You can see the romantic influences on Victorian sofa styles in its curvaceous, sinewy lines and carefully carved details. Furniture made during Queen Victoria’s reign drew heavily from Gothic, Rococo and Louis XV furniture with dark finishes or gilding, embellishments and heavy proportions. Victorian sofa styles were most often carved mahogany or walnut and dark upholstery was the colour of choice, especially reds and blues. The back was tall and draped around the sides and the legs were usually of the claw foot design. Early Victorian sofas showed medieval and Gothic design influences; heavy, dark wood furniture with elaborate carvings and rich ornamentation. As social classes shaped Victorian taste, the landed gentry already had heirloom furnishings from the Jacobean, Elizabethan and 18th century periods. Working class people could not afford fashionable furniture. But the rising middle and professional classes sought furniture that would help identify their success and worth. Ultimately, this group defined the Victorian style, a combination of historic revivals with new demands for comfort and affordable luxury. The invention of the coil spring in 1828 forever changed the expectation of comfort.
A survey of Victorian sofa styles must include styles affected by the Arts and Crafts movement that appeared in 1888 that expressed a rebellion against industrialization and the excesses of high Victorian style. The movement, led by William Morris in England and Gustav Stickley in America, attempted to reestablish a link between the artist, the craftsman and nature. Sofas from this period contained rectilinear designs with straight lines or simple curves in oak and comfortable cushions with tailored fabric covers.