Just your size

Design: Loveseats fill a need in today's houses -- small and large -- with their practical versatility.

February 14, 1999|By ELIZABETH LARGE | ELIZABETH LARGE,SUN STAFF

Loveseats aren't just for lovers. Because these cozy sofas have so many practical uses in today's homes, manufacturers say, they are selling better than ever.

"A new category is evolving because the scale and size is so useful," says Dixon Mitchell of Baker Furniture in Grand Rapids, Mich. "We call it the demi-sofa."

A demi-sofa by any other name is a loveseat, usually an upholstered piece 62 to 70 inches long with two seats. This versatile size works beautifully in both the great rooms of new-home construction and the small living rooms of condos and apartments.

Homeowners are creating conversation areas with two facing loveseats, perhaps in front of a fireplace or bay window. Or a loveseat can be placed at a right angle to a conventional sofa covered in the same fabric.

"With every sofa in our line we build a matching loveseat," says Tom Baldwin of Iowa-based upholstery manufacturer Flexsteel Industries. "The demand for that extra piece of furniture has really increased."

Today's loveseat is a descendant of the 18th-century English courting chair, characterized by a deep, wide seat and built for two people to sit closely together side by side. By Victorian times, it was known as a tete-a-tete seat.

According to some furniture experts, the two-seat sofa's history may be another reason for its comeback.

"There's more of an interest in loveseats with the turn of the century," says David Chandler of Henredon, the North Carolina manufacturer of upscale home furnishings. "A renewed interest in Victorian styles of the late 19th and early 20th century."

He points to Henredon's best-selling loveseats, which have exposed carved legs, tufted upholstery and rolled arms. Some are on casters.

Used by themselves instead of in pairs, loveseats can take the place of conventional sofas to anchor small rooms. They are also easier to get into tight spaces. These compact pieces work very well in smaller Baltimore homes, says designer Don Alexander at Shofer's Furniture Co. in Federal Hill. "Frequently we can't get a full-size sofa in."

Two-seat settees, more delicate than a fully upholstered loveseat, serve as accent pieces in foyers or other less traditional settings. Loveseat sleep-sofas are in demand to give small extra rooms added flexibility.

And then there's the bedroom. Bedrooms are becoming living rooms in the truest sense of the word these days, and loveseats have become the sofa of choice for them. Charming pieces with comfy contours are even being added to large bathrooms.

The loveseat's current sibling is the chair-and-a-half, one of the hottest new home furnishing pieces of the late '90s. Its popularity has created interest in seating that's just a little bit bigger, where one person can curl up with an afghan and a good book.

Still, we shouldn't forget the original purpose of these small sofas. Today's loveseats can also lure two people for a tete-a-tete.

"Most have the nice feature of two distinct cushions," Baldwin says. "Two people go to it without question."

Pub Date: 02/14/99

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