Windsor Settee

Description and History

single-bow Windsor settee
  • Overall Dimensions: 22" x 38" x 54" long
  • OR: 22" x 38" x 76" long
  • Standard Seat Height: 17.5"
  • Seat Dimensions: 17" deep x 50" long
  • OR: 17" deep x 71" long
  • Available in 50" or 71" lengths -- or sizes in between on a custom basis. Available with knuckle-arm or paddle-arm. The 50" settee can be made as a single-bow or double-bow. The 71" can be made as a single-bow or triple-bow.
  • Details: paddle arm, knuckle arm, leg

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A settee is any unupholstered seating furniture which has a back and can accommodate two or more sitters. Settees for two are often called love-seats. Any Windsor settee can also be called a Windsor bench.

As with American Windsors in general, most of the earliest (1750-70) settees were made in Philadelphia. Most of the surviving ones are low-backs. Some sack-back settees were made in Philadelphia starting around 1765 but apparently not very many, even though sack-back chairs far outnumbered low-back chairs at that time.

double-bow Windsor settee

Then again, the low-back is not structurally compromised when lengthened into a settee whereas the taller ones are, at least to some extent. These structural differences may account for the greater number of surviving low-backs.

Most settees had arms, but a few did not. Lacking the bracing function of arms, such a "side-settee" would have to be heavily built. It would be handy, however, when used along the side of a table where the kids could simply slide in or out without having to move the bench.

Love-seats were occasionally built like two blended chairs, with separate sculpted areas for each occupant.

71-inch settee with single bow

The smallest settees were about 36 inches long; anything smaller would be hard pressed to accommodate two adults. Some of the smallest had four legs but most used six, if only to create a visually more balanced under-carriage. As a settee gets longer the medial stretcher(s) extends to disproportional lengths, unless the space is filled out with more legs. Consequently, the longest benches -- probably seven feet or so -- stood on eight or ten legs.

71-inch settee with triple bow

Bow-back settees, with sawn arms tenoned into the bow, seem to have been made more than sack-backs. Other types, made in even lesser numbers were the continuous-arm and fan-back, as well as the rare double- and triple-backs. Rod-back settees, starting around 1800, were made in the greatest numbers, as well as in the greatest variety of color, decoration and back design. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century rod-backs were often produced as part of a set: typically two arm-chairs, six side-chairs and a settee, all similarly constructed and decorated.

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