SETTLING ON THE RIGHT SETTLE
Settle benches are high-backed wooden seats, often with side panels and storage under the seat. The high backs and sides were designed to block drafts. By adding a compartment under the seat, it creates such a multi-functional piece.
A settle bench is wonderful in an entryway as additional seating for putting on your shoes on your way out the door. There is no upholstery to get dirty in such a high traffic area. I love wooden seating elements combined with upholstery. It shakes-up a room, and you can never get tired of the fabric. If you have a settle, but want a little padding, having a custom seat cushion made to fit the size in a neutral linen or ticking stripe. A tailored cushion is an easy way to achieve a higher comfort level. Also, a less expensive alternative would be to add a few miss-matched throw pillows for comfort, and to breakup the wood.
Above is a beautiful traditional Six-Panel-back Oak Settle, UK, circa 1720s from Barley Twist in Illinois. This piece’s sides are not solid so it would work well as a banquet in a dining area. This would be amazing with an ebonized rectangular trestle dining table across from some lower back antique captain’s chairs with a double billiard light hanging over the table.
I love this rare Georgian Tavern Settle, UK, circa the 18th C, from a great shop called Uniquities in Calgary. Uniquities also has their pieces on 1stDibs. This is another high backed version but with more closed in sides. I love the old repair in the seat. Some people run from any signs of repairs, but those moments make a piece that much more special. This settle has a curved back making it very unique. I love this in the center of a room facing a fireplace with a cushy ottoman or two perched in front of it. It would work best in a room that you enter from the side (if you enter the room facing the fireplace it would be blocked by the high back).
I adore this Pair of Robin’s Egg Blue Painted Settle Benches, US, circa 1885-1895, from Jeff Bridgman Antiques in Historic York County, PA. Jeff Bridgman also has a storefront on 1stDibs. They have one solid rectangular side and one curved side. The color is so beautiful and the wear due to of years of being exposed to the elements makes the patina so desirable. The two sides could be pushed together to make a single large statement, or they can be split and put at opposite sides of a symmetrical room. They could also be put at a 90-degree angle in a corner for an intimate seating arrangement with a torchere in the resulting corner or with a hanging pendant light above that moment. I could see these in a mudroom with the family’s boots lined up underneath the seats. It is such a beautiful set, and do not be afraid of the color! Robin’s egg blue will add an instant airiness and light to a room. Mix it with creamy neutrals or whites and you will feel cheery every time you walk by!
I cannot miss out on mentioning Beekman Lane’s resident Antique Pine Settle! This piece has storage under the seat. It is a more rustic option but can be again dressed up with a throw pillow or structured cushion, and has a beautiful weathered patina to the wood. This would be magic in an entryway or a difficult corner that needs some livening up. You could even add a mirror to the back or hooks to make it even more functional in an entry. Settles are such a great fix for adding height visually in a room with a tall ceiling. If you have such a precious asset like a high ceiling, a settle is a perfect way to highlight the height of a room.
Settles can seem dauntingly difficult to incorporate into a home, but they are really an early practical piece that can be used in a myriad of ways to add form and functionality to your space.