In the home, minimalism was less about what furniture you had, and more about the architecture of the empty space, inspired by architects like John Pawson, who once called his rooms “the excitement of empty space” in a 2016 GQ article. Still, certain types of pieces contributed to the overall aesthetic. Furniture was unimposing, with clean lines and a clear, functional purpose. Sofas fit seamlessly into the space without making too big a statement. They were often designed in all white or cool gray and blue tones, sometimes embracing natural textures like wood and leather.
At the same time, mass production is ramping up, ushering us into what Lisbon calls the “IKEA era.” Although IKEA has been around since the ’40s, the 2010s marks a need for smaller, cheaper, more DIY couches in the United States. Millennials, influenced by the 2008 financial crisis, were now living in smaller apartments, with less disposable income. Small-scale, mass-produced sofas offered an answer. “If you’re moving, your home is no longer permanent, so you can’t have this big sectional,” Lisbon explains. “Couches were big and bulky, so during this period, they became compact and smaller.” To fit efficiently into small apartments, these styles were made with a lightweight but structured silhouette.
Mass production also means sofas are being sold from more and more places like CB2, West Elm, and Joybird, said Herzog, and there’s increasing attention paid to sustainability, affordability, and functionality. However, it also meant that these more affordable products were often lower quality. “It was not made to last,” Lisbon says. “A good couch shouldn’t cost the same as a PlayStation.”
Traditional styles still hold a substantial part of the market throughout the 2000s; Noel says that shoppers have “overwhelmingly kept things classic” over the last 20 years, opting for French Louis XVI settees, vintage tufted leather Chesterfields, Bridgewater and English Roll arms, and added elements like bullion fringe and skirting.
2020s: The ’70s, Revived
Today, people are embracing a more variable, eclectic style—they can buy vintage online, shop at a major manufacturer, order bespoke pieces, or purchase dupes of famous silhouettes from every decade. With fast furniture reaching its peak, Lisbon has begun to see a shift away from the quick, cheap trend cycles. “People want quality well-made goods,” he says. “They want stuff that’s gonna last.”