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Why bother with a Banquette?

Everywhere I look on my Pinterest feed and in magazines I see banquettes in various styles, colours, shapes and sizes. I know its partly the social media algorithym fuelling my penchant for all things built in but they have definitely become more common in the last while - so why?

Well my take on it is we're obsessed with 2 main things in our homes - space and light - with the possible addition of storage for the more practical among us!

Most of our lives are spent yearning for enough space to live in comfortably. That can range from the desire to have a bedroom for each of our kids, to aspirations of several reception rooms, a library, study, orangery, garden pod etc etc We want more. More space equals luxury whether its the number of rooms or the sheer square footage of each room. Not until we're empty nesters, post retirement or nearing infirmity do we normally start the downsizing journey.

How does a banquette help us then? The first main draw of the built-in seating nook or banquette seating is that it saves space. Despite being a fairly sturdy piece of furniture which might look like it takes up more room than a few chairs, the banquette requires less floor space as it doesn't require room to move in order to function. Whereas chairs need to be moved in and out under a table. We also feel more comfortable with a little breathing space behind a chair rather than pushing it right against a wall - (probably making scuff marks and fingerprints). The banquette on the other hand, can be fixed to a wall and doesn't move to accommodate the sitter. All those on one side of the table agree on seat to table distance and there it stays. Similar to a bench, a banquette can also accommodate more bottoms per inch. Diners can 'squidge up' a bit closer together on a banquette whereas number of chairs equals number of bottoms with no room for manoeuvre!

Banquettes come in many different styles - the utilitarian finished in painted wood with perhaps a few scatter cushions, the shiny vinyl topped diner version with chrome trim, the rustic washed country linen, the luxury buttoned leather (faux or real), or individual full on printed fabric in bright florals or bold geometrics! So banquettes can fit with most aesthetics should you choose one for practical reasons.

My boys love dining in booths when we go out for dinner, so when designing the new kitchen here at home they really wanted to include one. I like to have flexible spaces in my home especially in entertaining spaces like a kitchen diner, so in order to reconcile the 2 views I looked at many other options and positioning of the banquette and dining table. The final position was the most flexible for dining as a family, dinner parties and general entertaining. (the pendant light will need hooked up to ceiling when there's kitchen dancing though!)

When I was a student I shared a flat with 3 others - the kitchen/ living/ dining was tiny, but functional. I've very fond memories of that time and I seem to have recreated elements of that layout in our home! I've only recently made the connection. Our cooking area is a functional galley but at the rear of one side of the galley is part of our banquette. The student flat had a galley with a high, tiled upstand and shelf and the lounge sofa to watch TV was directly up against it. We ate on the sofa most of the time as the table was tiny. So we were able to pass dishes over the shelf to whoever was on washing up duty. Wine and tea could be topped up with the stretch of an arm rather than squeezing out around people. This is what appeals to me about our current family set up. Dishes can be passed to and from the sink /cooking area with ease.

If you've a family you'll understand when I mention the noise levels can sometimes be trying... especially the scratch of a chair on a hard floor as someone bolts from the table (for whatever reason....there are a few)! Banquettes avoid this scratching so less noise, less floor marking, less grubby hand marks on chairs.

My carpenter made the frame of the banquette to my specifications to suit our family, our table and the space we have. I also wanted to include storage of outdoor furniture cushions and throws as the banquette is just by the bi-fold patio doors. The seat pads just slide in under the back cushions for access. I didn't see the need for doors/drawers/hinges at it complicated design and I don't need access frequently but I wasn't going to lose that storage space! The carpenter and I decided it would look well finished in the left over bamboo flooring rather than painted mdf/wood.ply etc and besides, the left over flooring would've gone to waste otherwise.

I've decided on a two tone banquette - a greyish-brown mottled faux leather on seat pads and blue textured hardwearing woven twill on the back. I wanted to break it up a bit as I was lured by the practicality of the faux leather but didn't want the entire banquette to dominate the room. Both fabrics are upholstery grade and fire retardant - handy in a kitchen!

Having done some upholstery on individual pieces in the past the banquette was not that difficult to upholster. It did take a while to ensure height of foam, wadding and bench height all added up to the right height for our family - ooh now there's another thing - as banquettes are bespoke - you can tailor them by a couple of inches to suit your family if you're all a bit longer of the leg!

Anyway, back to upholstery so the seat pads I did in large blocks but I ribbed the seat back panels. I find this more comfortable to lean against and you get less sag or indentation. Ribbing like this is more time consuming and uses much more fabric though so is a bit more expensive. If you choose a good fabric in first place it should last well.

For the upholstery you can order foam online in the exact size you require. You can cut foam at home - using a bread knife- but it can get a bit messy. So my advice is to get it cut to mm measurements and you'll have less tweaking and mess. The company I used was In addition to the foam, a layer of wadding is a good idea to increase comfort.

I lightly stuck the foam to the board first using a spray adhesive to avoid slippage and then added wadding and fabric and stapled in place. See the photos below.

Any questions, please ask in the comments below.

So if you're considering a banquette I hope you'll see from this post it is a practical, space saving option which you can can adapt to suit your own unique style!

HQ. x

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