Title:
Modular seating system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A seating system includes several individual seating units that are coupled together with at least one bracket, where the bracket extends between two seating units.



Inventors:
George, Larry W. (Okolona, MS, US)
Cox, John V. (Amory, MS, US)
Application Number:
11/057360
Publication Date:
11/17/2005
Filing Date:
02/14/2005
Assignee:
United Furniture Industries, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
297/233
International Classes:
A47C1/124; A47C13/00; A47C15/00; (IPC1-7): A47C15/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCPARTLIN, SARAH BURNHAM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STEPHEN M. PATTON (GERMANTOWN, TN, US)
Claims:
1. A bracket for a sofa, the sofa comprising a plurality of seating units, the plurality of seating units including at least one recliner seating unit and one stationary seating unit coupled thereto, the reclining unit including a motion unit configured to rest upon the ground and a seat and a back coupled thereto, and a stationary unit coupled to the reclining unit, the bracket comprising: an elongate member having first and second ends, the member being configured to extend between the motion unit of the recliner seating unit and the stationary seating unit; a first coupling disposed at the first end of the member and configured to be coupled to a first of the plurality of seating units; and a second coupling disposed at the second end of the member and configured to be releasably coupled without fasteners to a second of the plurality of seating units that abuts the first one.

2. The bracket of claim 1, wherein the plurality of seating units includes three seating units, and further wherein the bracket is configured to couple only two of the three seating units.

3. The bracket of claim 1, further comprising a vertically extending member disposed at the second end the vertically extending member being configured to receive and be coupled to the second one of the plurality of seating units when the second seating unit abuts the first seating unit and is slid with respect to the first seating unit in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa.

4. The bracket of claim 3, wherein the direction perpendicular is vertical.

5. The bracket of claim 1, wherein the bracket is configured to prevent relative movement of the second unit with respect to the first unit both toward and away from the first unit in a direction parallel to the longitudinal extent of the sofa and to permit relative movement of the first unit with respect to the second unit in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa.

6. The bracket of claim 1, further comprising two vertically extending members that define a space therebetween configured to receive a frame member of the second seating unit.

7. The bracket of claim 1, wherein the first end of the bracket is configured to the threadedly fastened to a longitudinal member of the motion unit.

8. A bracket configured to couple together two adjacent units of multi-unit upholstered sofa having at least one recliner seating unit including a motion unit, the bracket comprising: an elongate member having first and second ends and a length in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa less than the width of two seating units; a first coupling means disposed at the first end of the elongate member and configured to couple the elongate member to a frame of a motion unit; and a second coupling means disposed at the second end of the elongate member and configured to couple the elongate member to a frame of a second seating unit.

9. The bracket of claim 8, wherein the first coupling means is configured to receive threaded fasteners extending between the first coupling means and the frame of the motion unit, and wherein the second coupling means is configured to releasably engage the frame of the second seating unit.

10. The bracket of claim 9, wherein the second coupling means is configured to prevent movement of the second seating unit with respect to the recliner seating unit in a direction parallel to the longitudinal extent of the sofa and to permit the second seating unit to be uncoupled from the first seating unit by sliding the second seating unit with respect to the first seating unit in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa.

11. The bracket of claim 8, further comprising a first vertically extending surface configured to engage the frame of the second seating unit, the first vertically extending surface being disposed perpendicular to a longitudinal extent of the sofa.

12. The bracket of claim 11, further comprising a second vertically extending surface opposing the first vertically extending surface and configured to engage the frame of the second seating unit.

13. A bracket for coupling two seating units together, the bracket comprising: an elongate member having one end configured to couple to a front-to-rear member of a motion unit; a first vertical member coupled to the elongate member and configured to engage one surface of a sidewall of an adjacent seating unit; and a second vertical member coupled to the elongate member and configured to engage another surface of the sidewall of an adjacent seating unit.

14. The bracket of claim 13 wherein the first member and the second member define a gap therebetween that is configured to receive the sidewall.

15. The bracket of claim 13, wherein the first member is configured to be coupled to a front-to-rear frame member of the motion unit.

16. The bracket of claim 13, wherein the first and second vertical members extend upward from the elongate member.

17. The bracket of claim 13, wherein the elongate member extends parallel to the ground and adjacent to the ground.

18. A multi-unit sofa, comprising: a first seating unit including a motion unit configured to recline; a second seating unit; and at least one bracket extending between and coupling the two seating units together; wherein the bracket is configured to couple and uncouple the seating units together without additional fasteners.

19. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the bracket is fixed to the first seating unit and releasably engages the second seating unit.

20. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the bracket is fixed to the motion unit and releasably engages a sidewall of the second seating unit.

21. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the second seating unit is a stationary unit having a vertically extending front-to-rear sidewall, and further wherein the motion unit includes a front-to-rear extending frame member configured to rest upon the ground.

22. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the bracket extends between two motion units, and does not extend to a third motion unit.

23. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the first seating unit has an unfinished side, the second seating unit has an unfinished side, and the bracket holds the two unfinished sides in an abutting relationship.

24. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the bracket couples a side member of the motion unit to a side member of the second seating unit.

25. The multiunit sofa of claim 18, wherein the first seating unit has first and second laterally opposing sides, with an integral armrest disposed at the first side, and the bracket extending from the second side.

26. A multiunit sofa, comprising: a first seating unit; a second seating unit; at least a first bracket extending between and coupling the first and second seating units and not coupling the third seating unit; a third seating unit; and at least a second bracket extending between and coupling the second and third seating units and not coupling the first seating unit.

27. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein the first seating unit and the third seating unit are motion units.

28. The multiunit sofa of claim 27, wherein the second seating unit is a stationary seating unit.

29. The multiunit sofa of claim 28, wherein the second seating unit is disposed between the first and third seating units.

30. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein the first bracket holds two unfinished sides of the first and second seating units together.

31. The multiunit sofa of claim 30, wherein the second bracket holds two unfinished sides of the second and third seating units together.

32. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein the first bracket is coupled to a front-to-rear extending member of a motion unit of the first seating unit at one end and is configured to engage a first sidewall of the second seating unit.

33. The multiunit sofa of claim 32, wherein the second bracket is coupled to a front-to-rear extending member of a motion unit of the second seating unit at one end and is configured to engage a second sidewall of the second seating unit.

34. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein each of the first bracket and the second bracket define an open-ended slot extending generally in a plane perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa, wherein the slot supports a member of an adjacent seating unit.

35. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein the first and second seating units have a first pair of mutually abutting sides and wherein the second and third seating units have a second pair of mutually abutting sides, wherein the first and second seating units are uncoupled by sliding the first pair of abutting sides with respect to each other, and wherein the second and third seating units are in coupled by sliding the second pair of abutting sides with respect to each other.

36. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein the first, the second, and the third seating units have removable backs.

37. The multiunit sofa of claim 26, wherein the first, the second, and the third seating units are configured to be separately packaged for shipment.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/544,464 to John V. Cox, a co-inventor of this application, which was filed on Feb. 13, 2004. This application incorporates herein by reference the 60/544,464 application for all that it teaches.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to seating systems. More particularly it relates to multiple-seat devices such as sofas and modular seating systems.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There exists a class of furniture made for seating known generally as “sofas”. There are three common ways of constructing them. This invention is directed to an improved construction for sofas.

The first type of sofa has a solid frame, typically wood, that extends the entire width of the sofa. Fabric and padding are stretched the length of the sofa to upholster the sofa. The frame itself is single piece and cannot be broken down or separated into individual parts without destroying the frame and tearing the upholstery. The invention below is not directed to sofas with this traditional construction.

