Considered a forerunner for the modern couch, the settee traces its origins to the 17th century settle. The settle was once a common piece of furniture in homes of both humble and grand design, but was eventually replaced during the 18th and 19th centuries as the settee became a more of a common part of home décor and less of a luxury.
In its most simplistic form, the settee is a piece of furniture that is distinguished by a relatively high back, armrests, and a seating space that will accommodate at least two people. Variations of the settee are constructed for use in the home, as part of porch furniture, and even as yard furniture. In some cases, the settee is a simple wooden or metal construction, while at other times, the settee may be an upholstered piece.
In the home, a settee may be used as part of the den or a garden room. In both scenarios, the metal or wooden frame for the settee may be augmented with comfortable seat and back cushions. For a more formal approach, especially when used in a library, upholstered settees are more common, with leather settees being especially popular.
For the porch and in the yard, settees often sport an intricate metal frame that is characterized by graceful scrollwork. Weatherproof seat cushions are often included in the overall design, which help to make the outdoor settee attractive and comfortable. Since the settee is composed of metal, it is very easy to paint and seal the furniture with a variety of colors and techniques.
While settees tended to fall out of favor during the 20th century, the furniture piece is beginning to make a comeback. Many furniture manufacturers now offer replica editions of antique settees, while a few fortunate individuals are able to locate and purchase authentic settees that hail from the 19th century.