The English Roll Arm is one of the most popular yet unrecognised sofas of our time.

What are English Roll Arm Sofas, and how do I pick the right one for me?

English Roll Arms throughout the centuries (Source from Pinterest)

The English Roll Arm is one of the most popular yet unrecognised sofas of our time. 

This timeless piece of furniture formed the universal image of a standard sofa. It’s a sofa found in most homes and furniture shops. It’s the type of sofa you would see in an iconic movie set, traditional and digital paintings, and advertisements.

It’s so popular and common that it also became known as the “Standard Arm English Sofa”.

Imagine being so iconic to the point where you are subconsciously forgotten!

How did this sofa style become so iconic?

As the saying goes: it’s clique, but it’s true. There is a reason why most people, ranging from new homeowners to professional interior designers, naturally lean toward the English Roll Arm.

Let’s find out why English Roll Arms are so timeless and how you can find the right type for your home.

What is an English Roll-Arm Sofa?  

The identifying feature of an English Roll-Arm sofa comes from its side profile. 

English Roll Arm Side Profiles (Source from Pinterest)

Do you see the huge, curved arms? English Roll Arms are known for the L-shaped armrests called roll arms. They stretch from the back of the sofa, flow along its breath, and dip down to the bottom.

Roll arms are also designed to be recessed, which means the height of the armrests is shorter than the back of the sofa. They give the silhouette of the sofa its iconic sloping outline and provide elbow-height support for your arms. 

Another characteristic that is a key supporting feature of an English Roll Arm is its T-shaped cushions. These cushions are shaped like a “T” to cover the arms of the sofa. Not only does it make the arms look shorter, but it also makes the sofa look much bigger than it is.


T-shape pillows also provide more seating support than other cushions.



Why are English Roll Arms such timeless pieces of furniture?

First, English Roll Arms were used in English Households. (Source from Pinterest)

Since William Birch invented it for Liberty London in the late 1800s, the English Roll Arm has been used in households worldwide. It has been featured in traditional English homes, farmhouse style interiors, modern homes and even in geometric interior designs!

For the last 150 years, the English Roll arm has been able to adapt to a broad spectrum of design choices and suit the needs of every owner. 

That’s pretty impressive considering the number of changes our lifestyles have gone through within that time.

How does this sofa meet all those changing needs and fluctuating trends?

English Roll Arms remain relevant today because they provide a vast width of flexibility in design and function.

As its popularity grew, it became more widespread across England, including farmhouses in the countryside. (Source from Pinterest)

Aside from the roll arms and the T-shaped pillows, everything else about the English Roll Arm can be changed according to the designer’s creativity.

There are compact sofas for small apartments and wide sofas to accommodate a party of guests.

There are Blythe Roll Arms with thick cushioning and removable pillows that provides maximum comfort for a movie night.

Conversely, there are also Basel Roll Arms with tight back cushions that gives the furniture a clean and sleek look for offices or minimalist designs. (Tight back cushions are unattachable cushions that are sewn into the soda)

You can even get an armchair with the signature roll arms if you don’t want a sofa.

The height, style, tone, material and design of an English Roll Arm can be changed. So long as the couch has roll arms, it can be considered an English Roll Arm.

Today, they are a common option for all households. (Mantra)

The roll arm also provides much room for creativity in interior design despite its unique shape. Thanks to its history, the roll arm brings a traditional feel to historical styles, such as Victorian styles and farmhouse interiors.

The novelty of a roll arm also gives an elegance of class to the sofa. Hence, English Roll arms can also be used in professional environments like offices and hotels.

Despite its rich history and elegance, the design of the roll arm is simple enough that it gives off a casual feel as well. That’s why English Roll Arm sofas can also be used in more modern designs.

Even its curves are suitable for more experimental and abstract interior designs.

With its flexibility in design, we may very well be using English Roll Arms in future interior styles too! (Source from Pinterest)

English Roll Arms are standard sofas, but they are standards that have a lot of room for variation and fun designs!

We wish we could do the same to our chesterfield sofas and love seats.


If there is so much flexibility in its design, how do I find the right English Roll Arm sofa for my home?

That depends on the type of experience you desire from your sofa.

After a long day of work, do you want to crash on your couch, eat snacks and watch TV? Or do you want your sofa to be a part of a comfortable yet lively social setting for you and your friends?

Your ideal experience will determine the features of your English Roll Arm. (Source from Pinterest)

Is your English Roll Arm even at home? There are different expectations that you need to fulfil if you place them in an office and a waiting room.

It all comes back to Sofa Basics 101; once you decide on what experience you want from your sofa, you will be able to determine the features of your English Roll Arm.

