The Differences Between A Settee And A Loveseat


When it is time to furnish a home, an essential piece of furniture nearly everyone ends up with is something that provides seating in a central gathering room. Depending on where in the world a person hails from, they may call it anything from a sofa to a loveseat to a divan to a couch to a settee.

The difference between settee and loveseat rests in the number of people each can seat. While settees can seat two or more adults, loveseats can only seat two. There are also differences in the way each is upholstered and the frame construction of each.

While “loveseat” and “settee” are often used interchangeably, each one has a specific definition and function reflected by its name. The same goes for many other sofa-esque seating pieces, as the etymology of each name reveals the use for which the piece was originally intended. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between a settee and a loveseat. 

The Loveseat

As one might gather from the name, a loveseat is a sofa-like piece of furniture intended for two people to sit on. Many variations exist so that you may find a loveseat with a low back, a high back, no back at all. 

  • A significant distinguishing factor of many loveseats is that they often provide two individual seating areas so that the piece is visually obviously intended for two and only two people
  • Not every loveseat has this distinction, but every loveseat is designed for a couple

A loveseat is almost always upholstered and to some may appear to be a smaller version of a regular old couch. It is built like a sofa, but again, does not provide as much seating.

One should also note that just because a loveseat might feel somewhat like a sofa, and though you might take your naps on a sofa, loveseats are for sitting, not lying. Only the shortest people will properly fit on a loveseat when lying down, so few of us will fit comfortably on one. Also, long-term sleeping on a loveseat can damage the cushions.

The Settee

Covering a more significant number of variations, the term “settee” applies to a couch-like piece of furniture that seats two or more people. Among the diversity in the construction of settees, furniture shoppers will find that some are little more than wooden benches (they appear to have roots in, or at least be related to, the deacon’s bench). Some settees are upholstered, but not all of them.

  • Settees always have a back and arms, and they often look like mini-sofas 
  • Another way to describe them might be as lighter-duty versions of sofas, but only because sometimes their legs are small, ornately carved, wooden affairs, though they are by no means fragile

That said, settees are small enough that sleeping on one is seldom an option. Also, given the already mentioned smaller amount of padding, the settee will not provide much comfort to an individual trying to get some sleep on one of them. 

What Is a Settee Used For?

Because “sofa” has become a word that describes many multiple-seat options in the furniture world, a settee has become something a bit less versatile. You may find a sofa with retractable armrests, illuminated cup holders, a built-in refrigerator, and reclining options. A settee has none of this. A settee with even one of these features is no longer a settee.

Settees are often used more as decoration than as a designated seating place. That is not to say that no one sits on settees. Instead, settees are often a seating option at the edges of a room. Since settees are not usually part of a living room group one might purchase at a big-box furniture store, they will stand apart from the other furniture in the room by way of not being upholstered in the same fabric.

Because a settee is generally a lighter, smaller version of a couch or sofa (think “light-duty sofa”), it is more portable than a loveseat, even though it will always be roughly the same size. It is orders of magnitude more portable than a large sofa unit with built-in recliners and USB plug-ins.

This portability means that settees can easily be slid up to the dining room table if there is a seating shortage; it can serve as an entrance-hall bench where guests might be encouraged to lay their coats or bags. As referenced earlier, a settee can have additional seating when the couch fills up.

Some use a settee as a sofa, as well. However, due to its usually more petite size, this use would be impractical for the home of a family of more than two people, as it is challenging to fit Mom, Dad, and all four daughters on a settee when “Frozen” is coming on TV again. 

Settees offer casual seating for two or three people and can often be found as a piece of office furniture, and a decorator may place a settee at the foot of the bed in a master bedroom to lend a nice, posh feel to the space. They often find their way into secondary living spaces and homes with a den and a living room. Perhaps the room used less often might contain a settee instead of a sofa.

What Is a Loveseat Used For?

Although it does not always need to be amorous in nature, the loveseat provides for more intimate seating, despite its name. Smaller households can use a loveseat as an alternative to a larger sofa. Due to it being larger than a settee and a somewhat heavier-duty piece, a loveseat is not as portable, so moving it out of the living room to provide more seating at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving is impractical.

Some decorators use a loveseat more as a decorative element than a practical seating option. The tête-à-tête loveseat can fall into this category, although when these were popular, they were so because they provided comfortable, face-to-face seating that people enjoyed. 

While most loveseats today are, like every other piece of living room furniture, designed to ensure that everyone in the room can see the television, tête-à-têtes were built to encourage conversation. 

Twenty-first-century eyes often find the tête-à-tête loveseat odd to look at, almost as if two armchairs were fused together. WallsWithStories.com has a large collection of various tête-à-tête loveseats here.

Deciding Between a Settee and a Loveseat

One aspect of settees vs. loveseats that may sway a homeowner is these pieces’ relationships to furniture groups and deciding which piece is better for your living room. Settees and loveseats differ regarding their functionality and seating, so naturally each piece is better suited for specific living spaces.  

Some folks go to the furniture store to buy a bedroom suite, picking up a bed, a dresser, nightstands, maybe a vanity in one fell swoop. They are all by the same manufacturer and match each other, giving the bedroom a cohesive feel. This same option is available for living room furniture.

Sectional choices can provide a living room with matching furniture that provides several seating configurations, all upholstered in the same fabric, and again providing an overarching theme to the room. 

If you are purchasing these kinds of sets, you may pick up a loveseat, but you are extremely unlikely to find a living room group with a settee as part of the package. This is because settees, in some ways, occupy their own space in the furniture world. Their lighter construction, as mentioned above, makes them very different in appearance from a traditional sofa or couch.

