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So, who invented the sofa and when did they start making them? The word sofa actually dates back thousands of years to around 2000 BC in Egypt. The name sofa derives from the Arabic word “suffah” which roughly translates to bench. The first items of upholstery to be discovered date back to around the period of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, when Pharaoh’s were buried in their tombs with goods and items to make their journey into the afterlife more comfortable. In King Tutankhamun’s tomb, a number of Royal couches and other items of furniture were found that had been specifically crafted for the spirit of the dead King. Egyptian furniture makers were advanced in their techniques and craft and were very skilled woodworkers. Sofas were only used by the very, very rich – pharaohs and the like.

wooden sofa - history of sofas

The ancient Romans continued to create elegant and ornate-looking sofas which became an accepted piece of furniture in royal and more affluent households. The Romans started to enjoy all of the benefits of the sofa, although they were happier lounging on something resembling a chaise lounge, usually while nibbling grapes. In the Western world, upholstery and the manufacturing of the sofa or settee was slow to develop. In the 16-17 century, houses contained little furniture. To own a settee during this time was viewed by many as a luxury item and those that did exist would be made from Oak. 

The sofa only really began to appear when houses became more structured and soundly built. It was the Germans who introduced horsehair as a type of padding for seats and sofas and mattresses. In the United Kingdom, dried sea moss was commonly used as a source of stuffing. Elsewhere, it was the Italians who were first to realise the need for backrests and arms on seating during the Renaissance period. So it was that the sofa was generally made with a comfortable cushion to sit on.

Suddenly across the world, the sofa or settee was appearing in different formats and styles. In England, the William & Mary period was over and brought about furniture design that was clean in its lines and shape. Now, tall, straight-backed seats and sofas were prevalent with subtle curves present in the legs and arms of these pieces.

Sofas in the 19th century were often regarded as ladies’ loungers, although affluent male business owners would also stretch out on a sofa after a day’s work. As times progressed through the 19th century, and with the advent of the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, major developments occurred across all areas of upholstery, as more modern techniques were introduced. In 1850, coil springs were invented and were being used as an alternative to horse hair stuffing.

The Industrial Revolution was a major contributor to the popularisation of the sofa as cheaper textiles became available in increasing quantities. Added to this the invention and mass production of sewing machines and the increasing availability of component parts such as steel for springing, which improved both the comfort and affordability of the sofa. Ornate decorative show wood designs gave way to more popular and definitely more comfortable fully upholstered suites.

cloud nine - 3 seater sofa - offset - sage green

And now, Smart Sofas have taken the evolution of the sofa to the next level by making super comfortable sofas that are easily transportable, come in a box and are excellent value for money. They come in pieces and are so easy to assemble. Visit our website www.smartsofas.co.uk and see for yourself.