What Are Your Thoughts On A Dining Table With Bench Seats?

I’m thinking about using a dining table with bench seats in my breakfast room and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. Here’s how I got the idea…

I’ve been hard at work trying to get through my list of things I wanted to accomplish before my end-of-year break. I’m definitely running behind schedule, but I spent the day yesterday working on trimming out the front windows in the breakfast room.

And of course, when I’m in a room working, I do quite a bit of daydreaming, planning, and imagining how a room will look when it’s finished. The other day, I mentioned the idea of adding built-in storage flanking the pantry door.

My breakfast room and pantry with drywall and electrical finished

I think the consensus was that more storage is always a good idea. But a few of you asked, “Do you really need it?” and, “Won’t it limit your space for a dining table?” It’s the dining table part that really got me questioning the storage idea. Of course, I had already thought of it as I had considered the built-in storage and had decided that it wasn’t going to be a space issue, but then I started second guessing myself.

When  room is “in progress” and you’re standing in an empty room with a tape measure in hand, that’s much different than actually being in a finished room with actual furniture. Sometimes finished rooms just don’t function exactly the way we had imagined, even with our thoroughly measured and well planned ideas. And while my tape measure and math might say, “It’s fine! Go for it!” the reality of losing 13 or 14 inches of floor space could be the difference between my fully extended dining table seating 10 people and only seating 8 people, or seating 10 people comfortably and seating 10 people cramped with people having to uncomfortably squeeze around the people seated on the ends in order to reach the other side of the table.

One commenter on that post floated the idea of built-in banquettes on either side of the pantry door. That idea got my head spinning, because y’all know I love built-in banquettes!! I started envisioning something like at the condo, where I had the built-in banquette with storage above.

Kitchen Table With Bench And Chairs At The Condo

Kitchen table with bench seating

Now I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it, too. If storage would take up needed space when the table is fully extended, then built-in seating will too.

But I kept mulling the idea over in my head, asking myself, “Kristi, what is it that you really need in this room?” Well, I need more dining table seating available for when the table is extended and we have more than four people at the table.

Then the idea struck me. I could do the banquettes on either side of the pantry door, but make them with movable seats that can be pulled up to the dining table when extra seating is needed. It would basically be two bench seats which could each seat two people. So on a regular day, it would just look like two built-in banquettes on either side of the pantry door. But when we need extra seating at the table, the seats could be pulled over, and they’d no longer take up valuable floor space on that pantry wall. I also wouldn’t have to worry about storing away four extra dining chairs in the garage or a closet somewhere when they’re not in use. Make sense?

So my only hesitation with this idea is that I can’t decide just how practical bench seating is at a dining table. I see it in pictures of dining rooms all the time, although most of them are much longer and seat more than just two people, although I did find this dining room with six separate benches that each look like two-seaters.

So what are your thoughts on bench seating at a dining table?

If you showed up to someone’s house for dinner, and along one side of the table they had bench seating, would you think to yourself, “Ugh. That can’t be comfortable.”

Would you make a mental note that you need to rush to the table when the host asks for people to be seated so that you can snag one of the chairs and not be stuck on the bench?

Or would you be completely okay with bench seating, especially if they’re upholstered and soft to sit on?

I’ve been trying to remember when I’ve sat on bench seating for a meal, and I can only think of one situation — during meals at a picnic table outdoors. I don’t recall ever being uncomfortable sitting at a picnic table, but comfort is also generally not at the forefront of a person’s mind when sitting at a picnic table outdoors.

So I need your input, especially if you have your own experience with having dinners while sitting on bench seating, whether it’s your own home or you were a guest in someone else’s home. Would you recommend it? And keep in mind, I’m considering upholstered benches (i.e., comfy for the tush) that only seat two people, which will seemingly eliminate the need for anyone to step over the bench to be seated. Each person can just slip around the side, right?



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  1. Bench seating is great for kids…not so much for adults. I’m not a fan. That said…in a restaurant I want a booth rather than a table, but I think that’s more because I don’t like people walking around me when I eat.

