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Oft-overlooked, but incredibly versatile, settees are one of designers’ go-to pieces for making a space feel expertly designed. Compact proportions make settees an asset in a variety of scenarios, from space-squeezed entryways to less-than-spacious studio apartments. Vintage settees’ petite size also makes them an excellent option for experimenting with patterns. While an entire sofa decked out in houndstooth check might be a bit too stylistically hedonistic, a settee in the same pattern can feel perfectly apropos.

If you’re interested in snagging a settee for your space, but you still have questions about how to use one most effectively, or the styles available, we’re here to help! Read on to get tips for decorating with new and antique settees and learn all about some of the most quintessential styles.

What is a Settee?

One of the most common questions revolving around the settees? What’s a settee versus a sofa? Typically, settees are a bit shorter than a standard sofa and often possess a taller, straighter back. These characteristics result in settees looking a bit more formal than a sofa. Many designers, in fact, liken them more to a bench with a back.

Settees originated in a way similar to love seats, in that they were originally seats designed to accommodate women wearing voluminous skirts in the 17th century. The extra width of a settee’s seat provided support to heavy petticoats and in later centuries, once skirts had slimmed down, they allowed enough room for two people to sit and socialize at close range. The settee derives its name from the “settle,” a pew-like wooden bench with a high back and arms that was usually long enough to accommodate three or four occupants at a time.

In 17th century France, most settees featured exposed wooden frames, square backs and seats and tapered legs, but today numerous styles exist. Empire style and Chippendale style were both adopters of the settee, as were later trends like Italian Modernism. Today, settees are still widely produced in both revival and contemporary styles.

Where Should You Use a Settee?

Because settees are both shorter and more formal-looking than the average sofa, they are not generally used as a substitute for sofas. Rather, they maintain a unique set of uses that are entirely their own! Read on to discover some of our favorite ways to use a small settee.

Settees for the Entryway

Whether you have a Lilliputian-sized entry or a cathedral-sized one, everyone’s looking to add more function to the home’s reception era. While consoles will always be a go-to, a settee can be a genius alternative. Opt for a more structured, bench settee if you’re forgoing a console altogether (it’ll perform more like a table in a pinch), or spring for a more relaxed backless model if you been graced with a double-wide hallway and you’ll be using a console on one side and a vintage settee on the other.

Settees for the Bedroom

Believe it or not, sometimes large bedrooms pose problems. In extra large bedrooms, sometimes too much space exists between the end of the bed and the dresser or media cabinet placed opposite it. While a foot-of-the-bed bench can work to fill that empty space nicely, a settee can sometimes add more dimension. To help the look go off without a hitch, try to ensure that your settee is no wider than the foot of your bed. Tht said, it’s generally okay if the back of your settee extends a bit over that of your bed’s footboard.

Settees for Dining Rooms

If space limitations dictate that you push some of your dining chairs flush against a wall, consider swapping those chairs for a settee. Unlike chairs, guests can slip onto a settee without having to pull it out, especially if you opt for ones with low arms. Even in situations where space isn’t an issue, integrating a vintage settee into your dining table arrangement can recall the look of a custom banquet without the custom price tag.

Settees for Studio Apartments

As mentioned above, settees aren’t usually suitable subs for sofas. One exception? Studio apartments. When it comes to microscopic floor plans, a settee can wear a variety of hats without eating up the space of a typical sofa. Some of designers’ favorite haute hacks? Use one as a living room sofa with a dining table pushed in front of it (Louis settees paired with a Tulip table are a classic decorator combo). Or, try snuggling one up to the foot of a bed to create an instant “living room” opposite your sleeping quarters. If you don’t have room for a coffee table before you hit the opposite wall, try utilizing a pair of poufs. Lastly, have a wall for a sofa but it’s simply too short to accommodate a sectional? In these cases, a settee fills in like a champ.

Settee Styles to Know

Just like sofas, settees come in virtually every style. That said, there are some styles that are especially iconic when it comes to settees. For instance, French Louis XV and V settees. These boxy settees are designed with tall, rigid, rectangular backs, matching seats and tapered legs. They have exposed wood frames that are often crafted of a bleached or white-washed wood. Gustavaian or Swedish settees also offer a similar look. For something more traditionalist, try a Chippendale or camelback settee. These tend to be similar in form to French settees, however the seat portion is fully upholstered with no exposed wood frame. The backs of these sofas will often feature the signature camel “hump.”

For those who prefer something less bench-like, there are Italian Modernist settees. Often, Italian settees are sleekly designed with aeronautic-inspired curves and antennae-like legs. They’re also likely to be fully upholstered. Wicker settees are also popular choices, especially for use in entryways and dining rooms. Add one in to dramatically alter the tenor of any room.