The second type of sofa is called “modular”. It is made of several individual, freestanding, seating units that are upholstered on top and on all four sides. Due to this complete upholstery, each of the seating units can stand alone as an individual piece of furniture, or alternatively can be placed adjacent to other seating units. When these modular seating units are placed in a row, next to each other with abutting upholstered sidewalls, they look like a sofa. To enhance this appearance, the upholstered sidewalls are often provided with small couplings such as snaps, latches or other fixtures that are embedded in the upholstered sidewalls of the modular units. Snaps on adjacent abutting upholstered surfaces can be pressed together until they engage thus holding adjacent modular seating units together and aligned. When the modular seating units of this second type of sofa are placed together in abutting relation, it is clear to a casual observer that the “sofa” is actually a collection of individual and abutting seating units that could otherwise be used separately. In other words, a modular sofa looks modular—it looks like a collection of abutting, freestanding modules.

Unfortunately, the snaps or latches must be small and virtually hidden to the outside observer since the upholstered surfaces on which they are fixed must also be presentable as upholstered outer surfaces when the modular units are pulled apart. As a result, these latches are small and have little strength. They are useful merely to hold adjacent modular units in relative positions, but are not strong enough to resist being pulled apart if a user tugs on one of two coupled modular units. The couplings are also difficult to attach to one another. They are typically embedded in one or more upholstered sidewalls of each modular unit. In order to couple two modular units the user must first locate the small couplings recessed into the fabric, then try to properly align them by sliding one modular unit back-and-forth with respect to the other, and then attach them to one another by pressing the two abutting faces of the two modular units directly against each other. The user must often press the two modular units together with considerable force to make the couplings engage each other. Oftentimes this requires that one modular unit of the two being attached must be placed against a wall so another seating unit can be pressed against it with sufficient force. Alternatively, two people may be required to press the two modular units together with sufficient force to engage the couplings.

The third type of sofa is called a “sectional sofa”. It does not have the unitary wooden frame of the first type, nor does it have multiple individual fully upholstered seating units of the second type. The third type of sofa was developed about 30 years ago to combine the reclining function of reclining chairs with sofas. In this third type of sofa, features of both the first type and the second type are combined.

Like the modular sofa, the sectional sofa is made of several seating units that are coupled together. Unlike the modular sofa, however, none of the seating units are designed or constructed to be separated and used individually. Indeed, they cannot be used individually since each of the seating units of the sectional sofa has at least one unfinished or semifinished sidewall—in other words, no sidewall at all, or an un-upholstered sidewall, often having sharp, exposed edges that would otherwise be a hazard if they did not abut and be covered by an adjacent seating unit. In the sectional sofa, these surfaces are unfinished or semifinished since they are never intended to be exposed once the sofa is assembled. Traditionally, the individual seating units that comprise a sectional sofa are assembled at the factory. The seating units of the third type of sofa are typically semifinished or unfinished on either one sidewall (in the “arm units” located at the end of the sofa) or two opposing sidewalls (in the center seating units located between the two arm units). These unfinished sidewalls or side surfaces are never intended or designed to be exposed to view during normal use instead, they are designed to permanently abut one another when the sofa is assembled and never be seen. Hence, they do not need to be finished with upholstery or padding.

The reason why this third type of sofa is constructed from several individual seating units (like the second, modular type of sofa) yet the individual seating units are never intended or constructed to be used separately (like the first, traditional type of sofa) is because at least one of the seating units in the sectional sofa includes a “motion unit”. A “motion unit” is a multi-bar mechanical linkage to which a seat and seat back are mounted. The motion unit permits the seat and seat back to move from an upright seating position to a reclining seating position and back again. Motion units are universally designed to be freestanding, with the weight transmitted straight down through the seat back and seat cushion, into the motion unit which is resting on the floor directly below the seat back and seat cushion that are reclining. This arrangement is unlike a traditional sofa in which the weight of a person resting on the sofa is not transmitted down through mechanical device resting upon the floor, but is transmitted laterally along the wooden beams forming the frame of the sofa to short legs at each end of the sofa and to a leg in the center of the sofa that support the wooden beams.

In order to appear like a traditional sofa, sectional sofas use a permanent or semipermanent method of coupling each of their seating units together. Furthermore, sectional sofas are assembled at the factory, and are never intended to be disassembled into their constituent seating units by the end-user. This also distinguishes them from modular sofas. The seating units of sectional sofas are assembled and upholstered and finally attached to one another to form a single large sofa unit at the factory in which they are made. The seating units (including the recliner seating units) are attached to one another using two long bars or channels of steel that are bolted to each seating unit. These long bars extend the length of the sofa, across all three seating units, and are the only interconnection between the units—the only thing that connects all the units together. Once the bars are attached at the factory to three upside down seating units to form a sofa, the sofa is inverted to its upright position and is packaged for shipment in a horizontal position.

Sectional sofas are prone to damage during shipping, first because they are quite heavy, and second, because the bars are unable to properly support the entire sofa without permitting it to flex or bend when the sofa is lifted at each end. Unlike the long wooden beams of the traditional sofa, the metal bars of the sectional sofa are merely intended to hold each of the seating units in its proper position with respect to the adjacent seating units. As a result, careless or rough handling of the sectional sofa can damage it. This is unlike the traditional sofa which has several long beams extending the entire length of the sofa that are designed to support the weight of the sofa. When the sectional sofa is manhandled, the flexing in bending may damage the motion units and prevent them from operating correctly. Packaging and shipping sectional sofas made in the traditional manner must therefore be done quite carefully.

Packaging and shipping modular sofas, however, is not a problem, since each individual modular unit is typically wrapped, packaged, and shipped separate from the other units.

What is needed, therefore, is an improved seating system or sofa that permits multi-seat furniture such as sofas to be transported unpacked, assembled, and later moved around, with greater ease and less damage. It is one goal of the system described herein to provide these advantages in one or more embodiments. What is also needed is a seating system that eliminates the elongate bars or channels of the prior art to reduce the weight of the seating system. What is also needed is a process of manufacturing and shipping seating systems that provides increased production and manufacturing speed by eliminating the steps of bolting seating units to an elongate beam and shipping them in long unwieldy cartons or packages. What is also needed is a seating system that is lighter in weight than the current sofas. What is also needed is a method of packaging a sofa in a single container that can be separated into two or more sub-packages, each sub-package containing one seating unit to provide for easier shipping, delivery and installation. It is an object of this invention to provide the above advantages in one or more embodiments or aspects of the invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with a first aspect of the invention, a bracket for sofa is provided, the sofa comprising a plurality of seating units, the plurality of seating units including at least one recliner seating unit and one stationary seating unit coupled thereto, the reclining unit including a motion unit configured to rest upon the ground and a seat and a back coupled thereto, and a stationary unit coupled to the reclining unit, the bracket comprising an elongate member having first and second ends, the member being configured to extend between the motion unit of the recliner seating unit and the stationary seating unit; a first coupling disposed at the first end of the member and configured to be coupled to a first of the plurality of seating units; and a second coupling disposed at the second end of the member and configured to be releasably coupled without fasteners to a second of the plurality of seating units that abuts the first one.

The plurality of seating units may include three seating units, and further wherein the bracket may be configured to couple only two of the three seating units. The bracket may further include a vertically extending member disposed at the second end, the vertically extending member being configured to receive and be coupled to the second one of the plurality of seating units when the second seating unit abuts the first seating unit and is slid with respect to the first seating unit in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa. The direction perpendicular may be vertical. The bracket may be configured to prevent relative movement of the second unit with respect to the first unit both toward and away from the first unit in a direction parallel to the longitudinal extent of the sofa and to permit relative movement of the first unit with respect to the second unit in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa. The bracket may further include two vertically extending members that define a space therebetween configured to receive a frame member of the second seating unit. The first end of the bracket may be configured to the threadedly fastened to a longitudinal member of the motion unit.