    1. I agree, we had a bench for our kids. It really depends on how long you plan on sitting there. Are you going to entertain and sit at the table for a while, you may want something with a back on it if you plan on sitting and chatting a while. If you are a quick eater and dont plan on sitting long a bench may work

    2. I absolutely hate the idea for a dining table. I think they often look good in photographs, but the reality is they are not comfortable for an extended meal – and family dinners on holidays are extended meals.

      There is also the pragmatic considerations. Getting in an out from the table is an issue – especially for the middle person.

      Nope. Not in a million years.

  2. As a teacher the bench seating brings to mind that the only way to utilize the seating is climbing over. It might be fine for my little first graders but as an adult–not so much. Of course our benches were much longer but the only ones who could simply sit were at the ends.

    I am sure you will receive better opinions than mine!

  3. Great idea, using removable benches in your banquet. I have a 62″ bench I use for extra seating at my dining room table. No one seems to mind & I personally like sitting at one. I lean over the table to eat, so a chair makes no difference. I keep my bench at the foot of my bed until needed in dining room.

    1. I agree with Bobbirr. As another reader who actually uses one in my home, I love my bench seat! I read your blog everyday sitting on the bench at my dining room table (both which I built it myself). Although it would be more comfortable if it was upholstered.

  4. We love it! I have family and friends over all the time and its great, My mom just updated her table by adding a bench. I will say who do eat and hang out at our table(ages 2-60) and we all seem ok, and on busy or heavy food dads ot aids as a table.

  5. Ok, for kids or very fit and active young adults. For older fols or those with health issues, e.g., back, neck or shoulder pain like me, I’d be running for the chairs…or “reserve” my seat ahead of time. Its a nice idea in theory, but not in reality!

      1. I totally agree with Christine. I used a bench for the first time at Thanksgiving and was disappointed when one (seated at the bench) needed to leave the table for whatever reason, the other seated on the bench had to move with just so the first could get up. I also had to move 2 chairs, thinking it would be a nice change to use the bench. I do like the look, but not the use. Perfect for the backyard and campgrounds.

    1. Agree. And what about that guest who has mobility issues (painful lower back, etc.) but doesn’t want to make a big deal about it. They either request a chair (should they have to REQUEST a chair???) or they sit in pain.

      Don’t make your guests scramble for a chair. This isn’t a game. If you want your guests to be comfortable, forgo the bench seating.

      1. I just thought of this while reading the other comments. I have arthritis in my knees. I’m fairly young and I don’t like to make it apparent that I have mobility difficulties in my knees. (In other words, if I were a new guest at someone’s house, I wouldn’t call attention to it, and depending on who else is there, may not even request a chair.) I have a real challenge when I’m sitting for a period of time and go to stand, then move or step away. With a chair, it’s do-able–push back the chair, use the arms or table to gently leverage myself to stand, then stand for a few seconds before I attempt to move or step away. With a bench this would be a nightmare, especially if I were sitting next to someone on the same bench.

        1. I totally agree with Mary. I have lower back issues, degenerative disease with fusion at 3 levels 🙁 , but I don’t like to call attention to it unless necessary. I would NOT be able to sit on and get up from a bench, I have to have a firm chair. We had a bench when the children were young and they were fine sitting on it, but it not possible for older or anyone with back/knee problems.

    2. At 68 with arthritis, I agree. Bench seating is usually a challenge. However, a 2-seater bench probably wouldn’t be such a problem as each person could slide in from their own side.

      Do you really entertain much? I don’t remember you mentioning it. The room should be comfortable for it’s main use. If there’s an abnormally large group of people, they probably expect a little crowding.

  6. I’m not sure if this is because I grew up with a dining table with a bench that only kids sat on, but to me (even if it’s “fancy”) a bench feels like its for kids.

    I love the look of it, but I think I would prefer a chair.

