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Sectional Sofa History

The sectional sofa certainly rose to fame in the mid-20th century, but this innovative piece has a more complicated past—one that has been a point of contention between antique furniture experts and historians. Before built-in cup holders and powered recliners, sectional sofas solved other problems for homeowners in the early 1800s, dating back to before the Civil War in America. Only a few examples remain intact, concentrated in an area of Virginia fed by the Rappahannock River, and known to be an area of wealth, which allowed residents to hire craftsmen for more custom projects. An example dated 1820 exists in Fredericksburg, Va, and comprises three sections with metal latches underneath.

Experts believe that end pieces of sectionals have long been mistaken for corner chairs, but with only paintings as evidence, it's hard to say. The Civil War halted the progress of furniture-making in the South, with the loss of craftsmen, workshops, and a shortage of timber. Destruction by the Union army in Virginia led to the loss of most of these unique pieces. But as the country bounced back and the highly social times of the Victorian era swept through domestic America, the sectional popped back on the radar. Sectionals were entertaining must-haves.


Typically consisting of two sofas pushed together, these were tufted, carved and laminated, and less commonly featured corner pieces. In the era of Mid-Century Modern, the sectional sofa was the perfect showcase for the aesthetics of Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson, and the sleek, industrial profile of contemporary-style furniture. It also ingeniously answered the question of standardization vs. customization in the face of high volume of consumer demand, thanks to department stores and catalogs. By breaking a sofa down into sectional pieces (modular design), it was all at once easier to manufacture and ship, as well as mass-produce standard, individual pieces that could then be customized once they were home in the living room.

Keywords in the article: sectional sofa,living room

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