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The varied shapes of curved and straight backs permit the love seats to be used as a delightful contrast with other pieces of furniture. In a bedroom or dressing room it provides a note of luxury as well as an air of comfort; in a studio apartment it aids in achieving a touch of individuality; and in foyers its compactness makes it especially welcome.
The French forms of the love seat being made today by fine furniture makers are charming. For rooms where a distinct note of elegance is required, the examples re flecting the curves and elaborate carving of Louis XV or XVI furniture may be had either in ancient patterns of damasks, needlepoints and velvets or in the brighter modern mode of these fabrics. Characteristic of the design of this period is the walnut frame extending completely around the back and arms. The luxurious lines and air of richness in the upholstery fabrics recall the salons and the drawing rooms of the great French courts.
In England the love seat first appeared during the reign of Queen Anne and was a much more sturdy piece of furniture than its French counterpart. With back and arms covered with upholstery and only the legs showing the walnut that was characteristic of the furniture of that period, a Queen Anne love seat is as comfortable as it looks. Characteristic of this style are the outward curving arms. The varied backs in their odd forms suggest the Dutch influence of Queen Anne's day. Curved cabriole legs, sometimes with stretchers, are the usual supports of these old styles that inspire the modern designer.
The love seat was such a useful piece of furniture that after its appearance it continued to be popular throughout the eighteenth century. Chippendale made love seats in mahogany with the ball and claw foot that is a mark of the early furniture of the great London designer. Love seats in the Heppelwhite and Sheraton styles dating from about the end of the eighteenth century, of straight, fluted mahogany legs, delicately carved, perhaps with the wood of the arm support and the front edge of the seat reeded, have a compactness that permits them to associate easily with almost any modern furniture. In love seats made in Colonial America there is an austerity about their tight upholstery, and absence of the thick seat cushions that is not found in the earlier French and English types.
Just who designed the first love seat is not known. We do know that it was a French development of the settee or the bench, for in the dictionary of Furetiere, pub lished in 1690, he defines canape, the French for sofa, as "a kind of backed chair, very wide, in which two persons can sit comfortably. The word is new to the language and some say sopha."
In England no doubt a similar transition took place, as the ancient settle was slowly transformed into a settee and later perhaps into a love sofa. In Queen Anne's time the love seat was also called a "courting chair." Some of the early forms had three legs along the front, following, no doubt, the style of settees that look like two chairs placed side by side.
Love seats always followed the style changes of chairs in the way of upholstery, kind of wood and general design. In those early days, as well as not so long ago with us, a love seat and a chair or two of the same general design and decoration were made to be used together as a suite. The love seat is still used in pairs where possible, as was sometimes done in the eighteenth century. The upholstery in Queen Anne's day was generally in needlework such as petit point, crewel embroidery, damask or velvet.
In the upholstery of the love seats made today gay cretonnes and chintzes are especially popular. On types that suggest in their lines the simplicity of the French provincial furniture the cheerful tiny figured chintzes of the eighteenth century have reappeared, as well as patterns of flowers and gorgeous birds in the modern mode. These seats had always an air of diminutiveness and so the recent trend toward greater compactness in the cushioning of the backs and arms of some examples is only following sound tradition. Tufting is reappearing on other styles. One love seat seen recently was upholstered in a silk damask of small red and green flowers, with the tufting buttons in bright green-a cheerful modern touch.