    That being said, I wouldn’t at all be annoyed if that’s what someone had at their house for guests. It’s just not what I personally would pick for my house 🙂

  7. Agreed, bench seating is ok for kids. When we have people over for meals, we tend to linger at the table. I like to be able to sit back and relax into a chair. I would want the same for my guests. Also, will any of your guests be elderly or may not be physically able to step over a bench?

    1. I so agree…and also remember when you have a bench those people who need walkers or wheelchairs need a chair anyway. Benches are great for kids but no so us “seasoned” adults. Hard on the back and hard to negotiate in and out gracefully I might add when bench is full.

  8. IF the bench had a back then I’d be fine. But if it is just a bench, I’d bee running to get a seat since just the thought of sitting at a bench for a meal makes my back hurt. I love it when, after dinner, people sit around the table and talk. I would not want to do that with a bench.

    1. Yes! Exactly what I was thinking. A back is needed make it comfortable. I am not sure your family, but linger at the table after eating and sitting back and relaxing is important.

      My other concern is that while you think the bench would sit two people, it may not work out that way.

  9. How often is it likely to be used? How long at a time is it likely to be used for? On a day to day, every day, all the time, basis I’d say no but, if it’s occasional and not for long periods of time, or guests will have an opportunity to get up and move around, then I’d say it would be fine, especially if upholstered. I had table and benches in my kitchen for a long time and it was the most used area of the home, at the time. Un-upholstered benches as well but they were probably the most used seating in the house for ages – and not just at meal times.

  10. I have a bench seat in my dining room and I like that the bench can be tucked under the table and not take the space from the walkway (which leads into another room, so it is a higher traffic area). Also, cushioning can greatly improve the comfort level. And really, how long do you actually sit at a dining table? Look at all the pictures with those popular metal chairs and hard wood chairs. Cushioning is the key and it is a space saver.

    1. Ha! You have a good point! I’d much rather sit on a soft, cushioned and upholstered bench than have a meal sitting in a metal or hard wood chair, and yet I see metal and wood chairs used all the time in dining rooms these days.

      1. I have hard wood dining chairs that are contoured and very comfortable for that after dinner sitting back and relaxing. Benches are ok for kids, but adults need to be able to move their chairs to the distance from the table that is comfortable for them, which may be different for the others seated on a bench. Not to mention being able to move their chair back to leave the table. With a bench that is difficult to do. My experience with a bench at the dining table is that I always have to raise my leg and step over it, even when seated at the end, as it’s usually close to the table for comfort while eating, not getting seated or getting up.

    2. EXACTLY!! I would much prefer a bench over some of the metal and wood chairs that seem to be the rage. I think benches are a great idea, especially since they are just 2 person benches. Go for it!

    3. Our family likes to linger around the table well after the meal is finished. I have a bad back and could not enjoy our discussions if I had to sit on a bench.

  11. It’s quite common here in Europe, but only kids gravitate to the backless ones. Adults need a backrest, which you could certainly build onto movable benches, it would just look like moulding on the pantry wall. You need about a 5 degree angle from vertical and 10 from horizontal on the seat (or is it the other way around?) to encourage people to hang out after the meal. I love the lack of clutter they give by minimizing legs. Makes cleaning easier too😁

    1. I agree with Lauren, benches that have a back would be the perfect solution. It would be able to seat 2 people comfortably and allow those that need/want additional support to be comfortable. When tucked up into the built-ins they will look really pretty.

    1. I’m and OT too and have a bench and love it. It’s great for working on trunk control ;). Guests comment all the time that they think it looks really good. It makes dining seem more casual and less fussy, like what it should be when you gather friends and family around.

  12. My SIL has a bench at their dining table and no one ever seems to mind sitting at it. I do frequently when we’re at their house and it’s never even crossed my mind that I should try to sit at another chair because the bench is uncomfortable or awkward.

  13. It seems to me that you want a dining room where people will linger after a meal, talking and relaxing. Bench seats don’t really serve that purpose, even if upholstered, because there’s no back to relax against. For me, part of the appeal of booths in a restaurant is the relaxed, lounge-y feel of cozying up in a booth. I definitely don’t feel that way about bench seats.

