Built-in seating is an old-style way to create an intimate dining area.
Jane and I rarely know what subject matter the other is working on, so imagine my surprise when I sneaked a peak at her draft a few weeks ago on Informal Banquettes. I had been gathering examples for awhile and recently scanned them onto my computer. Great minds aside, mine are more formal but equally beautiful. This fancy corner banquette was inspired by Wallace Nutting, the well-known Colonial Revivalist furniture maker and photographer. Its shapely upholstered back is sculpture-like in this old world setting. Tucked in the corner, it gives off an afterthought vibe, though nothing could be further from the truth. Great thought went into its design and details.
Designer Barry Dixon created a corner dining space in the butler’s pantry of his home. It is constructed of limed oak and resembles wooden church pews. Fabric panels with nailhead trim and a small ledge shelf make this my favorite pick.
This East Hampton home wins the award for banquette on overdrive. While I appreciate its sofa style, size and the comfort offered, it feels rather wasted when paired with two tiny tables. I misplaced the source, so I don’t have the designers input. Had a large custom table been used, I would imagine lovely conversations taking place but left wondering about the pain of those captured inside (the not being able to get up without interfering with everyone between them and freedom). I’m sure there is a happy medium, as Goldilocks discovered.
Jane touched on window intrusion and problems created when the back is built well above the level of the sills. While this kitchen is light, bright and seems to have enough natural lighting despite the high back, the blocked view brings to the surface an unnatural feeling. While the oversized clam shell and pendant chandelier are to scale, the French os de mouton chair feels vastly out of place. Perhaps it was moved to the end for photographs, usually facing the built-in bench.
A tuft curved version hugs a round table on casters. As a freestanding piece, this banquette could be pulled away from the island or moved to another location, even another home. Although I’ve never thought to include a built-in banquette in our home, we always request a booth when we go out. They are more intimate and certainly more comfortable. Something to consider should we build again. So whether you’re trying to make a small space more efficient or are taking advantage of a large area, with a little creativity and vision, custom built-in seating may be an area of design you want to explore.