08 September 2015


The difference between a couch and a sofa?  I refer you to a humorous take on the subject today over at Apartment Therapy.  From the piece:

An NPR article by Linton Weeks called "The Deep-Seated Meaning Of The American Sofa" features a great quote by Benjamin Parzybok, author of the novel Couch:
"The couch is the thrash-able object at the center of a well-used living room, upon whose back toddlers straddle, whose cushions teenager become permanent fixtures, and which, at the end of the day, after the children are in bed, a couple might relax with a short glass of bourbon.
"A sofa, on the other hand, sits under a trimly hung painting and lives in a house in which traffic passes it by. It would be white, of course, or another color begging for stain. And most people living at the house of a sofa would be forbidden to sit upon it at one time or another."

Now -- when you stop giggling -- here is my take on the matter.  I was taught in design school to call it a "sofa", that "couch" was an uneducated term because it really meant a piece to lie down on.  (The article also mentions this.)  True, the word does come from the French word coucher which does mean to lie down.  (Remember "Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir?"  back in the days of Disco?)  It always brings up for me a mental image of a fainting couch with Cleopatra reclining with the pool boy feeding her grapes while another fans her.

You will probably laugh at this, especially my younger readers, but many people called it a divan back in the day.  When I was a small child, back in Paleolithic times, we had a dark red velvet monster in our living room which was referred to as the "divanette".  Of course, with our Alabama pronunciations, it came out "dav-a-nat" -- which I probably called such a piece till I was at least ten years old.  When I was maybe five, we got a new set with matching chairs in a fashionable pale gray textural fabric, which was thereafter called "the Living Room Suit" -- that's right, not "suite" but "suit" -- like a man's suit.  Haha!

You always knew we were funny down here in the Deep South, didn't you?

The referenced article suggests that designers call it a sofa so that they can charge you more.  ;>P  I shouldn't be at all surprised...  The piece goes on to talk about the differences between a loveseat and a settee.  Generally speaking, for those who don't plan to look it up, a loveseat is cushier that a settee, which often has a higher back and seat than a loveseat, too.  

Here endeth the lesson!


Today my copy of the new Eddie Ross book MODERN MIX arrived in the mail!  I will be on the back porch the rest of the afternoon if you need me.  I enjoyed a gentle summer rain earlier, and it does look like there might be another one a'coming.


  1. It was divan at our house back in the day.:-). Sofa now, comfy cozy sofa.

  2. I think I have always called it a couch. In my mind it goes "Go sit on the couch" or "Stay off of the Sofa".

  3. Ellen, My favorite Aunt in California always called it a Davenport! She was so chi-chi! I feel like retiring to your back porch today b/c my new copy of Fine Cooking arrived! Dianne

  4. You are so funny...dav a nat! I think we called it both a couch and sofa when I was a kid...also back in the Paleolithic Era, which I must say was a better era that the present day one...no cares at all back then! I love this post, Ellen.

  5. Yes, I always get a giggle when I stop to visit. We call ours a sofa, but growing up the one in the den was called the couch while the large cushy one in the living room was the sofa. I remember that divan seemed to be a 1950s term, so I don't recall that my family used the term.
    Would welcome a rainy afternoon here. ;-)

  6. It was definitely called a couch in my family! And I pre-ordered the Eddie Ross book, too, but mine's not here yet (she whined). Maybe today!

  7. This brings back memories. When I was a little girl many years ago, my great grandmother called it a Davenport and I always thought it was a weird name. Elderly ladies in the neighborhood would refer to it as a divan but younger families would usually use sofa and couch interchangeably. I agree that the term couch had some negative connotations. When a sofa got old and was put in the basement playroom it became a couch.

  8. I went into my friend's mother's house where she not only had plastic covering her "dav a nat", she had plastic runner paths on the floors that you had to walk on! I was horrified!!! I love your decorator lessons Ellen, I don't ever seem to know the proper names for things...I think I understand couch now! And I finally understand why Southerners refer to a group as a suit not a suite, I have never understood that :) Your new book looks fabulous, enjoy!

  9. I never knew what to call it at home, since we were not allowed in the "living" room!
    But, as I recall, my friends parents called it a sofa. And they let me sit on it!
    Today I have chairs, as my 30 year old couch went to Habitat awhile ago. When I find my new perch, I think I'll
    call it
    Well, of course! Since the dishwasher is Abigail and the MW is Mildred.

  10. Oh that's funny. And here's another defining statement on the couch - in West Virginia (Morgantown, specifically, where WVU is) we BURN couches - after wins in sports (especially football season). Truth (can't make this stuff up)! There are even candles made as couches.

  11. Okay, what's the difference in curtains and drapes? ha!

    That book looks so fabulous!

  12. lol .. funny stuff today! We had a couch .. never heard of a dav a nat or a divanette either, for that matter .. lol ~Patti

  13. LOL I've always said sofa…even for the ratty ones we had when we first married! Cute post, and yes, we still call them "bedroom (or insert random room here) suit, not suite. HAHA!!!

    Your book looks like your style. I know you've had fun reading it!

    Have a fun weekend!


  14. Interesting post. Yes, most people call it couch...Remember when some people had plastic on their divans...LOL. I call ours, sectional. Have a great weekend.


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