PSA: BANQUETTES ARE NOT JUST FOR SMALL SPACES. I know that maybe that’s obvious to you – and honestly, it should have been obvious to me, a person whose job is literally looking at pictures of houses – but it didn’t really click in my (seemingly) egg-smooth brain until last week. Here’s the deal: when I moved into an apartment with an actual dining room for the first time, I promptly purchased and plopped an appropriately-sized dining table in the center of the room. It’s been three years and it’s held up fine.
But it’s never felt like an awesome layout, if that makes sense. The room is 10′ wide by 15′ long – palatial by LA standards, and still pretty big anywhere else, I think? – but it also has three different doors, a wall of windows, and a 6′ cased opening that leads to the living room. A table in the middle of the room hasn’t necessarily been conducive to the best flow – I don’t love zig-zagging around seatbacks in my frantic attempt to carry 30 bottles of kombucha to the fridge in one trip – and it can feel a little bit cramped when folks are actually sitting at chairs, as the walkways can get closed off.
Enter: THE BANQUETTE.
When it comes to banquettes in larger dining spaces, Big Boss did it best in the Mountain House. (Yes, I do call Emily that name to her face. Yes, I am a very annoying direct report. Yes, Em does have a lot of patience.) And when I thought about it a little longer, I realized that EHD had been singing the praises of banquettes for a LONG time – Bowser has one! Arlyn has one! Anita has one! Bunge had one! Rashida’s building one! Lea’s is coming together as we speak! – and I, finally, have been converted.
Over the past week, I’ve spent a lot of time digging around and trying to figure out the easily-reproducible magic formula that makes banquettes work in spaces of ANY size (shocker, that doesn’t sound like me at all!!!) and I’ve landed on three golden rules (or at least, like, suggestions for you to consider):
Helpful Tips for Banquettes
- How wide should my table be? If you’re going with a straight banquette, have fun with whatever width table you’d like. (Lucky.) But if you’re opting for something L-shaped, there’s an easy rule: you want a table that’s just a little narrower than the shortest leg of your banquette. Example: if I buy this three piece banquette – it’s a 48″ bench, a 36″ bench, and a corner piece – the widest I can go with my dining table is 36″. Your tabletop should overlap each bench by 3″-4″, so a 36″ table should look as if it’s perfectly scaled for your banquette setup.
- How deep should my banquette be? You want to aim for 18″ of depth. If you’re designing from scratch and want a thick back cushion, keep that in mind – you’ll need to make a super deep frame.
- What kind of table do I need? The shape is totally your call, but try to look for a pedestal base. If you’re squeezing a table into a tight space, the last thing you need are FOUR legs in the way. (I’ll point this out in detail in a second.) Beyond that, it makes sliding in and out way easier for both you AND your guests. There are some exceptions here – and I’ve shown a few of those too! – but when in doubt, go for a pedestal table.
As always, I’d love to kick it off with my two recent pieces of inspiration…
HELLO, FAMILIAR FACES. Dabito’s space on the left is actually what got my wheels turning – he created a super spacious dining area that still feels pretty light and welcoming and uncluttered. When you’re rockin’ such a busy wallpaper, it’s kind of brilliant to not have a million table and chair legs also contributing to the visual chaos. This banquette is about 74″ x 74″ (made out of two 48″ bench pieces with a corner bench – yes, I stalked everything in this room) and its been paired with a 48″ table, per the suggestions above. That said, this is a great example of saying “screw the rules” – while a pedestal base would have allowed for more overlap, the impact of this 3-legged table is pretty incomparable. Let this be your daily reminder that pretty looks good next to pretty, no matter what the rules say 🙂
And man, Joy’s space is just so happy and cheerful and on-trend. That fluted base on the seating is great. The pedestal table is great. The chairs are great. The color scheme is a dream, too – it’s bright without being overpowering or loud. (And that brass toe kick on the base of the banquette? Great, thoughtful detail.)
I would like to see about 40 more photos of this home, please. (The client’s sole design request was essentially just “no white,” so the few photos on the Globe’s site are a masterclass in mixing and matching super-saturated tones.) BANQUETTE TALK, THOUGH: I love the traditional profile on these built-in boxes paired with a super-modern (and not white!) tulip table. Also, do you see how the benches extend out a bit past the edges of the table? It makes sliding in and out way easier (trust me on this one, guys).
I know I said “beyond the breakfast nook” – and we’ll get there in a few more scrolls! – but OH MY GOSH, PLEASE LOOK AT THESE CUTE BREAKFAST NOOKS FIRST. I can’t help but think back to all the years I spent cramming illy-sized dining tables and chairs into that weird no-mans-land at the end of my kitchen when I could have been lounging on a sweet lil’ sofa instead. (If you live in LA, you may be able to commiserate. If you don’t live in LA and would like a visual reference, seemingly every kitchen in a pre-1960s building has a “dining space” like Jess‘. She opted for a banquette and it looked DYNAMITE.)
This is my favorite shot in the post!!! I WANT TO MOVE IN. These poufs (with back support!) are the perfect scale for this petite table – something with a more traditional profile or geometric shape would have felt too big or boxy in this confined space. (PS. I didn’t cry when I saw the price tag on those chairs, but I also didn’t NOT cry. One day, y’all.)
