A Little Tête-À-Tête on the Loveseat


Imagine yourself in the Victorian era of the nineteenth century. Love was allowed to bloom only under stringent societal norms. The prying eyes and ears of a chaperone made it difficult to utter words of endearment to your beloved. So, what does one do? One finds a loveseat, or a tête-à-tête.

A loveseat is small sofa or couch, typically 50-60 inches long, which can seat two persons. Unlike modern-day sofas, loveseats are smaller in size, typically with two separate cushion seats. Invented around late 17th century, the original loveseat designs were not intended as an aid to courtship, but rather as a seating place for women wearing huge and elaborate dresses, ball gowns, etc. which were in vogue at the time.

With heavy dressing giving way to a slimmer, more form-fitting attire around the 19th century, the loveseat designs also underwent variations. One of the most popular loveseat variations is the tête-à-tête (literally “head to head” in French).

The traditional tête-à-tête was an S-shaped chair with curved backs facing opposite directions and a central armrest. This kind of chair goes by many names: courting bench, gossip chair, kissing bench, or vis-à-vis (after the fact that the design allowed two people to converse face to face).

A tête-à-tête was usually placed in parlours, sitting rooms, or boudoirs, and offered the perfect setting for a discreet romantic rendezvous—but without the option of much physical contact. Decorum and propriety must be maintained. 

Modern loveseats and tête-à-tête chairs have moved beyond the traditional ornately carved designs and, in some cases, also the characteristic serpentine form, e.g. in the tête-à-tête lounger.

So, is a loveseat or tête-à-tête a home décor option for you? This magazine article might help you decide:

Photo credit: The loveseat seen in the blog heading is part of a 500-year-old heritage at the Menezes Braganza House in Chandor, Goa. It was taken by C.M. Kumar -- one of CustHum's co-founders with an eye for photography -- during our trip to Goa in August 2019. Follow the link to learn about this delightful piece of Goan-Portuguese architectural history.

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