Controlled courting


“Now that is the perfect sofa for four people who don’t get on” quipped my hilarious older brother, on spying the Victorian magnificence that has recently graced our living room.

He was referring to the new joy in my life that is my conversation sofa.
I discovered that this little beauty is officially known as a borne. This is defined as a round or oval ottoman or sofa, often with a tall cylindrical back support. It first appeared around the 1850’s during the reign of Napoleon III. These seats were popular because they created a visual spectacle and allowed several people to sit around and chat. The borne was widely used in grand foyers by the Victorians and often had a flat shelf on it’s back to support a large urn for flowers or greenery.

I have been on a quest for one of these for donkeys, although they tend to come up for sale rarely and then at Bonhams’ auction house for many thousands of pounds. This fetchingly faded pink number was, as I told my husband, an absolute bargain on ebay. And that is all he needs to know.

Here are some others. I just love them. They are pleasingly curvaceous, squishy and decorative. Wonder what that reminds me of….

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My conversation seat is actually composed of four separate seats that easily come apart, perfect if I am having a little soiree that requires extra seats. Posh or what.
Next up on my wish list is a Victorian love-seat, known also as a courting bench, kissing bench or tete-a-tete seat.

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What these chaps have in common is that they typically have an S-shaped backrest, resulting in two opposite facing seats with a shared armrest between them. In the era of Victorian prudence this was considered very fashionable and practical, allowing couples to sit closely, face-to-face, whilst keeping a modest barrier between them. Controlled courting at its best. Better ship one in before the kids hit their teens.


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