In accordance with a second aspect of the invention, a bracket configured to couple together two adjacent units of multi-unit upholstered sofa having at least one recliner seating unit including a motion unit is provided, the bracket comprising: an elongate member having first and second ends and a length in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa less than the width of two seating units; a first coupling means disposed at the first end of the elongate member and configured to couple the elongate member to a frame of a motion unit; a second coupling means disposed at the second end of the elongate member and configured to couple the elongate member to a frame of a second seating unit. The first coupling means may be configured to receive threaded fasteners extending between the first coupling means and the frame of the motion unit, and wherein the second coupling means is configured to releasably engage the frame of the second seating unit. The second coupling means may be configured to prevent movement of the second seating unit with respect to the recliner seating unit in a direction parallel to the longitudinal extent of the sofa and to permit the second seating unit to be uncoupled from the first seating unit by sliding the second seating unit with respect to the first seating unit in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa. The bracket may further include a first vertically extending surface configured to engage the frame of the second seating unit, the first vertically extending surface being disposed perpendicular to a longitudinal extent of the sofa. The bracket may further include a second vertically extending surface opposing the first vertically extending surface and configured to engage the frame of the second seating unit.

In accordance with a third aspect of the invention, a bracket for coupling to seating units together is provided, the bracket including an elongate member having one end configured to couple to a front-to-rear member of a motion unit; a first vertical member coupled to the elongate member and configured to engage one surface of a sidewall of an adjacent seating unit; and a second vertical member coupled to the elongate member and configured to engage another surface of the sidewall of an adjacent seating unit.

The first member and the second member may define a gap therebetween that is configured to receive the sidewall. The first member may be configured to be coupled to a front-to-rear frame member of the motion unit. The first and second vertical members may extend upward from the elongate member. The elongate member may extend parallel to the ground and adjacent to the ground.

In accordance with a fourth aspect of the invention, a multi-unit sofa is provided, including a first seating unit including a motion unit configured to recline; a second seating unit; and at least one bracket extending between and coupling the two seating units together; wherein the bracket is configured to couple and uncouple the seating units together without additional fasteners.

The bracket may be fixed to the first seating unit and releasably engages the second seating unit. The bracket may be fixed to the motion unit and releasably engages a sidewall of the second seating unit. The second seating unit may be a stationary unit having a vertically extending front-to-rear sidewall, and further wherein the motion unit may include a front-to-rear extending frame member configured to rest upon the ground. The bracket may extend between two motion units, and does not extend to a third motion unit. The first seating unit may have an unfinished side, the second seating unit has an unfinished side, and the bracket holds the two unfinished sides in an abutting relationship. The bracket may couple a side member of the motion unit to a side member of the second seating unit. The first seating unit may have first and second laterally opposing sides, with an integral armrest disposed at the first side, and the bracket extending from the second side.

In accordance with a fifth aspect of the invention, a multiunit sofa is provided, including a first seating unit; a second seating unit; at least a first bracket extending between and coupling the first and second seating units and not coupling the third seating unit; a third seating unit; and at least a second bracket extending between and coupling the second and third seating units and not coupling the first seating unit.

The first seating unit and the third seating unit may be motion units. The second seating unit may be a stationary seating unit. The second seating unit may be disposed between the first and third seating units. The first bracket may hold two unfinished sides of the first and second seating units together. The second bracket may hold two unfinished sides of the second and third seating units together. The first bracket may be coupled to a front-to-rear extending member of a motion unit of the first seating unit at one end and is configured to engage a first sidewall of the second seating unit. The second bracket may be coupled to a front-to-rear extending member of a motion unit of the second seating unit at one end and is configured to engage a second sidewall of the second seating unit. Each of the first bracket and the second bracket may define an open-ended slot extending generally in a plane perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa, wherein the slot supports a member of an adjacent seating unit. The first and second seating units may have a first pair of mutually abutting sides and wherein the second and third seating units have a second pair of mutually abutting sides, wherein the first and second seating units are uncoupled by sliding the first pair of abutting sides with respect to each other, and wherein the second and third seating units are in coupled by sliding the second pair of abutting sides with respect to each other. The first, the second, and the third seating units may have removable backs. The second, and the third seating units may be configured to be separately packaged for shipment.

These and other aspects of the invention will become clear upon reading the detailed description and viewing the FIGURES described below, in which like items are numbered alike throughout.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1-4 show a first bracket for connecting individual seating units to comprise a sofa. The individual seating units together comprise a sofa.

FIG. 1 is a side view of the bracket.

FIG. 2 is a top view of the bracket.

FIG. 3 is an end view of the bracket.

FIG. 4 is a view of a metal blank from which the bracket is formed.

FIGS. 5-6 are side and top views of a first alternative bracket for connecting individual seating units to comprise a sofa. FIG. 5 is a side view of the bracket. FIG. 6 is a top view of the bracket.

FIGS. 7-8 are side and top views of a second alternative bracket for connecting individual seating units to comprise a sofa. FIG. 7 is a side view of the bracket. FIG. 8 is a top view of the bracket.

FIGS. 9-10 are side and top views of a third alternative bracket for connecting individual seating units to comprise a sofa. FIG. 9 is a side view of the bracket. FIG. 10 is a top view of the bracket.

FIG. 11 is a partial cutaway perspective view of a recliner seating unit of the sofa uncoupled from its adjacent seating unit to expose its unfinished side surface and show the interior construction of the motion unit that permits the seating unit to recline.

FIG. 12 is a front view of the three (separated) seating units that together comprise the sofa, including a first recliner seating unit with a left arm (i.e. an arm unit), a second recliner seating unit with a right arm (i.e. a second arm unit), and a stationary seating unit disposed to be coupled to and between both of the recliner seating units with any of the brackets of FIGS. 1-10. In this view, the unfinished surfaces of both recliner units are exposed to show their inner workings. These unfinished side surfaces of the arm units are pulled away from mating unfinished surfaces of the central, stationary seating unit).

FIG. 13 is a front view of the sofa comprised of the three seating units of FIG. 12 showing the seating units in their coupled-together configuration in which two brackets extending from an unfinished side surface of each of the recliner units are coupled to opposing unfinished side surfaces of the central stationary seating unit.

FIG. 14 is a front view of the three seating units comprising the sofa showing the seating units in their “knocked down” form substantially as they would appear when removed from their individual shipping cartons, with exposed unfinished sides.

FIG. 15 is a front view of the left arm recliner seating unit and the central stationary seating unit in the process of being coupled together.

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the left sidewall of the stationary seating unit showing notches along the lower sidewall that engage the brackets, prevent them from sliding fore-and-aft, and maintain the front surface of each of the seating units coplanar.

FIG. 17-18 are flowcharts illustrating preferred manufacturing, packaging, storage, shipping, and assembly processes for sofas made in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The term “motion unit” as used herein refers to a steel multi-bar mechanical linkage having lower support members configured to rest upon the floor or ground and support the weight of the motion unit, and brackets that are configured to couple to and support both a seat back and seat cushion. The support members and brackets are coupled together to permit the seat cushion and seat back to move, and therebyto assume several different seating positions, and to hold the motion unit in each of those seating positions either by a mechanical lock (also part of the motion unit) or by frictional engagement of motion unit elements. A motion unit is not limited to any particular joint or coupling construction, but may include pivot joints, pin joints, sliding joints, or other joint arrangements that permit the various bars of the motion unit to assume their respective positions. A motion unit may also include a spring or springs to hold the motion unit in a particular seat cushion and seat back position. The lower support members of the motion unit are stationary and do not move with respect to the ground during the reclining process. While it is not mandatory, it is nonetheless common for motion units to have fore-and-aft extending members disposed on either side of the motion unit to which the brackets (described in more detail below) can be coupled.

