- One type of sofa, a divan, has no back and low or no sides or armrests.
- Intended as a sleeping couch and resembling a daybed, often without a headboard, it takes the shape of a bench with cushioned seating and fluffy throw pillows.
Of the many types of sofa, the divan sees the most limited use. It most closely resembles a bench. This type of sofa best suits a modern décor or contemporary look.
What is a divan?
The divan style applies to seats, sofas, and beds, but this article looks mostly at the sofa design. The divan sofa has no back or sides. It may come in two pieces or in a single design similar to a settee, but without the armrests. Some divans have a divan base that sits on the floor.
This may consist of a metal or wood frame, surrounded by skirting. Some of these sofas sit on casters while others have sofa-style feet.
While the beds come in twin through super king-size, the sofas typically equal the length of a love seat. While the bed styles offer storage space beneath, you can only get this with a divan sofa if the storage is located under the seat cushions. On a divan bed, it may provide drawers in the divan base for storage.
Divan seats feature a length shorter than a love seat and can only comfortably seat one person. You can often find these divans with matching colored valances, so you can match the divan to the décor.
The divan differs in height from other sofas since they typically range between 30 to 32 inches in height while most sofas stand about three feet in height. Its length measures 45 to 51 inches with a typical depth of about 43 inches, so think of it as an ottoman bed.
Is it in style or popular today?
While a popular choice for decorating during the era of fainting couches, these went out of vogue. Since it has no back, you have to scoot this sofa up to the wall. Any wall, but still, you have to stick it against a wall.
You can pile it full of throw pillows, but they may fall off since most of these divans do not have armrests. People tend to buy larger couches or sofas with roomy armrests, high backs, and greater depth today, but this backless sofa works in many spaces where you only need to sit for a few minutes.
A creamy, linen-covered, extra-long divan.
A deep blue leather divan with built-in storage lets you stash throws or quilts under the bench.
A fun print in traditional upholstery with raised arms, but no sofa back.
A cream-colored, nubby upholstered divan with armrests.
This emerald-toned divan features carved wood feet and a puffy, over-cushioned seat.
Maybe you cannot find a divan. Try instead for a settee or a loveseat, the two closest sofa relatives to this option.
A rolled arm settee lets you enjoy the shortened length of a divan, but with a sofa back.
Where Can It Be Used in the Home
You can decorate using a settee in any room including the dining room or mudroom. These seats make an ideal place for a quick sit, such as you need when taking snow boots or galoshes. While they aren’t intended for curling up to read a book, you can use a longer one as a daybed in a pinch.
Even the loveseat variety makes a viable daybed for a child. You can use these seats pushed against a wall in the living room, dining room, library, conservatory, dressing room, powder room, or bedroom.
You can decorate with a divan in any contemporary décor. It works in both small and large spaces. You often see these sofas used in museums to provide patrons a spot to sit for a few moments and contemplate an artwork.
Interior designers favor the piece since it can have so many uses. Since it features two open sides, it does not cut off a space. You can use it anywhere in a room, but typically against a wall. In public spaces though, a divan would sit in the room’s center or a specific point along with a foyer or great hall.
“The divan is the one piece of furniture that acts as a couch or love seat but doubles as a daybed for relaxing,” says Las Vegas interior designer Jane Cunningham.
Divans come in many styles, and you can style them to suit nearly any décor type. Older designs with carved wood frames suit Victorian decors. Sleek, minimalist frames suit modern or contemporary design schemes. The divan proved popular in the mid-20th century and styles from that period ideally suit a Mid-Century décor.
These divans come in a wide variety of colors that may use bright colors such as orange or green. Tufted velvet and satin provide two of the common fabrics for these types of sofas.
A divan isn’t suited to those with mobility issues or the elderly. The sofa style of the divan provides a seat very low to the ground. Older individuals and those with mobility issues might find it challenging to lift themselves up off of a seat that is less than three feet in height.
The divan’s lack of armrests and back would make this even harder to rise off of without assistance. When Toronto interior designer Staci Edwards designs for those with physical disabilities, she skips suggesting a divan.
“While they’re extra cozy, they’re not always the easiest to get in and out of, so they might not be the best options for older guests,” Edwards said.
History of the Divan
The divan developed as a seat in governmental offices in Turkey and Persia. The actual inventor is unknown since the furniture type has existed since the Middle Ages. The divan first became popular in the 1400s and 1500s. Turkish divans still epitomize the height of luxury in these sofas.
The proverbial psychiatrist’s couch joke started with Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, and his love of divans. It’s not a joke. Freud used a divan instead of chairs in his office to encourage his patients to recline and relax rather than sit up. The intellectual psychiatrist knew that a person needed to relax and trust to open up about things.
Providing a divan for the patient instead of a couch or sofa encouraged this since the divan has no back to sit against. One of his patients, Madame Benvenisit, gave him his first divan as a gift. In the 1940s, it became known as a therapy couch and became a popular purchase until the early 1960s.
How much does a divan cost?
While you can find a few very short divans sized smaller than a loveseat for less than $200, these amount to a cushioned bench. You could choose the longer option which provides you the typical sofa length with a frame for the cushions or a padded long bench for $1,500 to $2,200.