Chaise, Divan, Daybed, Settee: What's the Difference?

October 11, 2019

Searching for an elegant, versatile piece of furniture to seat one or two? You may be in need of a chaise … or even a settee, divan or daybed. Here we will sort out the gaps between these popular furniture pieces, plus discuss a couple of others you may encounter (recamier, anyone?) On your furniture search.

Meyer & Meyer, Inc..

What’s a Settee?

A settee is a small couch with two arms and a back. It usually seats two and is more vertical and slender than a typical sofa. Unlike many couches, a settee can quickly look at home in an entryway, in a bedroom or perhaps pulled up into the table, thanks to its elegant proportions and vertical posture.

Cecilie Starin Design Inc..

A settee can be fully upholstered, like the one displayed in the last photo, or it might have an upholstered seat and back, with exposed timber on the arms and frame, like the one displayed here.

Elizabeth Reich

When is a settee a bench? A settee with space between the back and the seat, like the one displayed here, can also be known as a bench. If it is upholstered (as this one is) it’s still safe to call it a settee; if there’s absolutely no upholstery, then definitely call it a bench.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

What’s a Chaise?

Coming from the French term “chaise longue,” meaning “long seat,” a chaise is an upholstered seat for one, and it is intended for cushioned in — think of this as a seat and foot stool in a single. Chaises have a straight back and might have two or no arms. Some chaises, like the one you see here, are contoured, making it more tempting to lie back and unwind. Others have a more contemporary vertical shape and can be used to seat two side by side or a single sided.

Lizette Marie Interior Design

The fainting couch variation. A chaise with a back and a single arm, often sloping, is occasionally known as a fainting couch. This style originated in the Victorian age, when ladies wearing restrictive corsets often found themselves needing a location where they could sit and catch their breath. While the need for this specific piece of furniture has mercifully gone, it adds elegance and allure.

Tommy Chambers Interiors, Inc..

What’s a Recamier?

Somewhat different from a settee or chaise, a recamier generally has two scrolled ends; it can be used from either direction. Some have a single arm on each end (on opposite sides) so two people can sit facing each other.

Fini Design

A contemporary spin on the recamier, backless couches normally have right, low sides (but a few have high sides) without a back. If you’re looking for a bit like this, try looking for “backless sofa” and “chaise” to maximize your results.

David Michael Miller Associates

What’s a Divan?

Originating in Persia, a divan has a tufted mattress-like seat, either right on the floor or on a low wooden frame. It is normally pushed against a wall, where pillows can be piled up to make a daytime seat — at night it can be cleared away and used as a bed. Consider the divan as the daybed’s elderly, more lounge-worthy sibling.

Young House Love

What’s a Daybed?

Daybeds have experienced a great surge in popularity in recent years — you can find models anyplace from West Elm to high-end showrooms. Daybeds usually have a normal twin-size mattress, a low back and two elevated ends. You can use the bit as a sofa during the day also, when it’s rid of extra pillows, as a bed at night. Since daybeds (unlike divans) have backs, you can place them anywhere in the room — not just against the wall.

Glenn Gissler Design

The iconic Barcelona daybed (shown here), designed by Mies van der Rohe, seems to have more in common with divans compared to different daybeds. Without a back, a tufted mattress-like seat plus a simple neck-roll cushion, this slick shape is a modernist’s riff on the old divan form. However, like other daybeds, it is meant to be floated in the room rather than pushed upward against the walls and smothered in pillows.

Period Homes, Inc..

The terms “divan” and “daybed” are often used interchangeably, but “daybed” is the common term. And sometimes how you use a piece determines what you call it — for instance, the bit shown here could be a divan or might formerly have served as a bedstead, but given its own tailored mattress cover, bolster pillows and drifting place in the room, I’d call it a daybed.

Inform us : have you got a piece of furniture like any of those featured here? What do you call it?

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