    If you do go with benches, two-seaters are preferable so no one gets stuck in the middle, awkwardly climbing in and out. I’d be one of those people racing to sit in an actual chair!

    The movable banquette is interesting and unique–have never seen it before–great idea–but still turns into benches at the table. I would think most adults would choose a chair over a bench.

    1. You make the point I’d make – no back support and that would be a problem, in my opinion, for a meal with family sitting around talking before, during and after a meal. But I sure do like the idea of being able to have storage and additional seating! Guess it would depend on one’s family make-up. Are there kids? Mostly older folks? Maybe factor that in your decision.

  14. I would consider the age of the guests. At my age, it is hard for me to comfortably negotiate getting on and off a long bench seat, especially if there are already other people sitting there. Multiple benches would make it easier. And I would definitely upholster them for comfort. Another thing would be back support for a prolonged period of time. Smaller benches with backs??? Just a thought!

  15. The real question is how often do you entertain large groups of people- is it’s only once or twice a year? If that is it the case then I think one comfy bench on one side is absolutely the way to go when you extend the table and you can pull in extra chairs from around the house. At all other times your table will not be extended and 4-6 matching chairs around it is fine. Then you can use the bench as an accent somewhere else. I love multiple use furniture!!!! I love watching you create your dream home – I’m blown over by your talent and perseverance!

  16. If the benches are on the smaller side and will only seat 2 people, plus are upholstered, I think it wold be ok. That way no one has to “step over” the bench (since it only seats 2), and the cushion would make it more comfortable. I guess the deciding factor for me would be if people feel the need to be able to sit back in their seat.

    1. I like the versatility of bench seating a totally agree that if it’s a 2-seater upholstered bench, then there’s no climbing over it and it’s soft on the rear. I really like the idea!

  17. The fact that you are talking two, two-seater benches sounds great and more inviting to me. One long bench that a person would have to scoot down or step over would not be so inviting, and does kind of remind me of kids seating, as someone else commented. I think the two-seater bench is a wonderful idea that once you have put your spin on, will be fantastic! Go for it!!! I can’t wait to see what you do… BTW, I love the pic of your condo and the built-in you did there.

  18. Please rethink this one Kristi. Benches are ok if you’re 12, not ideal as an adult. Extremely uncomfortable with no support for your back. Personally, I would be shoveling my food in as quickly as possible to escape the bench! Hosting a large group of people seems to be very important to you and you’ve said this is your forever house. Logic says the people you want to host will be growing older over the years, not younger. To really enjoy a meal you need to be able to relax and linger…not possible when your back is killing you from no support.

  19. For 9 years we lived in a tiny apartment and had a custom made table with benches that could be “hung” under the table to conserve space, and pushed against the wall, when we weren’t actually using the table. It worked great for it’s purpose, but I hated climbing over the benches every time I wanted to sit down. Granted, they weren’t upholstered so they were also hard and we never lingered over meals.

    So I guess it would depend on how long you plan to sit and whether the people you regularly have over would want something they could lean back against in order to be comfortable.

    I know everyone says more storage is always a good thing, but I don’t agree. We’re in real estate revitalization and investment and have seen a LOT of houses. Sometimes a house CAN have too much storage and not enough living space. Do you truly need that extra storage? Or would your lifestyle benefit more from the extra living space? That’s the question you need to ask yourself.

    Loving the new direction you’re going with your home!!!

    1. I agree. Which is most beneficial, the floor space or the storage? You may find your pantry is more than enough storage. I would save the bench idea after the pantry is completed. How about just upper cabinets or open upper built ins? I would not mind bench seating because I do not like to linger at the table after eating, even with a cushy chair. I am always first to retire to the comfort of the living room after a meal.

  20. I have recently gone to a bench for one side of my dining table. The only complaints were from the grandson’s who were not wanting to sit by their brother. Since this is only when you need extra seating and will be designed to seat two, I think you have come up with a great solution for extra seating as well as storage. Great idea.