The term “unfinished” as used herein to characterize a surface, side, or sidewall of a seating unit means that the surface, side, or sidewall so characterized was not designed or constructed with the intention of being viewed during normal use. Seating units with “unfinished” surfaces, sides, or sidewalls are clearly distinguishable from finished surfaces, sides, or sidewalls in that they have a raw appearance, are finished with crude fabrics incompatible with the upholstery fabric, are not finished with any fabric at all, have exposed wooden or metal edges, have exposed sharp protrusions, or have labels or instructions applied to the seating unit or to its packaging indicating that the individual seating units are not to be used separately. These are just some of the ways in which a surface, side, or sidewall can be “unfinished”.

The Bracket

FIGS. 1-10 disclose alternative embodiments of a bracket 100 that is provided to couple individual seating units together to form a sofa. FIGS. 1-4 disclose a first embodiment of bracket 100. The embodiment of FIGS. 1-4 has an elongate member 102. Three braces 104, 106, 108 are coupled to member 102 and extend upward therefrom. Braces 104, 106 extend upward from elongate member 102 and have a first surface 109 that is configured to engage an outer surface 110 of a sidewall 112 (here shown in phantom lines) of a seating unit 114. Brace 108 extends upward from elongate member 102 and has a first surface 115 that faces surface 109 and is configured to engage an inner surface 116 of sidewall 112.

Bracket 100 is formed of a single piece of planar steel, preferably 0.125 inches thick. It is preferable that the entire bracket be between 0.09 and 0.20 inches thick. The bracket is preferably stamped or punched out of steel ribbon or coil stock to form a blank that is subsequently bent to form braces 104, 106, and 108. Bracket 100 preferably has an overall width W of between 1 and 4 inches, and more preferably between 1.5 and 2.5 inches, and even more preferably 2 inches. Bracket 100 preferably has an overall height H of between 1 and 4 inches, more preferably between 1.5 and 3.5 inches, and even more preferred is between 2 and 3 inches in height.

Elongate member 102 and braces 104, 106, and 108 are generally flat and have a constant thickness. Brace 108 extends upward from elongate member 102 above the top of braces bold on 104, 106. Braces 104, 106 are therefore shorter (FIG. 1) than brace 108.

Several holes are provided in bracket 100 that permit the bracket to be fixed to the seating units of the modular furniture. In particular, member 102 has two holes 118 that are configured to receive fasteners 120 extending between member 102 and lower support member 156 of motion unit 122 of recliner seating unit 124. A hole 126 is also provided in brace 108 to permit the operator to fix bracket 100 to sidewall 112 of seating unit 114 with screw 128.

The function of bracket 100 is to couple two adjacent seating units together. Lower support member 122 in FIG. 1 is a portion of one seating unit. Seating unit 114 is an adjacent seating unit. These two seating units are coupled together (better shown in FIGS. 13-16) by brackets 100, which are coupled to lower support members of the motion unit of one seating unit 124 at one end and are coupled to a sidewall 112 of an adjacent seating unit 114 at the other end, thereby coupling them together. As will be explained below, two brackets are preferably used to couple two adjacent seating units together.

Facing surfaces 109 and 115 of bracket 100 are parallel and spaced equidistantly apart. They define therebetween a slot or gap 117 that receives sidewall 112 of seating unit 114. This slot or gap preferably has a constant width slightly larger than the width of sidewall 112. This arrangement permits the two adjacent seating units 114, 124 to be attached to one another simply by raising seating unit 114 slightly, positioning slot 117 of bracket 100 underneath it, and lowering seating unit 114 until sidewall 112 is located in slot 117. Sidewall 112 is shown (in dashed lines) located in slot 117 in FIGS. 1 and 11.

Once they are coupled together with bracket 100, the seating units can be held together even more securely (if desired) by inserting screw 128 through hole 126 and into sidewall 112. Screw 128 fixes sidewall 112 to bracket 100, preventing sidewall 112 from being lifted up and out of slot 117.

FIG. 4 illustrates a steel blank or stamping 130 that has been punched out of steel ribbon or coil stock as a preliminary step to forming bracket 100 of FIGS. 1-3. Blank 130 is bent to form braces 104, 106, 108 of bracket 100 in subsequent manufacturing operations. The lines along which these bins are made to blank 118 are shown as dashed lines in FIG. 4. In an alternative manufacturing process, bracket 100 is formed from ribbon, or strip stock in a series of progressive dies that successively form the outlines of bracket 100 (as shown in FIG. 4) and bend braces 104, 106, 108.

The bracket embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4 is preferred. Alternative embodiments may be used in place of the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4, however. Samples of several alternative embodiments are shown in FIGS. 5-10.

A first alternative embodiment of bracket 100 is shown in FIGS. 5-6. In FIGS. 5-6, bracket 100 is formed out of a length of steel 131 that is bent in three places 132, 134, 136 to form an elongate member 102 from which braces 104, 108 extend upward. This embodiment has the same overall width, overall height, and overall length as the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4. It also has the same mounting holes 118 and securing hole 126 as the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4. The gap between braces 104 and 106 in FIGS. 5-6 is the same as the gap 117 between braces 104, 106, and 108 in the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4. The only difference between the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4 and the embodiment of FIGS. 5-6 is the way in which the metal is bent to form the elongate member 102 and braces 104, 108 from steel strip or roll stock.

An advantage to the bracket embodiment of FIGS. 5-6 is that it can be formed from a single strip of steel stock merely by cutting a length of the stock off and bending it in three places. The additional steps of punching out separate side braces (see e.g. FIG. 4) is eliminated.

Yet another embodiment of bracket 100 is shown in FIGS. 7-8. This embodiment also has the same overall height, overall width, and spacing between its two braces 104, 108 as the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4. The embodiment of FIGS. 7-8 is formed of two pieces of steel strip or ribbon stock that are welded together to form an elongate member 102 from which to upwardly extending braces 104, 108 extend. In this embodiment, brace 104 is welded to member 102. To construct this embodiment, two strips of steel stock are required. And “L”-shaped bend 140 is formed in a longer piece 138 to define brace 108 and elongate member 102. The second strip of steel stock 142 is welded to member 102 and extends upwardly therefrom to form brace 104.

A further embodiment of bracket 100 is shown in FIGS. 9-10. This embodiment also has the same overall height, overall width, and spacing between its two braces 104, 108 as the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4. The embodiment of FIGS. 9-10 is formed of two pieces of steel strip or ribbon stock to define an elongate member 102 from which two upwardly extending braces 104, 108 extend. These two pieces of steel are fixed together with threaded fasteners 148. Alternatively, they can be riveted or welded together.

Each of the above embodiments provides a gap configured to receives sidewall 112 in the same place as gap 117 in the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4.

Brace 104 in FIGS. 9-10 is a portion of an “L”-shaped member 146 that is fixed to elongate member 102. Member 146 is fixed to member 102 by threaded fasteners 148 which extend through holes in both member 102 and member 146. An advantage of this design is that it permits adjustment of the slot or gap between braces 104 and 108. As in all the previous examples, the overall width, the overall height, and spacing between braces 104 and 108 are the same as in the embodiment of FIGS. 1-4.

Seating Units

FIG. 11 illustrates recliner seating unit 124 to which two brackets 100 have been fixed by fasteners 120. Seating unit 124 includes a motion unit 122 that includes a rectangular frame 150 comprised of two laterally extending lower support members 152, 154 that extend across the front and rear, respectively, of the motion unit. Frame 150 is also comprised of two front-to-rear extending members 156, 158 that are fixed to opposite ends of members 152, 154. These four members 152, 154, 156, 158 are fixed together at right angles to one another to define a rectangular box frame that rests upon the ground. Motion unit 122 further includes bars 164, which are pivotally coupled to each other to form a multi-bar linkage. Bars 164 are pivotally coupled to a flange 162 extending upward from frame member 156.

