Pair a freestanding table with a built-in bench to create a dining room banquette that gives you more seating per square foot than a standard table-and-chairs configuration. Depending on how you design the banquette, it can lend a casual or formal air to your kitchen.
The bench, or banquette, should hug one or more walls to preserve floor space. For a built-in look, create an alcove or niche for the banquette by flanking each end of the bench with a bookcase or cabinetry. Or, extend a bench from wall to wall. If your dining room already features an alcove, position the banquette so it wraps around all three walls of the nook and forms a U shape. A corner is another smart location for a banquette, allowing you to create an L-shape bench that follows both walls and makes use of often-unused space.
Finish the base with moldings and paint or stain to complement the look of your dining room or kitchen. Keep in mind, too, that the interior of the bench offers opportunities for storage, so design a bench that can open from the top or include doors or drawers in the base.
Add a cushion to your banquette so diners can sit for hours in comfort. You can provide a cushion for just the bench seat, or pad both the seat and the back. Either way, select cushion covers or an array of pillows with color and pattern to suit the style of your kitchen. Choose durable fabric that's treated to repel stains and moisture, or opt for vinyl, indoor-outdoor fabrics, or leather.
Select a round, rectangular, or oval table for your banquette depending on how much seating and serving space you need. A round table with a pedestal base makes it easy to slide onto the bench without any table legs in the way. The pedestal offers plenty of legroom for diners as well as space for pulling up chairs. A round table is also ideal for conversation. When your banquette isn't in use, slide the table closer to the bench to free up floor space.
Supplement a banquette bench with additional chairs on the opposite side of the table (and on the ends, depending on your banquette's configuration). The chairs you select for your banquette are another opportunity to express your style and welcome diners around the table. Choose chairs that match one another or opt for a mismatched grouping for an eclectic feel. Likewise, the chair finish and cushions can match or contrast with the banquette and table.