What Do You Call It?

First there was the settle. Yep, bad name. It was a wood bench basically with a back panel and side panels or arms. Think of it as a church bench with a higher back. The reason it's a big deal is that it was pretty big and heavy so it was not easy to move, which "was evidence of the increasingly stable household that accompanied the rise of the middle class in the late Middle Ages."** There were versions of the settle that included the back tilting to create a table top and some that had storage under the seat.
Settle with tilting back that turned into a table *
After the settle came the settee in the 17th century, which is like an armchair that got stretched out. A settee was usually upholstered and provided seating for two or more people. It's changed a lot over the years but the same idea applies.
By the mid-18th century there was the sofa. It was a more casual solution to seating than the more formal settee, with an upholstered seat, back and arms and allowing for two or more people to sit. After 1830, when coil-spring deep buttoned upholstery was invented the sofa became even more popular.

So then is a couch the same as a sofa? The name couch comes from the French word, coucher, which means to go to bed. And even though we use the word couch and sofa interchangeably, a couch is traditionally quiet a but different. A couch, in the late 18th century, was more of an upholstered bench with a foot rest at one end and head rest at the other, more on the lines of a daybed. 

If you were a fantastic fan of E.R.Miller you read our blog about Graphic Standards that mentioned davenport and divan as styles of sofas that, not too long ago, were more commonly used terms. As promised, here is more information on those styles. 

A davenport is a type of sofa that is boxy (think Adirondack) and is named after the Boston furniture-manufacturing firm Irving & Casson & Davenport. It is similar to a futon in that it sometimes was made to open to a bed. 

The divan was created in France after 1830 when, as mentioned above, coil-spring upholstery began and people were gaining an interest in more comfortable seating. The name is based on a Moorish architectural term for a platform type area decorated with luxurious fabrics and cushions designated for (surprise) important people. 

*   chestofbooks.com
** The Wordsworth Dictionary of Furniture by Charles Boyce