When a pair wants to get cozy at home, they head straight for the nearest settee. This is because it is big enough to seat two, but can also be too small to permit a third person sneaking in. A settee is sometimes larger, but most people think of a settee as a small couch.
Whereas the word "couch" has people thinking of heavily cushioned domestic seating, "settee" conjures a host of varied images. There are so many different styles that one could compare this humble piece of furnishing to the wedding dress. Throughout time both items have been lavish, sparse, low cut, high cut, all colors and shapes. Trends have affected the choices of materials. Both are icons of fashion, just in different ways.
An antique settee would fall into two categories. There are the luxurious examples from stately homes which are upholstered in rich fabrics, often burgundy or claret. Their frames are ornate, causing them to resemble wide thrones rather than domestic seating options. Another antique settee would be the rural style, featuring fewer cushions and framed from wood. The curved shape would be similar, but the bench would be a lot harder than its more elaborate cousin.
The designer settee experiments with elegant leg and back shapes, adding metal curlicues or even filigree. They were built with and without arms. Contemporary designers often experiment with this shape, taking the simple high rounded back and adding more movement to the design. Sometimes they take out one arm, or remove the seam between arms to create one flow of ornamentation from a single corner, all the way along the back and down one side.
During the first part of the 20th century, throne-like furnishings appear to have been scaled down. Eventually, consumers were introduced to what we think of as the retro styles of the fifties and sixties which include some futuristic designs. Some chairs are minimal and white, even metallic. Others make use of synthetic materials new to their era. As the seventies crept in, so did a fondness for bright orange vinyl on the one hand, with sickly soft mustard velour as one of the other options. The settee had lost its outward curves, although there were often a lot of cushions to make up for that. Minimalism has hung around, while a number of designers are playing with geometry. For example, it is possible to purchase a settee which takes the shape of a large square fitted in the center with various backs and bolsters set at angles, so that people are not arranged side by side.
Settees belong everywhere. If you have a big hallway, they are an ideal place to put shoes on, or to wait for others still tying their laces. In a bedroom, a settee sits under a window so that one can read a book by natural light. Often they can serve as a corner sofa. The most popular place to put a settee is the living room, but they also belong in the den, a games room, and in the middle of art galleries. The familiar settee can be found anywhere.