Jacqueline Claire does an excellent job of identifying what she wants in her English Roll Arm. She knows that she wants her sofa to give out a casual, elegant, feminine style, with maximum comfort for her buck.

From there, she was able to determine that she wanted a sofa with:

  •   Comfy Stuffing
  •   Extra Deep Seats
  •   Turned legs or light wood casters
  •   Neutral light colours

If you would like to see how she chooses her ideal English Roll Arm from her catalogue of choices, you can check out her blog here:

Take note that when you go sofa hunting, you should also consider your limitations. Of course, your budget and room space will be your most significant limiting factors. However, your current home life, such as the possibility of your cat or dog scratching away at your sofa, can also influence your sofa choice.

If you need a little more guidance, here is a checklist of things you should consider for an English Arm Roll Sofa.


  • Cushioning


Cushions are essential parts of a sofa. The amount of stuffing, the type of stuffing used and how the cushions of English Roll Arm are stuffed can significantly affect your seating experience.

But don’t worry, when it comes to English Roll Arms, you only need to choose between two types of Roll Arms to find the right stuffing: the Basel and the Blythe.

Blythe English Roll Arms (Source from Pinterest)

Blythe English Roll Arms are more accurate to Birch’s original design. They have detachable pillows that give the sofa a natural and comfy look.

Sitting down on a Blythe arm roll is like laying down in the comforts of your bed. The thick yet soft cushioning allows you to sink right into the upholstery, giving you the perfect position to rest and relax.

Because of its detachable pillows, Blythe Roll Arms also tend to be easier to clean, restuff and change fabrics than a Basel.


A Basel English Roll Arm has tight back cushions instead of detachable ones. This means that the cushions are unremovable from the sofa’s frame.


While its trimming limits the amount of stuffing you can put in its cushions, its tight frame, when stuffed to the brim, gives the sofa a clean and sleek look most suited for professional environments.

A Basel English Roll Arm is still very comfortable despite the limited stuffing. But, unfortunately, you won’t get the same ‘sink-in’ feel as you would get from a Blythe Sofa.


2)      Roll Arm Height and Shape


The shape of the Roll Arms determines your style and your arm support. (Source from Pinterest)

Roll Arms are the key features of your English Roll Arm. There aren’t many style variations in roll arms, but you should consider how their height and shape can affect arm support.

Most roll arms have flat armrests that go up to elbow height. They provide the best shape and height to rest our arms without stressing our elbows or forearms.

However, some roll arms may have more prominent curves for design purposes. While they look great for more experimental interior designs, bigger curves can offset the height of the armrests and give less support to your arms.

Everyone sits in different ways to make themselves comfortable, so some people may not need the best arm support. It depends on you whether you prefer a roll arm with comfortable arm support or one with more unique features.


3)      Materials

[Picture of Acacia’s Leather, Velvet and Cotton Fabrics
Captions: Materials can significantly influence the style and function of your sofa.]

While choosing the materials used to make the English Roll arm is out of your control, it is good to understand the nature of the materials and how it affects the look and function of your sofa.

For example, English Roll Arms are most commonly made from leather, velvet or cotton.

Leather is a durable material that is easy to clean. It is often used in professional environments because of its sleek and clean look. However, it does not work well in warm climates as it can get sticky with sweat and does not have a wide range of colours.

[Picture of a leather English Roll Arm,
Caption: Leather English Roll Arms are great for office environments.]
If you are a lawyer looking for an English Roll Arm for your office, one made out of leather will most suit your needs.


However, if you are a housewife who likes to redecorate your house often, leather is a limiting option. It will be better to choose a cotton English Roll Arm. Cotton has a vast variety of colours.

Cotton English Roll Arms also have removable covers. So, if you want to change your pastel blue fabrics with a deeper red, it is effortless.

If you want to choose your own fabrics and customise your sofa, Acacia Fabrics provides an extensive range of fabric types, colours and patterns that suit your needs:

We recommend looking at our latest collection: Vortex. This thick fabric has rich colours with a subtle diamond pattern. When you use it for upholstery, it adds a bold pop of colour to your room while blending comfortably with other elements in your home.

You should also consider the type of materials used for your sofa legs as well. Sofa legs can be made out of different kinds of wood and metal, which affect the durability, style and design of your English Roll Arm.

Once you understand your materials, you can identify the right English Roll Arm for you.


An English Roll Arm is a classic piece of furniture that often gets overlooked. However, it is not a basic piece of furniture but an upholstery whose design flexibility allows it to adapt to changing styles. No matter what you envision, an English Roll Arm will likely suit your needs.

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