What's the Difference Between a Couch and a Sofa?

After a long day, there are few things more satisfying than kicking off your shoes and swan-diving into a piece of upholstered furniture. But is that piece of upholstered furniture a sofa or a couch? Let’s find out.

The term “couch” comes from the French word “coucher,” which means “to lie down.” The word “sofa,” on the other hand, comes from the Arabic word “suffah,” which refers to a wooden bench covered in blankets. 

The origins of the words point to the major differentiator between the two pieces of furniture: couches are comfort-forward, and sofas are design-forward.

In earlier times, couches were smaller than sofas, and typically had no arms—though today’s couches can both be big and have arms. In modern-day usage, it’s really more about the way you're using the piece of furniture, or how you’re referring to it—“couch” is a more casual term, while “sofa” is more formal and proper. (And according to Elle Décor, the term “sofa” is more common in the interior-design industry.)

So are you lying down on it? Call it a couch. Are you only allowed to sit on it on special occasions? Sofa. Shoving Doritos in your mouth while watching college basketball on it? Couch. Laundering your clothes before you step within three feet of it? Sofa.

Happy relaxing!

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What's the Difference Between a Castle and a Palace?

As a girl, I was never into princesses; I was more of the type to watch monster-truck videos with my brother and read almanacs for fun. However, as an adult, I find there’s something rather aspirational about the royal lifestyle, or at least the royal lifestyle of years’ past; who wouldn’t want to sit around eating teacakes and playing whist all day? I hereby present to you the differences between a castle and a palace—because if we can’t live like royals ourselves, we may as well know the terminology.

castle is a large, fortified residence or group of buildings with strong walls to defend against attacks. In their heyday, they were inhabited by a royal or noble and used as a seat from which to control the surrounding area. Castles oftentimes have moats, peep-holes in the walls from which to shoot arrows, and other defense-centric architectural touches. They were first built by royalty during the Middle Ages throughout Europe and the Middle East, and served as fortresses to guard whoever was doing the ruling.

palace, on the other hand, is designed simply for elegance, lavishness, and luxury. No fortified walls, no moats, no cannons—they’ve more of the gilded-chic vibe. Palaces were/are lived in by royalty, heads of state, or heads of a church, and are usually surrounded by lush, landscaped gardens. The first palaces were built on Palatine Hill in Rome, which is actually where the name “palace” comes from.

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What's the Difference Between a Patio, Deck, and Porch?

It’s officially late August, which means it is prime time for kicking back, cracking open a new book and a bottle of rose, and indulging in some leisure. And what better settings to leisure in than those of a porchpatio, or deck—particularly when you know exactly what kind of structure you’re reposing in, and can educate your fellow leisure-ers while they ignore you and attempt to read their Us Weekly in peace?

Let’s start with the most strictly defined concept: the porch. A porch is covered structure that is attached to a house, usually through the front or back door (though it can also serve as an extension of, say, a living room). It can be open-air or enclosed, usually with screens or glass. Unlike their patio-and-deck cousins, porches are a part of a house’s architecture; usually, they share a roof with the rest of the house, rather than being a separate addition. 

A patio, on the other hand, can be covered or uncovered, connected to a house or free-standing, and made out of essentially any material (though they are usually paved in some way, whether with stones, bricks, or concrete). It’s a pretty loose concept; patios can come in any size, shape, or enclosure type, though they are usually ground-level and require no railings. A patio is considered a courtyard if it’s surrounded by walls. 

A deck is specifically a wooden platform—it can be slightly raised, or high enough to require steps—and is recognizable as a deliberate addition to a house, rather than part of its architecture. Like a patio, it can be covered or uncovered, attached or unattached; one may choose, for example, to build a standalone viewing deck of a particularly eye-catching vista on one’s property. (If you have one of those, please holler; I will happily drag myself out of my porch-less, patio-less, deck-less apartment and pay you a visit.)

While we’re here, let’s explore some more leisure-setting buzz words. A veranda is a large porch that surrounds a house and provides access to both the front and back doors. A lanai is the Hawaiian word for veranda. And a portico is a porch supported by columns, specifically leading to a front door of a house (or building).

Happy leisure-ing!

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