What is a settee? This is a common question among clients when I shop for living room furnishings. With so many options, it can be confusing to distinguish a settee from similar seating like a loveseat or bench.
Without understanding the unique attributes of a settee, you risk purchasing something ill-suited for your space that misses the elegant charm of this furniture style. I’m here to explain what settees are and their purpose so you’ll know when to use them in your space.
What is a Settee Sofa?
A settee sofa is an elegant, upholstered bench-style seat with a curved back, arms, and ornate woodwork designed to accommodate two or more people comfortably. It offers refined, traditional styling that works well in a formal living room for entertaining guests or relaxing.
History and Origins
A settee started as a formal, smaller bench in the 1700s. The traditional English design remained popular among wealthy families until the 19th century because it provided young couples with a safe space to talk to each other. A settee also represented opulence, sophistication, and refinement among the elite.
However, the popularity of settees dwindled in the early 20th century when Americans began to ridicule them as an unhealthy and inefficient way to sit. Wood says, “As ideas of comfort changed and furniture became more stuffed, settees fell out of favor as a common piece of home furniture”.
Like other upholstery chairs, a settee is often used as a seating arrangement for guests. However, settees are now utilized as seating for two parties simultaneously or as an elevated surface for reading and writing.
A settee sofa is a super comfy cushion option for your living room, bedroom, or spare room. It can be styled in many ways — with a modern twist in genuine leather or as an elegant vintage piece. A settee sofa, also known as a conversational sofa, offers versatility in any home.
Settees are now popular in more formal or chic environments as they are more functional for entertainment, like cocktail parties or tea dates. This type of sofa furniture is not necessarily enticing amongst family-based homes, who may prefer a functional small daybed.
Settees are types of upholstery chairs with arms that angle up toward the user and a back that curves slightly toward the raised legs. You can use them either as a sitting or stand-alone prop or decoration in a room.
According to Modsy’s VP of Style Alessandra Wood, “A settee is generally a smaller version of a sofa that sits on raised legs and often has a high back”. Thus, instead of a lounge piece, it lets one to two people sit on it.
A standard settee ranges in size from 50 to 70 inches long and 30 to 40 inches deep, with a seat height of around 18 to 22 inches, designed to fit two to three adults comfortably. Larger settees may reach up to 90 inches long to accommodate more guests in a reception seating area.
Settees are typically made of wood with some fabric or plastic in between.
- Linen: I opt for linen settees for elegant living rooms. However, it’s only ideal for low-traffic areas since the fabric tends to wrinkle and stain.
- Wool: Wool is incredibly strong and is usually resistant to stains, wrinkles, fades, and pilling. I also like that I can customize wool-based settees to blend with other synthetic fibers for greater wear durability and easier spot cleaning.
- Silk: Soft and delicate silk is another material I prefer to use in settees. However, I only consider a silk settee in a formal living room due to its fragility.
- Cotton: Cotton settees are among my favorites because the fabric resists fading and pilling. The downside is that some cotton sofas don’t resist soiling or wrinkles.
- Leather: As far as durability and sophistication are concerned, this leather is among the most reliable. As part of its durability as well as ease of cleaning, a faux leather settee can resist friction from kids and pets playing in living rooms.
- Wood: A wooden settee with foam cushions is among the most reliable designs. Wood is a long-lasting natural material that can withstand wear and tear, letting it age with beauty even with minimal care.
How Settees Stack Up Against Sofas and Couches
The main differences distinguishing settees from couches and sofas are the curved back, archetypal wood frame styling, and ornate details that give settees a refined, sophisticated aesthetic suited to traditional decor. Settees also fit two to three people, unlike larger sofas that accommodate more guests and family members in casual spaces.
While settees, sofas, and couches are upholstered seating chairs, settees are typically designed in a more elegant, ornate style for formal spaces like a dining room.
Couches and sofas focus more on abundance, for reading and casual seating for family rooms and living areas in various styles. A settee is like a small daybed nowadays, although couches and sofas are more customizable to transform into regular beds in any room.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Settee Sofa Used For?
A settee is often used as elegant seating in more formal spaces, like a dining or entertainment room. The shape of a settee provides a comfortable place to sit while entertaining guests or relaxing with a book.
What Style Is a Settee?
Settees are designed in traditional, elegant styles like Victorian and French Provincial, that pair well with a dining room and parlor. They have a refined, opulent appearance with curved arms, ornate woodwork, and luxe upholstery.
What Size Is a Settee?
Standard settees range from 50 to 70 inches long and 30 to 40 inches deep to seat two to three people. Larger settees may be up to 90 inches long for seating more guests in a reception area.
A settee is a refined yet comfortable sofa designed to accommodate two or more people, often used for entertaining guests in any room. With origins dating back centuries, the settee offers a versatile seating option that provides style and utility when thoughtfully incorporated into modern home interiors.