Think the bed is the most romantic piece of furniture?

Think again.Everyone sleeps in a bed. Even for the most amorous purposes, sharing a bed with someone leaves little to the imagination.

While we consummate love in bed, we court - and perhaps share that first, gut-gripping kiss - in a love seat. A love seat implies a getting-to-know-you sort of intimacy.

It's the rumble seat of furniture.

"Two people sitting in a love seat are going to be brought closer together," says Caroline Perkins, an interior designer. For that reason, says Perkins, love seats are not appropriate for everyone.

For example, she says, "If you're a divorce attorney, don't put a love seat in your office."

Perkins, who works for Ethan Allen, actually did have to admonish one of her clients - yes, a divorce lawyer - not to use a love seat in his office. He had never considered the potential faux pas.

"We went with chairs," she says.

But aside from divorce lawyers' offices and children's rooms (kids need play space, not seating space), love seats are proving their versatility beyond the traditional love-seat-and-sofa combination.

In many cases, such as in confined quarters, they're going solo.

"Many of the new floor plans have a parlor, that's about 12-by-12 or smaller," Perkins says. "The parlor, or small living room, is usually the escape hatch for the parents or the adults in the house. Almost always, I put a love seat or a small sofa in there because it's more intimate and it serves the room and its inhabitants better."

Love seats also work in sun rooms and studies. Lucky is the homeowner whose master bedroom can accommodate a sitting area with a love seat.

Even in a master bath, a love seat made of teak or metal can be used. Dress it with terry cloth slipcovers for a cozy, after-bath interlude.

But love seats aren't just for small rooms. For full-size living rooms or dens, the love seat and sofa combination is replacing the sectional sofa on the consumer's shopping list, Perkins says. Style before utilitarianism.

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But the love seat hasn't cornered the market on intimacy.

Currently rivaling the love seat in popularity is the chair and a half, which Perkins deems a "good and snuggly" piece of furniture.

Love seats normally range from 55 to 60 inches wide. A chair and a half averages 42 to 48 inches - definitely not furniture for a first date but wonderfully appropriate for reading to a child or snuggling with the dog.

But either the love seat or the chair and a half beats the sofa for intimacy any day.

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