These are the last two tiny setups I wanted to show you today – both are SUCH examples of how to use really tight spaces. I love how sleek the built-in banquette is on the right, because it really lets that custom table and vintage chairs shine. (Pro tip: this blue tabletop was custom made from MDF, which is a great way to get a high-end look on a budget.)
And, I mean, who WOULDN’T want to relax in this moody nook? So intimate. So luxe. The design here is so good that you totally forgot that red and green scream “it’s Christmas!!!” in literally any other setting, right? Clock those pedestal bases on both tables, too – when you’re navigating close quarters, the last thing you need are four legs taking up SUPER valuable real estate.
I encourage you to click through and peek at all the photos of this room – there’s SO, SO, SO MUCH function in a pretty reasonably-sized living room. The layout is phenomenal and inspiring (like, enough to make me reconsider my entire living room – it’s awesome). The choice to extend the banquette all the way to the wet bar is brilliant, too – like, sure, it provides extra seating, but it also just looks so finished and polished and considered.
Coming in hot with two more leather inspiration shots for all my practical cuties out there!!! Upholstery is obviously pretty freakin’ important when you’re, you know, EATING and DRINKING and SPILLING HAPHAZARDLY (just me on that last one?). If you’re not going to opt for a stain-resistant fabric, leather or vinyl will be your best bets for easy cleanup.
Y’all, I pinned SO MANY joint-dining room/libraries when digging around for this post. Is this like, the next big thing? (Don’t vote yet, there are two more below!!!) This one reminds me a bit of Arlyn’s dining room, though – if you’ve struggled at all with your floating dining table taking up too much space in a room, why not try to bring it closer to the wall so you can open up a wider walkway? Banquettes to the rescue!!
TWO MORE STRAIGHT BENCHES FOR YA. Since this is pretty reminiscent of a classic dining setup – like, a rectangular table with seating on both sides – the “opt for a pedestal base” rule (read: suggestion) no longer applies here. Don’t go crazy with your table length and be sure to leave enough space to slide out (on BOTH sides!), but otherwise…the world’s your oyster, baby. Enjoy your unlimited table selection.
I have had this pinned for YEARS and it still hasn’t gotten old. What a freakin’ GENIUS solution for an ultra-narrow, design-agony-inducing dining room!!! I’m not normally a glass dining table fan (in case I haven’t made it clear, I am the world’s messiest eater and I lack the tolerance to handle smudges on an all-glass surface) but this airy table and those neutral oak chairs really let the banquette and wallpaper shine. I can’t help but imagine this as like, a blank box when the homeowners first moved in – I don’t think ANYONE could have dreamed that such a tight spot would one day comfortably fit a dining table for 8+ people. (And before you scroll, peep the Seletti monkey sconce in the back!!! It’s all just so fun!!!)
We have OFFICIALLY reached the ~large and in charge~ portion of the roundup, friends. Both of these rooms could have happily housed a whole bunch of dining chairs…but like, don’t the banquettes just look better? The room on the left just feels so clean and uncluttered; the banquette on the right allows the dining table to line up JUST RIGHT with that doorway (if there were regular chairs instead of this leather bench, the table would have needed to go way further into the room so the person in the middle could reach their seat!).
WHAT. A. STATEMENT. Without the banquette, this table and these chairs would have felt dinky and aimless (they’d just be floating in the middle of nowhere, guys!!!). If you’re looking for high impact without a ton of stuff, consider opting for a huge piece of furniture that can anchor your space. Everything here is minimal and quiet, but it also feels finished and intentional. (I could never pull this off – BRB, can’t stop putting color everywhere – and that makes the restraint displayed here even more impressive to me.)
Two more U-shaped banquettes for ya! Notice the return to the pedestal base – if more than half of your family/friends/whoever’s at your house will be seated on the banquette, it may be wise to at least consider getting those table legs out of the way. On the left, please clock those pull-out drawers underneath the bench seating. On the right, please clock another dining library (!!!).
And to think – I allllllmost made it through a post without a Beata Heuman photo. I wrote about this one a little bit when I tried to externally process how to put furniture in front of a window, but I had to share it again here – look how the moulding runs across the base of the banquette! SUBLIME. It’s also pretty fun to see a banquette being used at the short end of the table, don’t you think? (Also, please notice that the outlets on the right haven’t been Photoshopped out, which is not relevant but still VERY COOL!)
And before I let you go, I just wanted to make sure that you felt empowered to go REALLY long with your banquette bench seat. I know that end chairs can feel pretty confusing when it comes to built-in seating – like, “do I need them? Will they look weird if my chair overlaps my bench?” – so let this serve as evidence that your end chairs will look GREAT, no matter where they fall. (And get a load of that third little library vignette on the right!!!)
But now, I gotta know – WHAT SAY YOU? Any pro tips to share with the audience? And maybe most importantly of all – which one of these is your favorite??? (My top 3: the Beata Heuman yellow sofa/pink chair combo, the super narrow dining room with the blue banquette, and obviously the little nook with those $$$ flower poufs.) Let’s all crown a winner…or we could also, like, talk more in-depth about the subject at hand. (Either way.) I’ll see ya down there! LET’S CHAT? xx