  • When deciding between a loveseat and a settee, your decision may come down to whether you are a living room group kind of person, or someone who likes to pick this and that piece, assembling a custom set of furniture for your room
  • In this latter case, a settee is just as likely to be an option as a loveseat, divan, or fainting couch

But the smallest option in most living rooms will be a loveseat, and going back to the sectional options, that love seat might simply be what the furniture maker calls one section of couch people might pull aside for separate use.

The Size of Your Living Room 

The amount of space available in your living room is a major deciding factor when choosing between a settee and a loveseat. Depending on how much space you have to work with, you may prefer one piece of furniture over the other. A loveseat is a small furniture piece while settees are medium-sized furniture pieces—you will need to consider this when deciding between a settee and a loveseat. 

For small living rooms, loveseats are usually the best choice since they take up less room while still offering enough to seat two people. The last thing you want to do in a small living room is to dominate the room with a large piece of furniture and make the space feel cramped. 

Loveseats ensure that a small living room is easy to navigate and has enhanced breathability. Settees by no means qualify as large pieces of furniture, but they are still sizably larger than loveseats and may take up too much space within a small living room. As previously mentioned, settees are often used as aesthetic pieces, but can also substitute a conventional sofa and serve as the primary seating area. 

As medium-sized furniture pieces, settees comfortably fit into larger living rooms. In some cases, you may even want to add a settee alongside another medium-to-large piece of furniture if you have a large living room. Loveseats are a common, great addition to large living room furniture sets. 

Where to Place a Loveseat and a Settee

To properly gauge how much space your living room has to work with, you can use masking tape to mark off the areas where you can place your furniture. A settee is a longer bench-like sofa, whereas a loveseat is more like a cushioned chair. You may realize after marking out your living room that a settee or a loveseat would be more optimal. 

Oftentimes, settees are best placed at the edges of the room due to their bench-like aesthetic. Alternatively, love seats are best placed adjacent to coffee tables or ottomans where you can sit and relax while enjoying some entertainment—this is especially true for small living rooms. 

Your Design Aesthetic

This might be another governing factor in your choice. If you are after a sleek, modern design, like the black-and-chrome ultra modern look, for example, the designs of many settees, with their Baroque leanings, might stick out in that setting. 

Conversely, if you are furnishing a smaller space, a settee is an option because of its diminutive nature compared to sectional couches or even some bulkier loveseats.

Finally, your comfort may be a determining factor, as a settee will tend to have less padding stuffed under the upholstery than a loveseat. If you are someone with a bonier backside, the settee might not be the most comfortable choice for your long-term seating needs.  

How Many Seats Do You Need? 

Every living room should provide an ample number of seats for family and guests. Since settees and loveseats differ regarding the number of seats they offer, this is worth considering before deciding which piece of furniture is best for your living room. You will want to consider the number of seats you will need and whether a settee or loveseat is preferable for the desired seating arrangement of your living space. 

  • Loveseats are designed to seat a limit of two people, while settees can seat up to three people
  • If you wish to have more seating in your living space, then a settee would be the best option to maximize the number of seats available 

Keep in mind that the size and desired aesthetic of your living room may come in conflict with the piece of furniture you think is best to provide enough seating in your living room. You will need to consider whether a settee or loveseat is the best choice and you may need to make some trade-offs along the way. 

Is There Anything Smaller Than a Settee?

If you are asking this question, one would assume you do not mean a chair. Because yes, chairs are smaller. But since a settee has been described above as a kind of smaller sofa, one might wonder how much smaller things can get and still offer some semblance of group seating. Smaller furniture pieces are desirable in smaller living rooms, so perhaps a piece smaller than a settee is a better option.

Loveseats are a prime example of alternative furniture pieces that are smaller than settees. Although settees and loveseats are often both classified as “small sofas,” loveseats are distinctly smaller and only seat two people rather than three. Beyond that, you are looking at armchairs, rocking chairs, folding chairs, and footstools. 

Keep in mind that furniture pieces smaller than settees will only have enough seating for one or two people at most. 

The Knole Settee or Sofa

A fascinating subculture of settees, the Knole settee or Knole sofa offers deeper seating than a traditional settee, and it does not have arms so much as it has sides to it. They are adjustable, and depending on the model, can be folded down completely out of the way. Conceived initially as a throne, Knole settees can be highly decorated and usually offer some exposed wood in addition to their upholstery. 

Although Knole settees do offer deeper seating, you should avoid sleeping on them if possible. Settees are not ideal for sleeping and will only degrade the quality of the cushioning over time. Loveseats are not any better, so avoid sleeping on Knole settees, conventional settees, loveseats, and sofas in general.  

Knole settees are often decorated, which makes them even more aesthetic compared to traditional settees. Settees usually function in living rooms partially as a decoration and partially as an extra sofa that can be used if necessary. Knole settees take the aesthetic appeal of settees to the next level and can give your living room a more modern look. 

Conclusion

Making the decision as to whether you purchase a settee or a loveseat will depend on many factors. Knowing the key differences between the two is only a part of your decision-making process, but it is an important one. If you have no foreseeable need to seat more than two people at a time, either option can work for you. 

If you are after the coziest option, then perhaps the loveseat’s two-seat maximum is the way for you to go. Furniture purchases often become a part of your home’s decor for many years, so be sure to do your research before heading out to buy something. 

Choosing the wrong item for your living space can inflict years of dissatisfaction, so take the time to be sure you find the piece you need and also want to have in your home.

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