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Publication Date: 2015-03-03

Design Insights

Back to Back Sofas

Back when I started working as an interior design assistant in some of the large apartment buildings along Fifth Avenue, a familiar feature in traditional living rooms of grand scale was what was called a tete-a-tete sofa, or, at times, chair. Silly as it sounds, it was a way to bridge the divide between two seating areas in a room. Used more as a statement than as an inviting place to lounge, this two-faced sofa had its moment. History tells us that these back to back seating arrangements were often intentionally placed in larger spaces to allow for a discrete place for a private conversation.

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Today, the concept of bridging the gap between two areas in a large room still makes a lot of sense. It’s a challenge that many homeowners are faced with particularly in newer homes, where rooms are often so large they can be difficult to furnish efficiently. A more modern take on the tete-a-tete is the back to back sofa. By pairing two large, traditional sofas–and either attaching them at the back, or simply pushing their backs tightly together–you can create a highly functioning room that feels both comfortable and cozy. Some of our favorite designers have employed the back to back sofa furniture arrangement to great success in modern settings. Take a look and let us know which room you’d like most to emulate if you had an enormous room to fill! Above: A very elaborate tete-a-tete from the Napoleon II era in a Madeleine Castaing interior.

A living room by legendary designer Henri Samuel.

A more casual living room in what looks like a large, old country or farmhouse. Anyone know who designed this room? It looks like Bunny Williams if we had to guess!

Designer Jeffrey Bilhuber is a big fan of the back to back sofa, using it in many of his interiors. We love how he employed it in this large summer house living room.

Another Jeffrey Bilhuber room. In both of these rooms the back to back sofas are actually one piece and not two separate sofas pushed together. Perhaps less flexible than a pair of sofas would be if you ever intend on moving furniture around, but beautiful and incredibly sturdy.

Tilton Fenwick created this pair of back to back sofas for a show house they did a few years ago. Love the tufted skirts and the green apple velvet!

Markham Roberts uses not one, but two (!!) back to back sofas in this large living room:

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