The allure of loveseats

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 Throughout history, furniture has evolved to cater to the varied needs of the time. The style of seating furniture, especially, has evolved through the years owing to requirements along with the design eras they were part of. Loveseats are a prime example of this, originating from a need that no longer exists and then transforming through the centuries to become something else entirely. In today’s time, the name ‘loveseat’ is given to any small two-seater sofa, but in the 17th century, loveseats took on a very different form.

First created in the 17th century in Europe, loveseats were born from a unique need. These oversized chairs allowed women, who wore dresses with multiple voluminous layers, to sit comfortably. They provided sufficient space and catered to affluent women who considered the seating a status symbol. The seats were crafted from luxurious woods and upholstery, limiting the audience to the upper echelons of society.

As time went by and women’s clothing became less cumbersome, shedding the multiple layers in favour of comfort, the loveseat’s purpose and design too changed. The double chair soon came to function as a facilitator for intimate conversations, be it private talk amongst women friends or romantic rendezvous for courting couples. The seats allowed for people to face each other while not sitting too close together, allowing for privacy and abiding by social decorum. During this time, the double chairs came to gain the name ‘loveseats’ and others such as the ‘courting couch’, ‘conversation chair’, ‘tête-à-tête’ and ‘gossip’s chair’.

The Victorian era saw this seating gaining popularity, with their ‘S’ shaped form aiding private conversations and romance. The changing times even in the Victorian era saw them become more detailed designs and hand-painted motifs. The 19th century also saw loveseats gain enthusiasts in America where craftsmen put their spin on the design, incorporating elements of Federal, Victorian, and Colonial Revival styles. The Industrial Revolution saw more mass-produced loveseats owing to new technology, allowing the middle class to acquire loveseats of their own. This further fuelled the popularity of the style, after which the Art Deco era and Mid-Century Modern era saw sleeker forms and geometric influences. From brocade, silk and expensive wood being utilised for the original form, the loveseats evolved to usage of materials such as steel and leather.

Vintage and antique loveseats now are highly sought after amongst collectors who want to add a piece of history to their interiors. AstaGuru Auction House’s upcoming auction ‘Heirloom Treasures’, scheduled for 27-28 March 2024, will be offering two such exquisite vintage loveseats that serve as a look into the fascinating history of loveseats. Both these works showcase the artistry and craftsmanship of the Victorian era when loveseats were becoming popular and finding a wider audience.

Lot no. 80 is a French Walnut Loveseat that features fine carving and a caned upholstered seat, supported by four feet. Executed in 1880, the seat with floral upholstery in a beautiful pastel palette and carving in the wood are indicative of the more romantic designs of the time.

On the other hand, lot no. 154, a Rosewood and Teakwood Loveseat showcases the more pared-back designs of the time. Executed in 1900, the seat rests on four feet. The loveseat’s backrest features a pediment top and armrests terminating in a scroll design.

Despite changing trends, vintage loveseats have endured as cherished pieces of furniture, valued for their craftsmanship, beauty, and historical significance. Today, they are sought after by collectors, interior designers, and homeowners alike, adding a touch of nostalgia and elegance to any space.

Whether adorned with intricate carvings or showcasing sleek modernist design, vintage loveseats continue to captivate with their timeless allure, reminding us of bygone eras and the enduring appeal of classic craftsmanship.

The auction will honour more such intricate pieces originating from the finest global craftsmanship, spotlighting rare antiques and artefacts destined to enhance any space with their enduring elegance. The catalogue is a curation of an array of decorative collectables, predominantly sourced from 19th and 20th century Asia and Europe, including ceramics, furniture, crystal chandeliers, silverware, Persian carpets, sculptures, vintage clocks, and various other coveted collectables.

(Rushaad Dastur is an Auction Specialist at AstaGuru Auction House)