a headboard/backrest/armrest at one end and would have been used for men to recline on and eat – not altogether different from the modern sofa. The Roman lectus was similar to the kline but some of them had a second armrest and a few even had a back.
The Early Sofa
As Greece and Rome fell, so too did the kline and lectus. A long time would pass before we’d see a piece of furniture similar to the couch – benches, chairs, and the ground had to suffice for almost everyone but the very wealthy. In fact, it wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that furniture began to take a modern shape. It was in the late 1600’s when craftsmen of all sorts began experimenting with a variety of tables, chairs, and the modern sofa.
Of course, it took a while to get the sofa “right,” but even with a wide variety of styles, they quickly became immensely popular. Joan DeJean reports that “Some people went sofa-mad and had them in every room of the house, often several to a room.”Incidentally, it was from this time period we get the word “sofa,” from the Arabic sopha, which means cushion.
The Growth of the Sofa
Of course, high quality furniture long remained in the domain of the rich, and most were still stuck with basic benches and chairs. But as time past and production methods changed, more and more people were able to obtain furniture. It wasn’t really until the Industrial Revolution and the creation of a middle class that furniture worked its way into the domain of everyday life. Since then it’s continued to change its shape, softness, and size, but it’s only increased in popularity.
So the next time you look at your couch, be grateful we’ve all found a more comfortable place to sit than the ground. And if you need help keeping your sofa looking clean, here are some upholstery cleaning tips.