As designers, we are often called upon to solve space planning dilemmas. These occasionally take the form of custom designed built-ins. One of our favorite types of built-ins is the banquette – otherwise known as built-in bench seating that surrounds a dining table. What makes banquettes qualify as space planning tools is that they take up less floor space than a traditional table and chairs scenario. And they can make the most of an awkward nook, an unusual shaped window well, a corner of a kitchen or a long stretch of windows. They are problem solvers and they do it beautifully and stylishly.
We don’t think we’ve ever seen a banquette that wasn’t practical, attractive and unique! There’s just something special about a home with a personalized place to sit in while sharing a meal. Banquettes can take the form of a long single bench, an L, or even a U shaped bench that envelops the table. They can contain handy storage in the base, have an upholstered back with an unusual shape or just be a simple open, supported horizontal seating surface. Other built-ins like bookcases can be incorporated into the design. Put two benches opposite each other and you create your very own booth. That’s a recipe for a really cozy breakfast nook!
Banquettes are often personalized with custom made upholstery, loose seat cushions, skirts and throw pillows. Further customization is done with the finish – stain or paint – and any trim details such as beadboard. Whatever the style of the bench carpentry, it should reflect the type of home you have – whether it be a Victorian, a Craftsman, or something more contemporary. Your banquette should echo that style so that it fits seamlessly into the room.
The most important practical consideration when designing your banquette is that the seat is built at an appropriate height for your table. Consider what type of cushions, if any, may go on top of that seat and adjust the built-in height accordingly. Also make sure the seat has enough depth to feel comfortable, yet still be supportive of your back. You want to be able to linger at the table, after all! And, of course, the banquette should work with the length and shape of your table. Since this whole thing is permanently built into your space, you want it done right….which is why we recommend that an interior designer, architect or custom furniture/cabinet maker design your piece.
Here are some gorgeous banquettes for you to drool over. They make us wish we could put one in every home in America! Do you have space in your kitchen?