Modular seating units

Observation: need a seating unit that can
    1. Support the human body in more positions than just sitting and lying.
    2. Be comfortable.
    3. Be easy to get in and out of.
    4. Look acceptable in a living room.
    5. Be inexpensive.
Criteria options
    High off the floor - easy to get in and out
    Soft foam for molding to body.
    Interchangeable units of varying heights and angles.
    All on a uniform standard base.
    Back support, leg support, arm support, head support.
    Variety of arrangements to suit various people, occasions, and positions.
    Frame grid base to support foam units.
    Sofa for 2
    Recliner for 2
    Conversation for 3-4
    Matching individual chair?

A unit of grids for a person with 4 different-sized blocks, that can be arranged in that grid for the variety of positions desired. Grid units can be interlocked for serving more people. A hinge bracket could allow the units to pivot.
Concept of individuality as in a chair. Chairs grouped together to make a sofa.

Sofas are inefficient for seating in which to converse. If two people sit next to each other on a sofa - they have to turn 90 degrees to the side to see the other person. If two people sit across from each other - it is awkward to continually face the other person. That's why you'll almost always see a chair next to a sofa at a 90 degree angle. This creates the most comfortable seating position for conversation.
We use sofas for reclining, napping, and seating. We also have a need to adapt furniture to our spaces and to our lifestyles. I began searching for a large seating unit in the late 1970s. I found nothing that was satisfactory, so I decided to build my own. I began making notes on usage needs and researching human seating/reclining positions. I looked at foam densities, shapes, and foundation materials.

The units consist of 3 sizes: the seat, the back, and the ottoman. The set in the Watson house has 8 seats, 8 backs, 4 ottomans, and 2 end tables. There is a matching light fixture. All units are 17" square. The seat is 18" high, the back 36", and the ottoman and end tables are 12" high.


The fabric color
The primary function of a sofa or seating units is to support humans while they socialize or rest, in groups or alone. These people will be wearing a variety of patterns, colors, and textures. The sofa should not compete, overwhelm, dominate, nor clash with the humans it serves to support. The color should be neutral. Originally, these sofa units were natural unbleached muslin (shown to the left in an exhibit at the UCO Museum of Art). That fabric proved to not be durable enough and it showed dirt easily. The units were recovered in black canvas in about 1995. The black pays homage to le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Ray and Charles Eames, and Marcel Breuer who often used black to upholster their furniture. Black fits into the Watson house, will never go out of style, shows dirt less, and complements the human users.


The foundation is a particle board cube that is covered with 1" thick foam. The top is 6" thick foam for the seat and the ottoman. The back has 18" of foam on top of the cube. The coverings fit loosely around the foam for a casual look. The fabric is held in place with squares of Velcro. This allows them to be easily removed for washing. There are 8 rubber feet around the base of each foundation cube to prevent movement on the floor and to help grab onto carpet piles.

Gallery exhibit

Arrangement options
The 22 total units allow tremendous flexibility in arrangements and seating options. A seat and a back form a chair. Rows of each form traditional sofa sizes. Lounge chairs are formed with 2 seats, an ottoman, and a back unit.

The name
Sofa? seating units? modular seating units? Sofa means a long, upholstered seat or couch having a back and arms. These don't really have arms but the term has probably been vagueified to include most types of 2-or-more seating units.

Other manufacturers
Since building these units in 1977-78, I have noticed numerous recent products of similar concepts:

Design and construction: 1977-78
Similar products: first noticed in the 1990s, more prolific now