An amorous couple pitches woo in a love seat built for two, a perfect little sitting place for exchanging expressions of devotion. But was the love seat designed for such tender pursuits?
Not really. It was a far more practical matter that inspired the love seat’s unique dimensions, according to the Britannica Encyclopedia. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, ladies’ gowns were so voluminous that a simple little seat couldn’t accommodate them, yet there was a need for something more conducive to conversation between just two people. To keep things thoroughly proper, some love seats were designed with an armrest in the middle, and the piece wasn’t even called a love seat until a century later.
L’amour eventually won out. By the 19th century everyone was calling it a love seat, or courting chair, and in modern times it’s been routinely paired with a matching sofa.
These days, opinions differ as to their popularity. “A lot of people are combining a sofa and an accent chair rather than a sofa and love seat,” says designer Ashley Miller at Indiana Furniture in Valparaiso, Ind. In fact, sectionals have won out as the most versatile piece for today’s more casual lifestyle, says Robin Jost, co-owner of Tilles in Munster.
“Sectionals are huge right now,” agree Miller. “People are ordering them to get exactly what they need, whether the space is really big or really small.” The average sectional can range from 90 by 90 inches to 110 by 150, “but we can build it as big as you want.”
Dee Dee Duhn at the exotic Customs Imports in New Buffalo, Mich., still sees a demand for love seats, which average about 60 inches long. “With people downsizing, we are getting more requests for love seats. Because of their size, there’s more flexibility in placing them.” Still, she says, sectionals top love seats in sales.
Either way, comfort is key, says Jost. Hubby can commandeer the couch and his wife can lounge in a love seat. “That combination fills the bill: Both people want to be comfy and not everyone likes a recliner.
“A love seat is also great for a young mom who needs to cuddle up with the little ones, and the husband can stretch out on the couch.”
But when company comes, comfort means something else.
“It’s an age-old dilemma: How a love seat forces two people to sit close together, which is why sometimes there’s only one person sitting there,” says Valerie Steil at Marc T. Nielsen in Valparaiso. “People have a different tolerance for other people getting into their space. That’s why the love seat is often the last place taken.”
Notes Duhn, “Even on a three-seater sofa it’s very rare you see three people seated there, it’s usually two. “
Love seats have not lost their allure, though. Duhn’s customers embrace the carved pieces she imports from places like Indonesia, even coupling two of them in the same room.
Which shows, thank goodness, it’s still l’amour toujours.