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Benches & Stools

Benches and stools are some of the first seats created by humans before modern chairs and sofas were designed. Footstools were used by kings or other high-profile dignitaries in ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire. These were made of bronze or iron and could be folded for easy portability. Although early stools could be decorative, the early history of stools and benches is purely utilitarian. Each bench or stool had a function, the simplest being to rest while eating.

The prayer kneeling bench, or prie dieu, has been used since the 17th century for kneeling while placing sacred texts or religious objects on its shelf. In the 17th century, the gout stool became popular among the wealthy for elevating the feet when one suffered from the unfortunate medical condition. Stools were also used to keep feet raised from cold floors by both the rich and poor classes. During the American Colonial period, the three-legged footstool became popular for its offer of better balance. As the furniture of Europe became more elaborate, so did the stools and benches. One innovative development in stools was the creation of the camel saddle stool originating in Egypt and other parts of North Africa. This seat or footstool is often minimilist in design, although aesthetically pleasing examples made from fine leather and woods can be found.

Benches were also utilitarian in form. They could be used for eating, sitting in church, or waiting for a train. Benches developed in terms of luxury and beauty along with the stool, eventually appearing alongside other European fine furniture as the settee. The mammy bench, or cradle settee, is one of the more creative designs for a bench. It is a bench on rockers with one side closed in for the placement of an infant and the other side open for a person to perform seated chores while rocking the baby.

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