the perfect English roll arm sofa

Betsy and I have been talking sofas. Reason being…I was thinking about putting my dirty well-loved Petrie on the shelf and getting a…Belgian Classic Slope Arm when Restoration Hardware was running a legit year-end sale on their in stock furniture.

I waded in to a sea of online reviews and read other people’s sofa journeys and rambled on about it via email, text and on the phone to Betsy. She listened, for the most part patiently, as she does. I texted my neighbor who has a petite track arm that stands up well at 3 years of age to two small children, no pets but no major spills. “I hate to bug you about this again but did you say you got the brushed linen in fog” She knew exactly what she’d purchased because she had the receipt! Her only regret? She didn’t get the luxe depth.

The conversation between Betsy and I shifted, as it most often does when I talk to anyone about sofas, to the english roll arm sofa. Betsy said, you’ve always known you wanted a roll arm–thats what you should get. But I’d have to settle because the perfect roll arm that is financially feasible and easily accessible eludes me…it eludes most.

Design junkies know these images,

sofa coppolaSofia Coppola

Jenna Lyons English Roll Arm SofaJenna Lyons

sofa pinkAnn Mashburn


and the image I’m fixated on,

sofa bulow


sofa bulow2I tell Betsy that Pavoncelli’s children in the Town & Country feature are laying on the perfect sofa. Betsy isn’t easily convinced but she wants to pour over it with me.


This is some of what that conversation sounds like,

“Well it’s a tight back. I can’t tell if the back has a seam and if it’s a single seat cushion or two because of the magazine binding” We can’t find the whole flat image on the internet. “It’s down-filled, I think it’s pretty safe to say the seat cushion is down-filled. Is it George Smith? Well AD says that Markham Roberts likes George Smith.”

I love the sofas of both George Smith and George Sherlock. They are what others try to replicate. Why don’t I invest in one? Well…because they are $12,000.


But what happens to these sofas that are seemingly perfect and supposed to last forever? What happens when they are sat on and loved and napped on for a good long while–say 20 years or so?

Well Grandma saggy buns comes to mind,

sofa saggy buns
The cushions are starting to take a dive at Ashley Putnam’s place,

sofa putnam


One of the authors of the Everygirl, has the Pottery Barn Carlisle in her Chicago apartment but the cover looks a bit askew and the seat cushions look a little broken down. My Petrie seat cushions look very similar and it’s 9 years old. The Carlisle is a roll arm sofa that a lot of folks go for, it’s relatively affordable and it’s good looking. I thought it was a sure bet until I sat on one and then I quickly put the brakes on. Sorry PB, painful but true.

sofa everygirl PB
A well loved George Smith three-seater once for sale on 1st Dibs,

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.46.12 AM


This two seat Smith is on sale for $6500 on Viyet, BTW you should cruise Viyet if you haven’t yet. This sofa turns nine this year. It looks good don’t you think, wonder if she’s had work done? Ultimately the legs are too contemporary.

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 10.59.10 AM

Perfection doesn’t yet exist and by perfection I mean the perfect sofa that we can afford, that is a beautiful roll arm silhouette, that is well-made and can be reconditioned over time, something that will last. This is all assuming that you’re in to roll arms. Maybe you’re in to slipcovered track arms and if that be the case well then we can still talk.



See what the Market has to offer for English Roll Arm Sofas.

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  • Have you seen the lovely craftsmanship of these two lovely gentlemen? I’m saving my librarian pennies for an English roll arm sofa from them while trying to convince my husband that pink velvet is timeless…

    • April- Thanks for your great comment! I’m vaguely familiar but want to know more. Good luck with your pink is forever argument.

    • Thanks for mentioning us, April. We do a ton – like, a *ton* – of English roll arms. It’s our most popular sofa, and we’re likely one of the biggest sources of US-made ones. Such an incredibly versatile and space-efficient piece, and they’re elegant enough for the most formal of spaces but still (when constructed properly) very comfortable.

      Definitely skip the all-down fill. We routinely have customers asking about those and I almost always discourage them from doing them. The customers who do end up ordering all down usually call us back a few months later to order our hybrid cushions. Much more livable with no real sacrifice in comfort. Most people’s experiences with foam-core cushions are with relatively low-density foam. It’s cheap – that’s why manufacturers use it – but it compresses and degrades very quickly. Quality foam, mixed with a down/feather blend, has a great lifespan.

      Apologies for the furniture nerdery! :)

  • I, too, loved the English roll arm and did a similar search. I also dismissed the PB Carlisle. I ended up with the version from Mitchell Gold Bob Williams and have been really happy with it so far. It’s a beautiful sofa, and it’s deep and extremely comfortable (and I didn’t even spring for the down after sitting in both at the store). It’s deep enough that I’m 6 months pregnant and getting up from it is starting to take some effort. I think the George Smith sofas look too deep, and I hate the way the cushions sag off the front edge. The cushions on the MGBW look like new after 2 years and the velvet we got has held up to our lab pretty well. Cleans up nicely with some folex. I’d recommend it. My only regret is not going for the ivory color I wanted. Decided it was impractical and went with gray, but I still want that darn cream colored sofa.

    • Hey Sam! Thanks for your comment. I was actually clicks away from sending Betsy the MGBW sofa, it’s really good-looking and you know what I love even more–made in NC! We’ve had a huge filling debate here, we’ve undoubtedly moved away from 100% down fill, even Mitchell Gold recently said don’t get down unless you want to fluff all the time and I don’t care to fluff at all. Great to hear that the sofa is still going strong! I like depth because we all like to pile on the sofa together and we only have one sofa in our small cottage-y house. My dirty Petrie is cream and dirty playgound feet and cream collide to make perma-dinge.

  • What did you end up going with? I’m on the hunt for an English arm, and am so glad I saw this post. I’ve been considering PB’s Carlisle, but their policies make me nervous. Plus, none of their stores in the tri-state area have the model… so, you just risk it?

    • To be perfectly honest, I thought for a long time that the Carlisle was a great combo of price & style but then I sat on one in a PB outlet store and I was shocked because I flopped down on to it and it almost threw me back off. But we have our own great roll arm sofa in the works custom designed by TEOT and manufactured right here in the USA…stay tuned!

  • Looked at Lillian August- the Albert sofa? I have the tight back 94″ length and just recovered it.

  • Have you looked at Lillian August- the Albert sofa? I have the tight back 94″ length and just recovered it.

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