The settle, an elongated form of the wainscot chair, was the earliest form of seat furniture to accommodate two or more people. In England settles were made principally in oak and date back to c. 1500. Most extant examples date from the 17th and 18th centuries and are of joined and pegged construction. Settles were popular from c. 1700 in America, were pine and walnut were used as alternatives to oak.
The more comfortable chair-back settee evolved from the settle in the first half of the 18th century.Found principally in walnut before c.1735 and in mahogany through the Chippendale period, these were generally made in double or triple chair-back form, and in most cases their design corresponds exactly with that of chairs. The other main 18th century development from the settle was the fully upholstered,long seat or settee with a carved frame, where the wood was exposed (show-wood).
Sofas are similar in construction and style to settees, but larger and more comfortable. However, in 18th- and 19th- century catalogues the term s are often interchangeable.
The influence of contemporary chair design continued through the Hepplewhite and Sheraton periods, with the emphasis on lightness and elegance. American examples follow the English style but on a simpler, less adventurous scale.
The Regency period saw the introduction of the chaise longue, a fully upholstered chair with an elongated seat and inclined back and arms. Exotic decoration, such as crocodile feet on sofas,was incorporated within Classical forms.
Sofas and settees of the Victorian period, in both England and America, were characterized by ornate carving and bold curvaceous designs with deep buttoned upholstery, often using rich velvets and patterned fabrics. This period also saw the development of the chesterfield, one of the first settees or sofas to be entirely upholstered.
|Edwardian inlaid mahogany double chair back settee|
|18th century Georgian oak panelled box seated settle|
|Antique Hepplewhite settee|
|Pair of George III Gilt-wood Settees in the Manner of Thomas Chippendale|
|Antique Chaise Lounge Chair|