Banquette seating is the cute, retro dining room feature we want back

Banquette seating in Supernormal, Melbourne.
Banquette seating in Supernormal, Melbourne. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Practical, comfortable and cute, a built-in seat for the dining room is otherwise known as a banquette.

Often used in restaurants and nearly always in caravans, banquettes are a cosy retro dining room feature that modern homes could do with.

Ideal for homes low on space, a banquette or dinette can either run along a single wall or fit within a corner or alcove.

Everyone wants the bench seat at the restaurant, so why not have one at home?
Everyone wants the bench seat at the restaurant, so why not have one at home? Photo: Jane Ussher/NZ House & Garden

With the option of built-in storage beneath and upholstered cushions on top, a banquette is both functional and relaxed.

Interior designers Bibby and Brady are so fond of the seating style that they consider themselves "huge fans" and suggest it for many of their projects.

"We absolutely love dinettes. They create a cosy and relaxing area, not only to dine but to do work, read, or just chill out with friends and family. Everyone loves the booth seat at a restaurant because it's an intimate, fun place to dine, so why not create that atmosphere in your own home," said Vic Bibby.

This dining area features a wooden feature wall that blends into the booth dining seat.
This dining area features a wooden feature wall that blends into the booth dining seat. Photo: ADNZ

"You sometimes have an awkward space, not quite large enough for a formal dining setting, but by tucking a bench seating into the corner or down one wall, you can fit a table more comfortably."

"A built in bench seat in the corner of a dining room frees up a large amount of space; and awkward, normally unusable spaces or nooks can have storage cupboards built into them."

Custom furniture creator Phil Horner is a craftsman with a special interest in multi-functional design. He pointed out that banquette seating is great for fitting larger families into a smaller space. 

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"You could fit lots of kids on a bench seat. If they need a chair each, you can only get three [kids] down a table. But if you have a bench seat, you could probably get six down there if they're only six years old," said Horner.

While not many families are likely to have six six-year-olds, it's hard to deny that built-in seating with storage would be handy in compact home.

​"I think a lot about small space design so I think it's very practical to have drawers built in where you would normally have a couch or something. It's pretty impractical generally otherwise, it's just taking up a lot of real estate. Especially if you're in a smaller space," said Horner.

With the option of built-in storage beneath and upholstered cushions on top, a banquette is both functional and relaxed.
With the option of built-in storage beneath and upholstered cushions on top, a banquette is both functional and relaxed. Photo: Jane Ussher/NZ House & Garden

Horner doesn't often get the opportunity to create banquettes but he did build one recently for what at 65 square-metres, he regards as "a minor dwelling." Not in an alcove, but against a wall under a window.

"It was quite cool, there was built in seating around where the dining table would be and where the couch is in the lounge to maximise the space and keep everything in tight against the wall, with drawers underneath. Beautiful actually," he said.

Built-in tables are cute too and definitely have the caravan vibe, but to further the usefulness of a banquette in a small home, Horner suggested opting for a dining table on wheels. The point of that being, that you can wheel it outside to double as an outdoor table when entertaining.

A mini-banquette works well in this tiny space.
A mini-banquette works well in this tiny space. Photo: Jane Ussher/NZ House & Garden

"Dinettes definitely suit a smaller space," said Bibby. "Built in bench seating makes the most of a tight space by being right up against the wall."

"In a really small space you may only have room for seating along the wall, but if you're lucky, by pushing the table into the corner it may allow you to fit chairs on the opposite side as well. It's all about making the most of the space you have."

Installation of built-in seating is relatively simple, however, like with all custom elements, it's not something that comes cheap.

"Custom furniture is never cheap really," said Horner. "So it wouldn't be for your Jo Bloggs I suppose but it's an investment really, depending on your outlook."

"Ideally you would get your joiner to make your built-in seating and have some seat cushions upholstered, or get your interior designer to organise it," said Bibby.

"But if your budget doesn't stretch to that you could create the look by using an existing bench seat, pushing it against the wall and adding some cushions. Search your second hand stores for old church pews and layer with a sheepskin for comfort."

- This story originally appeared on stuff.co.nz