  21. Like others have said, the “built-in” benches could be built with backs that continue the built-in look, but come with the benches when used for seating, if that makes sense. I mean, what if that upholstered back, on the condo built-in, was attached to the bench so that if you moved it to the table, you’d have a bench with a back? Maybe not as tall, or the upholstered part could be done so that the only the bottom half moved with the bench, but it looked like one whole piece when up against the wall?

    Thanks so much for sharing your thought process! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

    1. That’s exactly what I was thinking except I would make the back shorter so it only comes about half way up your back. That way it’s less cumbersome and less likely to tip over backward. But having said that, I think you are asking the wrong people. Why don’t you consider asking the family and friends that would be sitting there if it would make a difference to them? I think they would be willing to give you their honest opinion if you asked beforehand.

  22. I absolutely hate bench seating. I think it’s very uncomfortable and I always prefer a chair. I think it’s okay for a quick dinner but if it’s a long meal I just don’t enjoy sitting there because I like to be able to relax and have something to rest my back against. I really like them aesthetically but as far as actually using them, I’m not a fan.

  23. I understand how they can make a small space look less crowded, but they are uncomfortable, there is nothing to support your back, and they are a nightmare if more than one person wants to sit on them, especially if one wants it pulled closer to the table and the other doesn’t. Do not like.

  24. Krisiti, I would definitely be thinking to myself, “Ugh! Bench seating…” Note to self, “Run! Don’t walk to table to be seated!” No amount of cushioning can make up for the fact that there is no back to the seat, and I am in relatively good condition!

    Love your posts!

  25. Hi Kristi!
    I have back “issues” and I always inwardly groan when presented with bench seating. The lack of back support will take away the pleasure of the meal. Also if the person sharing the bench with you is not “related” to you it can be quite uncomfortable.

  26. I know it is very popular now but I don’t love it. And it is very hard for people with disabilities to sit at a bench and not have back support. I have RA and would find it uncomfortable.

  27. I FREAKING LOVE the scrolled creamy off white bench with the upholstered seating! I love it so much that I’m going to use your photo as my inspiration for my front dining room. I don’t care if it’s uncomfortable for adults or only suitable for kids, blah, blah, blah……..it’s GORGEOUS and looks like art! We entertain a lot and we love to decorate too and I know our friends would go gaga over this look! Just beautiful 🙂

  28. I don’t have any bench seating myself and while I have seen photos on Pinterest of it that look awesome, I don’t think it is practical. Maybe if the bench was upholstered with a back, but otherwise I don’t think it would be comfortable for an extended period of time. This just might be one of those designs that works better for photos than in real life. By the way, your kitty is adorable the way that she gets in all your shots. Love her!

  29. My in-laws have a large table with two benches along the sides. They seat a large group of people and I really dislike them. They are hard to maneuver, hard to get to your seat, and extremely uncomfortable. When they want to play games or have people sit around the table, no one wants to. Your bench idea sounds much better than theirs, but I have such a poor experience with their benches, that I immediately say “NO”.

  30. I have not had a chance to read through all of the comments, but these are my thoughts…. I personally do not mind sitting on bench seating. It reminds me of all my meals at my sleep-away camp that I LOVED (not the food so much, but the company!). Even, as an adult I don’t mind it. BUT, I will say that you have to negotiate the distance from the table with whoever else is on the bench and there is no back support for those who may need it. My father is heavier and needs back support. Others may need it for medical reasons, etc. Clearly you want your guests to be comfortable! So, who will your guests be? If they are older or have other health considerations, then maybe don’t do it. But, if you’re going to have 4 youngish guests (like teenage neices/nephews) sit them on the benches! LOL! The other thing is if you’re having that many people over to your house, maybe you pull the benches out and use them in OTHER rooms for seating (like in the music room or living room) and you put 4 folding chairs at the table. Just a thought.