Brackets 100 are fixed to front-to-rear member 156, one forward of the other. The brackets are oriented with respect to each other such that gaps 117 of both brackets are aligned to receive a single sidewall frame member 112 of adjacent stationary seating unit 114. This frame member is shown in dashed line form in FIG. 11 as a rectangular beam extending both vertically and front-to-rear. The other portions of stationary seating unit 114 have been removed for ease of illustration.

Brackets 100 are of identical length. They orient sidewall 112 in a front-to-rear orientation with respect to seating unit 124 and hold it parallel or generally parallel to the side 160 of seating unit 124.

To insert sidewall 112 into position in brackets 100, the user moves it to side 160 of seating unit 124 in a generally abutting side-to-side relationship, and then lowers it (moves it vertically downward) until the sidewall 112 is held firmly in the gap or slot defined between braces 104, 106, and brace 108 of each of the brackets 100. This process is illustrated in FIG. 15. The bottom surface of sidewall 112 preferably does not touch the bottom of the gap or slot 117. It preferably is positioned slightly above the bottom (e.g. slightly above the top of elongate member 102). In this manner, bracket 100 does not hold sidewall 112 and hence the side of seating unit 114 up in the air, and sidewall 112 does not bend bracket 100 downward if the seating units are resting on uneven ground. The weight of seating unit 112 rests upon its frame members, which in turn rest upon the ground.

To remove sidewall 112 and seating unit 114 from bracket 100, the process is reversed: sidewall 112 is lifted vertically upward until it clears brace 108, at which point sidewall 112 (and seating unit 114 of which it is a part) can be moved laterally away from seating unit 124. The direction that unit 114 must be moved with respect to unit 124 so bracket 100 can clear sidewall 112 is perpendicular to the longitudinal extent or lengthwise direction (“L” in FIG. 13) of the sofa.

When sidewall 112 is inserted into the gaps or slots 117 of brackets 100, sidewall 112 is prevented from moving both toward and away from recliner seating unit 124. Brackets 100 are fixed such that the facing inner surfaces of braces 104, 106, 108 are oriented perpendicular to the side-to-side extent of seating unit 114 and 124. When all three seating units are coupled together (FIG. 13) to form a complete sofa, the side-to-side direction is parallel to the longitudinal extent or lengthwise direction of the sofa. Thus, brackets 100 prevent adjacent seating units from moving toward or away from one another in a direction parallel to the length (“L” in FIG. 13) of the sofa.

This arrangement of brackets 100 permits the seating units of the sofa to be easily separated merely by lifting one or more of the units with respect to the other and sliding the lifted unit away from its adjacent unit. At the same time, once all three seating units of the sofa are coupled together (as shown in FIG. 13) the user can grab either end of the sofa, push it, pull it, or otherwise slide it across the floor on which it rests to reposition the entire sofa. A single user can, for example, pull the entire sofa away from a wall to permit cleaning behind the sofa by grasping an armrest at one end of the sofa and pulling the end unit having the armrest away from the wall. The other units, due to the superior strength and configuration of brackets 100, are constrained to remain in their predetermined relative positions with respect to the unit on which the user pushes and pulls.

This ability to be pushed, pulled, and dragged around a room without tearing the individual units apart is lacking in the traditional modular sofas. Modular sofas, with their small snaps or other retaining devices embedded in upholstered surfaces, are unable to withstand such pushing and pulling without being pulled apart. Furthermore, the snaps are attached to the fabric of the modular units, and not to hard physical structures such as the frame of the stationary unit or elongate members of the motion unit. The connectors coupling seating units of modular sofas are operated by abutting two modular units and pressing them against each other in a direction perpendicular to the plane of their abutting surfaces—i.e. parallel to the longitudinal extent of the modular sofa. The connectors between seating units of modular sofas are also frictional-type connectors that do not positively lock. If enough forces applied to the connectors are snaps between modular units, they are intended to uncouple and pull apart. Modular unit connectors are typically industrial snap fasteners. In contrast to this, sofas using bracket 100 are engaged and disengaged from one another by lifting or lowering one seating unit with respect to the other, by sliding the surface of one seating unit with respect to the surface on the adjacent seating unit that it abuts. Pushing or pulling a seating unit according to the present invention, such as by sliding a sofa around and repositioning it on the floor will not cause brackets 100 to become disengaged. Brackets 100 positively lock. They will not release when pulled in a direction perpendicular to the surfaces on a joining seating units that they hold together.

Recliner seating unit 124 includes several further components in addition to frame 150 of motion unit 122 and brackets 100. Each of the front-to-rear of members 156, 158 includes a vertically extending flange 162 to which several bars 164 of a multi-bar linkage are pivotally coupled. FIG. 11 only illustrates the multi-bar linkage that is pivotally fixed to and extends upward from front-to-rear member 156. Motion unit 122 includes an identical multi-bar linkage (but in mirror image form) is fixed to and extends upward from a similar flange lawn front-to-rear member 158 located on the other side of seating unit 124. These two multi-bar linkages are typically coupled together to synchronize their movements. Each of the two multi-bar linkages includes a member 172 to which the seat back 170 is coupled.

The particular arrangement of these bars is beyond the scope of this invention and is not described herein. Each manufacturer of motion units has its own preferred configuration of bars 164 that provide what that manufacturer believes to be the most pleasing motion for reclining the recliner seating unit.

Recliner seating unit 124 also includes an upholstered seat 166 that is fixed to the top of the two multi-bar linkages disposed on both sides of (and extending upward from both sides of) the motion unit base. Seat 166 is typically screwed on to upper portions of the multi-bar linkages such that seat 166 can only be removed by reaching underneath the seat and unscrewing it.

Recliner seating unit 124 also includes an upholstered footrest 168 that is fixed to forward portions of the multi-bar linkages. The multi-bar linkages are configured to pivot footrest 168 upward and outward away from seat 166 when motion unit 122 is reclined to thereby support the user's ankles and feet.

Recliner seating unit 124 further includes an upholstered seat back 170 which is removably fixed to two pivoting members 172 of the two multi-bar linkages that extend upward from the rear top portions of the multi-bar linkages. Seat back 170 has two corresponding sockets 174 fixed to a lower portion of the frame of seat back 170 on either side of seat back 170 that are configured to receive members 172. Seat back 170 is fixed to motion unit 122 only by these two members 172. This provides a quick connect between the seat back 170 and the motion unit itself. By pulling sharply upward on the seat back, the user can disconnect the seat back from the motion unit and lay it flat for shipment. Similarly, by pressing sharply downward on the seat back, the operator can coupled the seat back to the motion unit without additional fasteners (unless additional security is desired).

Motion unit 122, when operated, pivots members 172 backward, causing the seat back 170 to recline. At the same time, motion unit 122 causes seat 166 to translate forward and the rear portion of seat 166 to move slightly downward. At the same time, motion unit 122 causes foot rest 168 to pivot upward and outward away from seat 166 to a position in which it can support the user's legs. Each of the three components—the foot rest, the seat, and the seat back—are fixed directly to bars of both the multi-bar linkages pivotally coupled to and extending upward from the front-to-rear frame members 156, 158.

The upholstered seating unit may include alternative structures designed to increase its usability. For example, a seating unit may be a console unit, which comprises one or more of a variety of other structures such as an armrest, a drink holder, a pocket for receiving remote controls and the like, a cooler or refrigeration unit, or a box. Console units may be as wide as a regular seating unit designed for seating, or they may be significantly narrower, for example 8-12 inches wide.

