History of the Loveseat
As Valentine’s Day rolls around, it is time to take a look at one of the staple pieces of furniture in many homes shared by a couple; the aptly-named loveseat. Though the term ‘loveseat’ can be used to describe a variety of seating options, such as an S-shaped sofa which allows lovers to sit face to face on the same sofa, or a simple wooden bench with two cushions, the most popular acknowledgement of the word today is the traditional two-seater sofa.
The loveseat was originally invented during the late 17th century and was intended as a place for women to sit whilst they wore the huge dresses with hoops, layers, underskirts and petticoats which were en vogue at the time. The first loveseats were not upholstered, and were certainly nothing like the real leather sofas that many are accustomed today; they were simply plain wooden seats, slightly larger than normal, which offered women clad in acres of heavy fabric to sit down comfortably. As fashion progressed into the 18th and 19th centuries and the size of women’s dresses shrank into slimmer, more form-fitting gowns, women began to find that there was more space on these seats, and it was observed that the space now offered couples and lovers the opportunity to sit closely together and chat without anyone overhearing their conversation. Social norms favoured decency and prudence, and so the relative closeness that the seats enforced gave courting couples privacy without compromising their decency in any way. This is how the name ‘loveseat’ came about.
As these small sofas were only present in the homes of the middle and upper classes during the Victorian era, they started to become seen as a symbol of elitism in Britain. However, during the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century, which brought new wealthy to many areas of Britain, these types of sofas filtered down into working class homes and became instant furniture staples; they didn’t take up too much room in the often small properties and they exuded style and comfort. They were primarily made in the ‘Chippendale’ style, after Thomas Chippendale, who pioneered them during the 1700s. His furniture featured motifs from China and England and was strongly preoccupied with gothic themes like dark wood and intricate carvings. This antique look is still popular with many loveseats today.
Boudoir loveseats were the next step, coming into prominence during the 1940s. With the soft skirt hiding the legs underneath and backs just like ordinary chairs, they are one of the most romantic incarnations of this old seating option, and were prominent in plenty of advertising during the era. They were still romantic yet also functional and decorative; they were placed in bedrooms and near ultra-feminine dressing tables, they added a sense of glamour to many living rooms and were placed in the hallways and side-rooms of Britain’s richest inhabitants as a symbol of their class.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the romance of the loveseat almost lost its way; they started to become functional pieces that were used to furnish tiny high-rise flats and small properties, constructed from hard, tough metal and dull fabrics. The genuine leather sofas and soft velveteen skirts became a thing of the past as space confined sofa designers to creating small, industrial-looking loveseats.
Now in the 21st century, the demand for opulence and extravagance is back; loveseats are prominent in homes not just because of their space-saving capabilities but because of their enduring style. They often come as part of three-piece suites and other sets of leather sofas to complete a room, and offer people a place to curl up watching the television or reading a book with their significant other not too far away. They can be positioned in bedrooms to add an extra seating option, in conservatories for spending quality time with family and friends, and in traditional living rooms where they will be well-loved by all. As a Valentine’s gift, they are original and thoughtful, and they will be a reminder of love for many years to come.
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