Couch Vs. Chaise Longue: What's The Difference?

Selecting the right type of furniture is an important part of setting the tone for your home. When it comes to putting a living room together, the couch is one of the key elements. It's where you gather, receive guests, and probably spend most of your downtime. If you're looking for a versatile and elegant sitting space for reading or lounging poolside, a chaise longue is a good option for you.

Chaise longue (pronounced "shez long") simply means "long chair" in French. Historically, the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese have all used variations of this chair for comfort and sometimes to represent status (via Summer Classics). Not much has changed. This long chair with a reclined back is still used in modern times, both indoors and outdoors, to bring comfort and style to a space.

The word "couch" also has its roots in French. It comes from the Old French word "couche" meaning "a bed, lair" according to EtymOnline. Couches have evolved to be more comfortable through the years as society began to challenge the religious ideal that comfort was sinful (via BuildDirect). Since then, comfort has been the name of the game.

What's the main difference? A chaise is a flexible, statement piece, while a couch is more a traditional and functional piece. This article explores both options and lays out what you need to know about them.

How does the appearance differ?

The starkest difference in the structure and design of the two is that the backrest of a couch is on the long side of the seat, while the backrest of a chaise is on its short side (via Art Sample Home). A chaise provides a more open view — if you choose to put it towards the center of a room, people can typically get a 360-degree perspective. It's a good piece to have in a room with lots of art or decoration.  A couch gives a limited perspective with a fixed line of sight. However, an expanded backrest makes it the more comfortable option, so it's better for places where you'll be resting for extended periods of time.

Chaises vary widely in their look because they are popularly used as decorative pieces. Couches with bold designs and patterns can also add to the look of a space, but they are generally used for function rather than decoration.

What are the differences in cost?

Obviously, any type of furniture can vastly range in price. The differences lie in the quality of the framing, the cushions, the sewing, size, and more. If you want something custom or vintage, be ready to spend more.

That being said, you'll typically spend more money on a couch than on a chaise longue simply because of the size. The average price for a couch is between $1,000 and $2,000, according to Modsy. Chaise longues are harder to pinpoint a price on because they vary so much in style, but for simpler designs, sites like Wayfair have some for around $200.

Figuring out your wants and needs, as well as the function of your couch or chaise, will be helpful in determining your budget. Are you looking for something trendy? Do you move a lot or are you firmly settled? Will young children or pets be in the house? These are some questions Modsy recommends you ask yourself before you decide whether to splurge or not.

Pros and cons of a chaise

Chaises add character and give some edge to a living room. Since they provide a wider line of vision, there's more options in terms of where you can place them. They work just as well towards the center of a room as they do against a wall. They are also great for small or tight spaces since they tend to be smaller than a couch. They create the illusion of a larger space due to their slender frame and they are easily adaptable to any room (via Houzz). Is style one of your top priorities? A chaise gives you many options in terms of shape, texture, size, and color. 

One disadvantage of a chaise is that it can't always seat multiple people. Because it's designed for one person to lie down and spread out, you won't be able to sit side-by-side comfortably. Another con is that some chaise models are tougher to move around than a normal couch, says Chaise Sofas.

Pros and cons of a couch

If you expect to seat a lot of people in your living room regularly, then a couch will be great for you because it will have adequate space. With the huge variety of designs available, you can easily get something that fits your budget. Some models are even multi-purpose, like the sleeper sofa, which can serve as a bed (via BeautyHarmonyLife).

Couches take up a lot of space and aren't very flexible in where they can be placed. If you have a sectional, for example, there are hardly any other options of where it can go apart from against a wall (via BeautyHarmonyLife). They are also on the higher side when it comes to costs. Couches are designed for sitting with a place to rest your back, which means that lying down won't always be the most comfortable (via Furniture.com). Oftentimes, the armrests get in the way of stretching out completely.

Durability and maintenance

No matter which option you choose, knowing how to protect your couch or chaise longue is key to being able to enjoy it longer. For couches, Good Housekeeping recommends couch covers, throw pillows, and throw blankets to keep it safe from dirt and damage and also to enhance your couch experience. Vacuum it regularly and attack stains as soon as they happen. Keep the tags because they contain specific information about caring for the couch, and try to employ professional cleaners for a yearly deep clean, says Big Red Carpet Cleaners. The average lifespan of a couch is between seven and 15 years, but with proper care you can expand it even further (via Interiors Furniture).

A good balance of dusting, vacuuming, and regular cleaning with gentle products will maintain your chaise's elegant look, says SFGate. Outdoor chaises might require a deeper cleaning — wiping with water and soap as well as mildew treatment. But first, be mindful of what kind of fabric it's made with to avoid ruining it (via HomeSteady).

Recommended uses

Looking for a place where you can lie down comfortably with a book? Reclining on a chaise will be perfect for that because they are famous for napping and resting. If you have a window or sliding door, you can place the chaise right there so you can also look at the view (via Home Decor Bliss). This makes a statement because it creates a beautiful reading nook that can be admired from other parts of the room. You can also mix it up with the other couches in the living room or keep it outside, says Home Decor Bliss.

On the other hand, you can get very comfortable with your large, fluffy couch! You will have more than enough space not just for yourself but for anyone else that's there while you talk or watch TV. Place a side or center table close to the couch and you can also have your food, drinks, and anything you might need within reach.