The Sofa

FIGS. 12-14 illustrate a multi-unit sofa 177 comprised of three seating units, including a recliner seating unit 124, a stationary unit 114 and a second recliner unit 175. FIG. 12 shows the three seating units separated, but disposed adjacent to one another as they would appear when coupled together. FIG. 13 shows the three seating units assembled to form sofa 177. FIG. 14 shows the three seating units adjacent one another with their seat backs removed and placed on top of their seats. This shows the seating units as they would appear immediately after removal from their separate shipping boxes or cartons, or just prior to being inserted into their separate shipping boxes or cartons.

Referring now to FIG. 12, the two recliner seating units 124, 175 are disposed on either side of stationary seating unit 114. Recliner seating unit 124 is described above in conjunction with FIGS. 1-11. Stationary seating unit 114 is also described above with regard to FIG. 1 and FIG. 11 and below with regard to FIG. 16.

Recliner seating unit 175 is an identical, mirror image of recliner seating unit 124 and is disposed on the opposite side of stationary seating unit 114. Recliner seating unit 175 engages corresponding adjacent and abutting sidewall 176 of stationary unit 114 in a manner identical to the way recliner seating unit 124 engages sidewall 112 of stationary unit 114. Just as brackets 100 on recliner seating unit 124 engage sidewall 112, so do brackets 100 on recliner seating unit 175 engage sidewall 176. Recliner seating units 124, 175 are mirrored with respect or each other about a mirror plane that extends perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa (i.e. direction “L” in FIG. 13) and extending through the middle of stationary unit 114. This mirror relationship can be seen best in FIG. 12 and FIG. 13.

Each recliner seating unit has an armrest 177 that is disposed at its outermost edge. The recliner seating units have only a single unfinished or semifinished side. Each unfinished side faces and couples to an adjacent unfinished side of seating unit 114. The opposing finished side surface on each recliner seating unit defines the end side wall of the sofa. It is not configured to be coupled to any adjacent seating unit. It is upholstered and finished in the same manner as the other exposed surfaces of the sofa.

Stationary seating unit 114 has a box frame construction and no motion unit. The left side of seating unit 114 (as shown in FIG. 12) has a front-to-rear extending sidewall 112 that defines the leftmost edge of seating unit 114. Similarly, the right side of seating unit 114 (as shown in FIG. 12) has a front-to-rear extending sidewall 176 that is configured to engage brackets 100 of seating unit 175. Sidewalls 112 and 176 extend vertically from the ground upward for approximately 10 inches. When the sofa is assembled, the sidewalls 112, 176 are coupled to brackets 100 on recliner seating units 124 and 175 to make the single integrated multi-unit sofa that is best shown in FIG. 13.

Stationary seating unit 114 is formed in two portions. The first portion is a lower seat portion 178 which includes an upholstered seat as well as the box frame (including sidewalls 112, 176) that support it. Lower seat portion 178 rests upon the ground. The second portion is a seat back 180 removably coupled to lower seat portion 178. Lower seat portion 178 has upwardly extending members fixed to the rear corners of its box frame that extend upward therefrom. These members cannot be seen in FIG. 12. They are, however, constructed and positioned identical to members 172 of the seating unit 124. Unlike members 172 of seating unit 124, however, the members at the rear corner of the box frame are not a portion of a motion unit. They are fixed directly to the box frame of lower seating portion 178. These members are inserted into sockets fixed to either side of the bottom of seat back 180. These sockets are constructed and positioned identical to sockets 174 on seat back 170 of motion unit 124. Because of this member and socket coupling structure, seat back 180 can be separated from lower seat portion 178 by lifting seat back 180 upward, thereby disconnecting the seat back from lower seat portion 178. The seat backs 170 of motion units 124 and 175 are removable in the same manner. By providing for the easy removal of the seat backs of all three seating units in this manner, each of the three seating units can be packed into a much smaller space for shipping and storage.

FIG. 14 illustrates the three seating units in their “knocked down” (i.e. disassembled for shipping and storage) state. FIG. 14 illustrates the orientation of each of the three seating units with their surrounding packaging removed. FIG. 14 shows the three units as they are packed for shipping. In FIG. 14, the seat backs are placed directly on their corresponding seat portions with the upholstered and padded side of the seat back (i.e. the portion against which the user rests his back) facing downward. The seat backs are disposed generally horizontally in FIG. 14. This reduces the overall height of each seating unit. In this manner, each of the seating units takes up a minimal amount of space. Further, this arrangement creates a broad flat upper surface (i.e. the back surface 190 of each of the seat backs) that distributes any load placed on top of the seating unit evenly to the lower portion of the seating unit. This broad load distribution permits the three seating units to be stacked one atop the other for shipping. Each of the seating units is placed inside its own individual shipping container (for example, cardboard, paperboard, or corrugated paperboard boxes).

FIG. 15 illustrates the manner in which the individual seating units are coupled together. To assemble the knocked down seating unit shown in FIG. 14 the user first attaches each seat back to its respective seat portion. The operator lifts the seat backs off their respective seat portions, raises them into a substantially vertical position and presses them and their sockets 174 downward on to the corresponding mating members extending upward from the back of the seat portions.

Once the seating units are assembled, the user grasps one of the units (in the example shown in FIG. 15, seating unit 114), moves that unit into a position adjacent to the seating unit to which it shall be attached (e.g. adjacent to seating unit 124), slides an abutting side surface 192 upward with respect to an abutting side surface 194 of the adjacent seating unit (e.g. unit 124), then slides side surface 192 downward until brackets 100 (not shown in FIG. 15) engage sidewall 112 of seating unit 114. If the user wishes the seating units to be more securely fastened together, the user can insert screws 128 through brackets 100 and screw them into sidewall 112.

FIG. 15 only illustrates two seating units 114, 124. Seating unit 175, while not separately illustrated, is attached to the opposite sidewall 176 of seating unit 114 in a manner identical to that of seating unit 124. The user slides seating unit 175 until it is adjacent to the opposing side surface 196 of seating unit 114. The surface is identical to surface 192 but is on the opposite side of seating unit 114. Once seating unit 175 is in this position, the user lifts seating unit 114 upward slightly, then pushes the side surface of seating unit 175 into an abutting relationship with side surface 196. Once in this position, the operator lowers seating unit 114, letting sidewall 176 slide downward into slots 117 of brackets 100 that extend from seating unit 175. This process of attaching seating unit 175 to seating unit 114 is identical to the process followed in attaching seating unit 124 to seating unit 114. As in the case of attaching seating unit 124 to seating unit 114, the user can insert screws 128 through brackets 100 and into sidewall 176 once seating units 175 and 114 are coupled together as described above.

Disassembly of the sofa into its three individual seating units follows the reverse process. First, any screws 128 are removed. Second, seating unit 114 is lifted upward, sliding side surfaces 192, 196 of unit 114 along the mating surfaces 194, 198 of units 124, 175, respectively, until brackets 100 on both unit 124 and unit 175 are clear of sidewalls 112, 176. At this point, unit 114 can be simply set aside, or units 124 and 175 can be withdrawn away from unit 114 and unit 114 lowered back to the ground. Either method will separate the assembled sofa into three separate units.

It should be clear from this description that in order to couple the seating units together, the seating units are moved relative to one another in a direction generally perpendicular to the longitudinal extent of the sofa.

Unit 114 may be translated vertically to either couple it to, or uncouple it from, the other two seating units. It can also be pivoted or tilted about a front-to-rear axis, as shown in FIG. 15, to slide its side surfaces 192, 196 upward and away from brackets 100. Alternatively, it can be pivoted backward about its side-to-side extending back bottom edge 200 (FIG. 16) or pivoted forward about its side-to-side extending front bottom edge 202 (FIG. 16). Whether tilted side-to-side about a front-to-rear axis as shown in FIG. 15, or tilted forward about its front bottom edge 202, or backward about its back bottom edge 200 as shown in FIG. 16, the effect is the same: the side surfaces 192, 196 of seating unit 114 are translated in a plane perpendicular to the longitudinal extent (i.e. the direction of length “L” in FIG. 13) until the seating units are coupled or uncoupled.

