Sofa Vs Couch Vs Davenport: What’s The Difference?

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Sofa vs couch vs Davenport — they’re all terms meaning the same thing: a piece of upholstered furniture you can lie down on. This article answers the questions: “What is a Davenport?,” “What is Davenport furniture?,” the differences, and more.

Table Of Contents

Sofa Vs Couch

In the 14th century, the French word coucher (which means to “lie down”) was integrated into Middle English to become “couch” and referred to a bed. The modern meaning of “couch” is a piece of furniture big enough to lie on. It is larger than a loveseat, which is meant for two people.

According to Merriam-Webster, the etymology of “sofa” involves several words: the Italian sofà, from the Turkish sofa, from the Arabic ṣuffa, meaning carpet or divan.

Some people think of a sofa as being slightly more formal than a couch, and people in the home decor or furniture industry tend to use “sofa.” However, in common parlance today, people use the terms “couch” and “sofa” interchangeably to mean the same thing.

What Is A Davenport Couch?

A Davenport is a piece of upholstered furniture you can lie down on (AKA a couch) and was originally created and named by the Davenport Furniture Company of Massachusetts. The company was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s but is now out of business. The Massachusetts furniture manufacturer made square-shaped sofa beds or couches and called both of them “davenports.” The name “davenport” became the generic word for a couch, similar to how “Q-tip” became the generic word for a small stick with cotton swabs at either end. A more formal name for a couch is also “settee.”

After the word “davenport” became a common word for a couch, people started to use it for sofas that looked nothing like the original Davenport design. By the mid-1900s, people could even use it for a futon-style sofa with drawers for storage in the base or for a sleeper sofa. People in some parts of the US used “davenport” to refer to high-end couches in formal sitting or living rooms (as opposed to sofas for an informal family living room or den).

Although the term Davenport isn’t common today, it remains part of New England and Midwest regional vocabulary. However, even in those cases, it’s usually used by older people who remember Davenport sofas from the early to mid-1900s.

What Is A Davenport Desk?

A Davenport desk (ship captain's desk) shown open and closed.

Davenport desks have nothing to do with Davenport sofas. A Davenport desk looks like an old-fashioned slanted school desk but bigger, and the writing surface lifts with hinges. Lifting the desktop reveals a large compartment that can store paper and other writing supplies, with small drawers and pigeonholes for storing other writing items like ink. Original Davenport desks had leather covering their writing surfaces.

Additional storage is available in a Davenport desk’s drawers and cabinets on one side. Sometimes a decorative panel hides these cupboards. These storage areas comprise the back of the desk and support its bulk, while two intricately decorated legs support the front of the desk. In addition, Davenport desks have casters on the bottoms that allow them to be easily moved.

Davenport desks started in Great Britain in the late 1700s with the high-end British furniture maker Gillows of Lancaster. They’re called Davenport desks because a Captain Davenport commissioned them. Davenport was a ship’s captain, so Davenport desks are sometimes called ship captain’s desks.

Davenport desks were popular during Britain’s Georgian period in the late 1700s. They had become highly fashionable by the Victorian era in the mid-1800s. Although they aren’t often manufactured anymore, smaller furniture manufacturers offer designs that are similar or inspired by the original Davenport desk design. You can find Davenport desks in antique shops, estate auctions, specialty retailers online, and vintage furniture stores.

Sofa Vs Couch Vs Davenport

“Sofa,” “couch,” and “Davenport” all mean the same thing, but very few people use Davenport anymore. In fact, a Google Books Ngram search shows that Davenport was never a highly common term, and its usage all but died out by the 1940s.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do People Call A Couch A Davenport?

People call a couch a Davenport because there used to be a popular couch manufacturer called Davenport Furniture Company, but few people call couches Davenports anymore.

Who Says Davenport Instead Of Couch?

Older people from New England and the Midwest still occasionally say Davenport instead of couch.

What Is A Davenport Or Chesterfield?

A dark red Chesterfield sofa with leather upholstery, deep button tufting, and nailhead trim.

A Davenport is an old-fashioned term for an upholstered couch. A Chesterfield sofa is a particular style of sofa: a large upholstered sofa with rolled, upright armrests that reach the same height as the back of the sofa. Typically, Chesterfields have dark leather upholstery with deep button tufting and nailhead trim.

What Piece Of Furniture Is A Davenport?

A Davenport can refer to a couch or a particular kind of desk with a slanted writing surface that lifts to reveal compartments underneath for storage.

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Lucy Henderson is a Seattle-based home décor expert and creator of Palladio Interiors. She loves writing about design trends, home-interior inspiration, and home-decorating tips. She's a fan of coziness and simplicity.