The History of the Sofa

26-06-2013 15:55 (0 comments)

An alternative take on how the sofa came to be

Historically, the place of the sofa has not always been consistent. Certainly in Ancient Egypt there was no media-worshipping, all-couches-turn-to-television mentality. Rather, furniture was given a more sombre role, provided to give extra comfort with longer-lasting freshness in its accompaniment of the Pharaoh to the seemingly under-furnished afterlife. Our first historical encounter with what we would recognise as a sofa evolved from the continental tapestry. Significant progress in 16th century technology meant that opulent gold-threaded patchwork war-scenes were no longer considered a necessary component of home insulation. Rather, there was much joy to be had in the celebration of this newfound freedom: the material was taken down from the walls and draped expertly around various pieces of furniture. The couch was born. Derived from the Old French couche or coucher (meaning ‘to lie down’, as in, “voulez vous coucher avec mon ami? Il s’appelle Jeremy.”), the couch would be laid upon by men and women of a more delicate, horizontal inclination.   

Once it was discovered that sitting upright was not only comfortable but also more socially conducive, horsehair, feathers and straw were replaced in 1828 by the spring. Further developments ensued with the wooden-framed spring sofa making a timely appearance in 1904. By the 1920s, Dunlop had decided to stop sponsoring John McEnroe and concentrated instead on producing rubber foam, which was easily incorporated into the sofa manufacturing process.

Today, the sofa sits triumphant in the living room; it carefully guards the stores of treasure buried deep within its upholstered limbs, lying in wait for the time when you need some spare change.

Not just a piece of furniture, the sofa has evolved with us to become a necessary chronology of human history and achievement. 

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