FIG. 16 shows features of stationary seating unit 114 that contribute to holding the three seating units in proper front-to-rear alignment with respect to each other. Brackets 100 engage slots at the bottom edges of the sidewalls of seating units 114 to hold the three seating units in proper front-to-rear alignment, such that front surfaces 204, 206, 208 of seating units 124, 114, 175 are co-planar, extend straight across the front of the sofa. This eliminates substantially all front-to-rear free play between brackets 100 and the sidewalls of seating unit 114 that might otherwise let one of the seating units slide forward or backward with respect to the other seating units. This straight-line, coplanar orientation is best shown in FIG. 13. Seating unit 114 is configured to engage brackets 100, holding them in the proper front-to-rear position, aligning the front surfaces of all three seating units co-planar as shown in FIG. 16. Slots or recesses 210 are located on the bottom edge 212 of both the lateral sidewalls 112, 176 of seating unit 114. Only sidewall 112 is illustrated in FIG. 16. Sidewall 176 and its slots are configured identically to sidewall 112 and its slots 210 but in mirrored form. The depth of the slots 210 in the sidewalls are sufficient to receive elongate members 102 of brackets 100, and to provide a slight clearance between brackets 100 and the ground. The bottom of slots 210 does not touch and is not supported by brackets 100. The preferred distance between the ground and top 212 of slots 210 is between 0.3 and 1.5 inches. Slots 210 are preferably slightly wider than the width of the portions of members 102 that are disposed in slots 210. The extra width should be wide enough to permit seating unit 114 to be coupled to units 124 and 175 in the manner described herein (e.g. by being slid into position, lifted, and dropped as shown in FIG. 15, or pivoted about its front bottom 202 or rear bottom 200 edges) while at the same time being narrow enough to hold seating unit 114 in proper front-to-rear alignment with adjacent seating units 124, 175. Slots 210 should not be so wide that front 206 of stationary seating unit 114 appears misaligned (and hence broken) when pushed forward or backward with respect to seating units 124, 175 to which it is coupled.

Manufacture and Shipping

The design of the sofa and the individual seating units described above provide the manufacturer, the distributor, the shipping company, the retailer, and the end-user with particular advantages not provided by any of the multi-unit or multi-seat sofas disclosed in the prior art. These advantages are due primarily to the mode in which prior art sofas are packaged, stored, and shipped.

Sectional sofas in the prior art are made as individual seating units that are manufactured on a single assembly line, and are then bolted together using a long and relatively lightweight steel bar. Once bolted together, this long single piece sofa is inserted horizontally into a long, horizontally disposed box or carton. These boxes, which can be 10-12 feet long, are then picked up by special lift trucks and are carefully maneuvered through the factory to a storage area, where they are stored horizontally, with the sofa assembled and in the same position it will be and when unpackaged and placed in a room for use.

Each sofa must be carefully handled, even when it is within its cardboard box or carton, since the steel bars or channels coupling the individual seating units are not particularly strong. In a typical prior art design, the bars or channels extend the entire length of the sofa. A first bar is bolted to the laterally extending front edges or front sidewalls of all of the seating units, and a second bar is bolted to the rear edges or rear sidewalls of all of the seating units. These bars add considerable weight to the sofa, yet due to their length are not rigid enough to prevent the sofa from flexing when it is lifted and carried at each end.

Due to their length, each prior art sectional sofa takes up a significant portion of floor space. A typical prior art sofa carton is 3 feet wide 3 feet high and 11-12 feet long, for a total of 33 square feet for each sofa. A further complication is that only one sofa carton can be placed on each 33 square foot portion of warehouse space. Sofa cartons cannot be stacked two cartons high since their weight will rest on the armrests of the sofa underneath them, supporting the upper sofa at each end. Since the upper sofa is only supported at each end, a steady bending force is applied to the upper sofa and the steel bars or channels that couple each of its seating units together. Over time, the steel bars or channels will often bend in the middle under this load, sometimes twisting the motion units. When this happens, the motion units are typically damaged and do not operate properly. The sofa is a loss.

Two people are required to deliver a prior art sofa in a long horizontal sofa carton to a customer's house. With one person grasping each end of the carton, it is carried into the house, through doorways, around corners, and upstairs, until they have carried it to the place where it is to be unpacked. Unfortunately, during this extended handling the sofa is often bent going around corners or damaged banging against door trim. The box itself must typically be removed at the entrance of the house because it is too big to take through doorways and around corners.

In contrast to this prior art system, a sofa according to the present design is significantly stronger than the prior art sofas. Furthermore, a sofa of the present design can be shipped and handled much more easily. Furthermore, it can be stored in warehouses or stockrooms in much greater density, and can be handled by common, everyday equipment found in shipping and receiving areas such as large hand trucks. All of these benefits are due to the particular construction of the sofa, and the fact that the sofa itself is not assembled at the factory, but is assembled at its final destination in the customer's dwelling. The construction of the sofa, in turn, is based upon the novel way of coupling together the seating units of that sofa.

Referring now to the improved system of manufacturing, storing, shipping, and assembling sectional sofas shown in FIGS. 17 and 18, seating units 124, 114 and 175 can be manufactured in separate manufacturing lines 300, 302, 306. Alternatively the three seating units can be manufactured in one or two lines as well. The benefit of manufacturing individual types of seating units in separate lines is that the manufacture of seating units need not be entirely stopped whenever one type of seating unit cannot be manufactured.

For example, if assembly line 306 runs out of a part needed for the manufacture of seating unit 175, assembly lines 303, 302 can continue manufacturing seating units 124 and 114. This is possible because each seating unit is individually packaged in its own box 308, 310, 312. Since each seating unit is packaged in its own box, the seating units for a single sofa can be packaged individually and at different times. They can be stored in a warehouse in their individual boxes and later brought together and joined for shipping to a distribution center, retailer, or ultimate purchaser. In the prior art system, sofas are made one at a time on a single production line. Should a part be missing for any one of the seating units, for example, the entire production has to stop. In the prior art system, in which sofas were manufactured as complete units, no sofa is complete without the missing parts, and therefore no sofa can be packaged and stored as long as one seating unit of that sofa is missing components. All production shuts down.

Each individual seating unit 124, 114, 175 is stored in its own respective carton 308, 310, 312. Typically all three production lines are run simultaneously, each line producing one style of seating unit and packaging that unit in its respective carton. The cartons 308, 310, 312 have visual indicia 314, 316, 318, such as labels, that include visual markings indicating the model of the sofa, and visual markings indicating the particular location of the seating unit within the sofa. For example, indicia 314 might say “Model 17, left facing armrest”, indicia 316 might say “Model 17, center unit”, and indicia 318 might say “Model 17, right facing armrest”, where “Model 17” indicates the model of the sofa and “left facing armrest”, “center unit”, and “right facing armrest” indicate the particular location of a seating unit within the sofa itself. Other visual indicia may include such things as labels indicating color, style, fabric, and date of manufacture.

In the preferred embodiment, the seating units are not shipped separately to distribution centers, warehouses, or ultimate consumers. They are preferably shipped as several boxes containing all the seating units necessary to make a single sofa. In the example illustrated in FIG. 17, the sofa is made of three seating units 124, 114, 175. For that reason, FIG. 17 shows three assembly lines and three individual cartons in which the seating units are inserted. It should be recognized, however, that any number of seating units can be coupled together to make a single sofa in accordance with the present invention. For convenience, however, the explanation below is limited to a sofa comprised of three seating units.

