A sofa and two armchairs would have left most of the Victorian family standing up, but smaller families this century mean suites have come into their own.
Although upholstered suites of a sofa and two armchairs have been made since the 18th century, they only really came into their own in the 20th century.
Padded, sprung suites were seen as ideal for the growing number of small families who wanted and could afford comfortable seats but had fairly small rooms.
Mass production techniques and new, synthetic materials helped to bring the price down, particularly near the end of the 1920s.
This boom in production and sales coincided with the heyday of art deco.
Although, generally speaking, the most famous deco designers had little to do with making furniture for everyday people, their ideas were borrowed by those constructing furniture for the mass-market. They produced, at best,
well made, comfortable and stylish suites.
Art deco was honoured more in surface details of design, such as the fabric print, than by startling new shapes or styles.
Victorian details such as high, curved backs with rounded ends and padded lip-over arms were usually retained, though some makers, such as Parker-Knoll and Bowmans, incorporated wooden arm-rests and bases - often in plywood, which was popular because of its flexibility - as an extra nod to modernism.
Another side-effect of the decreasing size of families and the average room was the
introduction of space-saving furniture.
The bed-settee was a prime example. The typical 1930s bed-settee was a drop-end.
One of the arms, usually the left, was hinged and spring loaded so that it could be pulled out and down flush with the seat, thus transforming the settee into a day-bed or couch.
Many 1930s three-piece suites have survived into the 1990s, where they have become popular additions to modern interiors.
Most highly prized are those with their original upholstery intact usually a durable woven fabric, moquette, leatherette, leather, or, as here, a combination of these.
Worn pieces can easily be re-covered.
Very little of the seat furniture constructed between the wars can be called collectable in the strictest sense of the word.
Those pieces that possess a strong art deco element, with rounded or squared-off backs and ends, can attract those interested in 1930s interior design, while well-designed pieces such as Ambrose Heal's Knole settee, an upright sofa with a drop-end that was lowered by a rope rather than a spring, have always been popular.
The main market for old suites, though, is as a
reasonably priced alternative to new furniture. As a result, the best place to look is in second-hand furniture dealers, though small auctions and country house sales may also yield the occasional good bargain.
The main consideration if you're thinking of making a purchase is how well the suite will fit into your home.
Comfortable pieces that would clash with your decor can be re-covered, but this can prove expensive; loose covers are always a cheaper option.
Suites where the upholstery or the springs are actually damaged should be avoided, since the cost is likely to be higher than purchasing a brand new
Most fully-upholstered mass-manufactured seats of the 1930s have pine frames, jointed with glue and screws, though other woods may be used for the feet, and panels of a fashionable veneer, such as bird's-eye maple, may be let into the arm-rests.
Chair makers of the 1930s often forsook the traditional wool, leather and hide finishes in favour of cheaper fabrics like calico, leatherette or the synthetic material rexine, cutting prices by up to two-thirds.