Comfortable Seating Options for Your Kitchen Table
If you’re looking to add extra seating to your kitchen while maximizing every inch of space, built-in bench seating is an ideal solution. Integrating bench seating directly into your kitchen design creates a cozy gathering area for family meals and casual entertaining. With the right placement and custom touches, you can transform an unused corner or bare wall into a functional, eye-catching highlight.
Built-in benches are available in a variety of shapes and sizes to work in all types of kitchen layouts. Keep reading to explore popular bench styles, design ideas to make them your own, construction tips, and key factors for evaluating your current kitchen footprint and needs.
Types of Built-In Kitchen Benches
Bench seating built seamlessly into your kitchen layout provides a polished, upscale look compared to freestanding tables and chairs. Here are some of the most common permanently installed bench styles:
Corner benches maximize your layout by utilizing the angled space that often goes unused. This is one of the most effective ways to add seating without eating up floor space needed for walkways. A corner bench is typically L-shaped with two lengths coming together at a 90 degree angle, often with seating on both sides.
Typical dimensions are 48 to 60 inches on each side. Make sure to leave enough clearance from the bench to allow people to get in and out comfortably. Materials like wood, laminate, vinyl, and upholstery work well for corner benches. Having it permanently built into the corner saves room but limits flexibility if you ever want to switch up the layout.
Banquettes refer to bench seating with a padded, upholstered cushion that’s built seamlessly into the kitchen design, commonly along one wall. The bench provides comfortable seating, while the base is constructed with a wood frame and acts as structure for storage underneath. Built-in banquettes can be customized to any length based on your space, ranging from a small two-person breakfast nook up to benches over six feet long.
Banquette storage is excellent for tucking away cooking equipment, dinnerware, pantry overflow, and more to free up cabinet space. However, the fixed position and lack of back support may not work well for everyone. Allow ample lighting sources since banquettes are often placed away from windows.
Full Wall Bench
Spanning a full length of wall with a built-in bench is great for maximizing seating capacity around larger kitchen tables. Full wall benches can stretch up to ten feet long, taking the place of four chairs while offering a cleaner, more streamlined appearance. The length also creates flexibility – a shorter bench can seat two people, while a larger family can spread out.
The downsides are that it dominates the visual space and cannot be easily moved. Make sure to break up the expanse with interesting details like legs, panels, or carved bases so the bench doesn’t feel imposing. The style, height, and materials should coordinate with the look of your kitchen cabinets and table.
Design and Customization Ideas
Built-in benches don’t have to appear overly bulky, boring, or cookie-cutter. There are ample ways to customize your bench to complement your existing kitchen aesthetic and decor. Here are some ideas to make your DIY or store-bought bench feel special:
- Add removable cushions and toss pillows in coordinating fabrics to tie in bench seating with draperies, rug, and other soft elements
- Underbench storage like roll-out drawers or enclosed cabinetry to hide clutter
- Backless bench vs. bench with backrest for comfort preferences
- Folding or extending leaf option to allow more tabletop surface when extra seating isn’t needed
- Matching wood stain, paint, laminate, or countertop materials to your cabinets for a cohesive look
Bench shape plays a role too – straight, L-shaped, or even U-shaped benches can transform wasted space into a gathering spot. Curves, elevated feet, or decorative corbel supports also add style. Lighting fixtures and sconces mounted directly on the bench soften the look while providing task lighting.
Evaluating Your Space
Installing bench seating is a permanent change, so careful planning is a must. Follow these steps before constructing a built-in bench:
- Measure the entire kitchen floor plan and sketch your layout to scale. This allows you to experiment with different bench sizes and placements.
- Determine how many seats are needed. As a general rule, allow 24 inches per seat for bench length.
- Note all windows, doors, appliances, vents or outlets to avoid blocking with bench placement. Ensure good traffic flow.
- Check lighting and make any adjustments needed, like adding pendant lights or sconces to ensure the bench area is well-illuminated.
Consider sightlines from seated vantage points and how the bench will align with cabinets, counters, and other built-ins. Mark stud locations for secure installation. Leaving your bench design flexible until all details are confirmed prevents construction issues down the road.
Kitchen bench construction involves two main components – the inner supporting structure and the outward-facing surfaces for sitting. Here are some finishing material options to consider:
- Wood: Stained, painted, or natural wood surfaces like oak or maple are attractive and coordinate with most cabinetry. Durable and easy to repair.
- Laminates: Formica and other laminates allow bold colors, faux woodgrains, and patterns at an affordable price point. Resists moisture and stains.
- Upholstered: Cushioned pads covered in vinyl, leather, or durable woven fabrics add comfort and sound absorption.
- Combination: A popular look is a stained wood base or legs paired with an upholstered seat pad in a contrasting color.
Look for family-friendly, easy-clean materials that offer enough cushioning for lengthy dinners yet hold up to heavy use and wear over time. Also ensure your choice fits within your budget constraints.
Installation and Construction
Building a customized bench requires proper structural reinforcement and finishing. Some options include:
- Hiring a carpenter to construct and install a bench to your specifications.
- Purchasing a modular or prefabricated bench system for simpler DIY assembly.
- Securing the bench directly to wall studs and reinforcing the foundation.
- Using shims during construction to ensure a level, even bench surface.
For DIY installations, apply wood glue and nails into the wall studs and floor for stability. Water-resistant MDF stands up well to kitchen moisture. Finishing touches like trim, crown molding, and baseboard help blend the bench seamlessly into your design.
Integrating built-in bench seating is one of the most space-efficient and stylish ways to add extra gathering room and storage to your kitchen or dining space. With an array of configuration options and customization features, bench seating can be adapted to complement any floorplan and design aesthetic. Spend time planning the perfect spot, materials, and proportions to enjoy this versatile, on-trend element for years to come.
Your kitchen should inspire memorable comfort and togetherness. With strategic built-in benches incorporated thoughtfully, your space can reach its full potential as a warm, welcoming backbone of your home.