Once seating units 124, 114, 175 have been placed in cartons, the cartons are preferably joined together and packaged as a single sofa package 320. In the preferred embodiment, the three cartons 308, 310, 312 containing seating units 124, 114, 175 are stacked one on top of the other in vertical alignment with visual indicia 314, 316, 318 oriented to face the same direction. Once stacked, the three cartons of seating units are fixed together. FIG. 17 shows a preferred method of fixing the cartons together. Plastic film 322 is unrolled from a plastic film roll 324 and is wrapped around and around the three cartons, joining all three together as a single sofa package 320.

Sofa package 320 does not suffer from the same problems as prior art sofa cartons did because of its vertical orientation when stored. Sofa package 320 can be stacked vertically to take up a 3×3 foot square of floor space and extend 8-10 feet up into the air. This is a much more efficient use of warehouse space. This vertical orientation is possible because of the orientation of the seating units within each carton and the fact that multiple (3 in this example) cartons are used. The seating units are packaged in each carton as they would rest on the floor: with their bottom sides facing downward and their top sides facing upward, as shown in FIG. 17 and (shown without their cartons) in FIG. 14 herein.

Since each seating unit is designed to support loads applied to the seating unit in a vertical direction it can help support the weight of one or two other seating unit stacked on top of it. Furthermore, a significant portion of the load is not transmitted from seating unit to seating unit, but is transferred from the seating unit carton to the seating unit carton below that and thence to the ground. Since each seating unit is in a carton, and each seating unit rests upon a lower surface of its carton, the orientation of the cartons, one above the other, resting against each other, transfers a significant portion of the load down the sidewalls of the cartons to the ground. Only a reduced portion of the weight is transferred from seating unit to seating unit, typically by slight downward flexing of the bottom of one carton against the top of the carton below, which in turn presses (slightly) against the seating unit in the below carton.

Once the sofa package 320 is created, it is then carried (typically by a wheeled vehicle 323) to a warehouse or storage area 325 where it is stored on end in a reduced space. Since the footprint of the sofa package is only 3′×3′, wheeled vehicle 323 need not be a custom vehicle capable of lifting and transporting an 11-12 foot long horizontal package, as the prior art sofa cartons require. Since it does not need to maneuver with an 11-12 foot carton extending straight out from vehicle 323, the warehouse aisles it travels down can be much narrower. Hence, warehouse space previously devoted to vehicle travel can be reduced in size. This, in turn, permits the warehouse or storage area to have even more footage available for storing sofa packages. In addition, the wheeled vehicle can be as simple as a single hand truck operable by one individual, such as hand trucks used to lift and carry refrigerators, ice boxes, and other appliances having a similar three-foot by three-foot footprint.

Eventually, the manufacturer receives an order for the sofa in sofa package 320 and delivers package 320 to a retailer or distribution center. Wheeled vehicle 323 collects sofa package 320 and places it aboard a vehicle such as truck 326. Truck 326 preferably has an engine and chassis that that support a shipping container 328. This container is preferably separable from the engine and chassis. A particular advantage to the arrangement of the sofa in sofa package 320 is that its height is less than that of a standard sofa carton set on end. This permits sofa package 320 to be placed in container 328 in the upright orientation shown in FIG. 17, and not laid on its side, as would be required of a traditional sectional sofa carton.

Once sofa carton 320 is loaded, truck 326 continues to ship 330, which is configured to carry container 328 over body of water 332 inside container 328 to the ship's destination.

When ship 330 arrives at its destination, sofa package 320 is transferred to truck 334 and it is taken to warehouse or distribution center 333. Truck 334 may be configured to receive and transport container 328 with sofa package 320 inside, or it may be configured with its own body 336 which is configured to receive sofa package 320 when the ship is unloaded at its destination.

Sofa package 320 is stored at warehouse or distribution center 333 until an order for the sofa in package 320 is received, either from a retailer or from an ultimate consumer (i.e. a user) of the sofa and the final transport step begins.

Due to the unique construction and packaging of the sofa, this final transport is preferably performed in two different ways.

In accordance with a first method, sofa package 320 is loaded on a wheeled vehicle 334 which takes it to a loading area 336 at warehouse or distribution center 332. It is then broken down into three cartons 338, each carton enclosing its own seating unit. One, two, or all three of these cartons are then loaded into the vehicle 340 such as a small enclosed truck, pickup truck, or car. Vehicle 340 then transports these cartons to a dwelling or office 342 where they are unloaded from vehicle 340. More than one trip may be necessary to take all three cartons to dwelling or office 342. Once unloaded from vehicle 340, the cartons are carried inside individually and successively to the room in dwelling 342 where the sofa will be assembled.

The seating units 124, 114, 175 inside the cartons are then individually and successively unwrapped (FIG. 14) to expose their knocked down form for shipping, with their disassembled seat backs resting horizontally, and facing downward on top of their corresponding seat portions. At this point, the user lifts up the seat backs and attaches them to the seat portions of each seating unit and couples the seat portions together as shown in FIG. 15.

In the second shipping method, vehicle 334 carries sofa package 320 to vehicle 344 (typically a delivery truck) in which it is loaded in the preferred vertical, upstanding position without separating the three individual cartons. This arrangement saves floor space and permits several sofas or other items to be loaded inside vehicle 344 adjacent to sofa package 320.

Once vehicle 344 has been driven to dwellng 342, sofa package 320 is removed from the vehicle and broken down into its separate cartons. Alternatively, sofa package 320 is broken down into individual cartons inside the vehicle itself and each carton is removed singly and successively from vehicle 344.

As in the previous case, the boxes are singly and successively taken inside dwelling 342 to the room in which the sofa is to be assembled. Once in the room, the cartons are removed from each seating unit. With the cartons removed, the three seating units will appear as shown in FIG. 14. At this point, the user lifts 6 the seat backs and attaches them to the seat portions of each seating unit and couples the seat portions together as shown in FIG. 15.

There are several advantages to this arrangement. The prior art sofa packages were typically too tall to be turned on end and carried in typical delivery trucks (e.g. vehicles 340, 344). By providing a sofa package with a lower height (in a vertical orientation) than the standard sofa carton, it is possible to fit sofas into more vehicles. This permits sofas to be carried in a greater variety of enclosed (i.e. covered) trucks. Furthermore, by providing a sofa that is broken down and stored in three individual cartons, a single person can carry the sofa into a house for dwelling 342 either by hand or with a hand truck. This, in turn, permits sofa pickups and deliveries to be made by a single person driving an automobile or small truck. Vehicles 340, 344 can be manned and occupied by a single individual who (1) drives the vehicle to its destination dwelling 342, (2) unloads the vehicle, (3) successively carries each carton into the dwelling, (4) unwraps each carton, and (5) assembles the sofa. Since sofa package 320 is actually comprised of three individual cartons, parts of the sofa are not lost during shipping since they are not separated. Only when the sofa is sold and makes its final leg of the delivery, or alternatively is delivered to its final destination, need the package be separated. Further, since each individual seating unit is separately wrapped, each seating unit can be carried, either wrapped or unwrapped, into dwelling 342 by itself, and not coupled to the other two seating units. Traditional sofa cartons are oftentimes so large that the sofa can only be brought inside the dwelling after the sofa had been completely unwrapped in order to provide clearance to get through doorways, down halls, and around corners. By providing individual seating units that are separately wrapped, the user can take them inside dwelling or office 342 in their wrapped condition, preventing injury to the seating units when the cartons inevitably bump against walls, doorways, and other items.

It will be understood that changes in the details, materials, steps, and arrangements of parts which have been described and illustrated to explain the nature of the invention will occur to and may be made by those skilled in the art upon a reading of this disclosure within the principles and scope of the invention. The foregoing description illustrates the preferred embodiment of the invention; however, concepts, as based upon the description, may be employed in other embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the following claims are intended to protect the invention broadly as well as in the specific form shown.