  31. I have a different suggestion. In my grandmother’s house, she had build-in custom corner diagonal hutches. The top half had glass doors, and the bottom half regular doors for storage. She used the top half to display her pretty dishes. This would allow you to have extra storage without limiting the space for your dining room table extension. And with the built-ins in the corners, it would be a visual change from the wall of storage from the music room and kitchen. And corners are not really used in a dining room. Just something different to consider. I love built-ins, but I’m not a fan of the removable bench seating idea. 🙂

  32. Benches are very uncomfortable for adults! My friend has a church pew at her table, and although it looks adorable no one wants to sit there. Benches are impossible to adjust to the table as everyone needs to be the same size or you have someone extremely close to the table or too far away. Plus chairs give everyone the sense of their personal space, bench seating can feel like being eating on a airplane.

    1. I have to agree about the bench seating not being so practical. As other have mentioned, mobility restrictions limit us but as Cindy says, size matters. What if I’m 5’2″ and the other person is 6’2″? If i can reach the table then the table is probably touching them. Also, what size is a “two person bench”? Will it be on casters or will it be a challenge to move it closer once seated? Yes, I eat in a booth when eating out but I’m not always comfortable. I, too, love the look but I’m with the herd running for a real chair. In fact, if its occasional seating that will need to be stored for daily use, I’d rather sit on an ottoman that is made for and tall enough for table seating. (still with casters!)

  33. I think that you need to ask yourself honestly what people are going to be at your house at any given time. If they have any physical problems or issues that won’t allow for a long meal at a bench seat. I for one have a sever back issue and would not be able to sit for long. If you can look over your normal guest list, and see that there would be no issues, then go for the bench. It’s all a matter of comfort. And you know your guests better than anybody — just go over who will be potentially sitting at your table! 🙂

  34. I think it depends on the type of dinners you host. I tend to have adults and we sit at the table for a few hours chatting with a glass of wine so comfort is needed. I don’t find a bench without a back to be comfortable for long periods. Another consideration is that anything built in reduces the flexibility for furniture layout.

  35. I still think you should wait and see if you still like the built in idea when the other elements are added. I understand you and Matt will be using this room all the time. Like your front entry, sometimes less is more, and moving around space might end up being more convenient and comfortable than limitless storage.

    That said, benches are great for occasional extra seating.

  36. Benches should remain at the picnic table. Even if they are just for 2 people so you don’t have to climb over, they aren’t that comfortable for chatting around the table after dinner. Also, where is your buffet going? How about adding some upholstery to decent folding chairs to match your other chairs, very easy to bring in from storage or the garage.

  37. Not a fan of either benches or more storage for that area. Maybe finish the room, use it and see how it feels, then if you think you need something there, you can always add it. How about “less is more” (at least for now)? Though I love all the detailed stuff, sometimes I just need some clean spots to hang pictures or do something decorative or nothing at all.

  38. I think most adults prefer something with a back. A two-seater bench would be fine as far as moving in and out to get up from the table but I am only 53 and have had issues with my back so I would be trying to vie for a seat in a chair.

  39. My parents had a long trestle table with benches made for our family of 7 in 1963 and it is still the everyday dining table at my mother’s house. We have all sat for untold hours on those benches eating, playing games, doing homework, or talking and I can never remember feeling they were uncomfortable or that I would have preferred a chair. I have never heard anyone in the family express frustration or unhappiness with the benches and we are not a family to suffer in silence. My 88-year old mother sits on a bench at that table every day.

    The benches don’t have a cushion, which allows for sliding down a bit if needed. Our family is now 11 adults and 2 nearly-adult-sized adolescents and we can all fit around the table–which would not be possible if we had chairs instead of benches. If we needed to add one or two more people we could probably do it by squeezing a little closer together.

    Getting in and out is harder as my sisters and I and spouses are now middle-aged and less agile but we all have our traditonal places at the table and know who has to slide in first. Those at the ends know they will be the ones to fetch the forgotten condiments from the refrigerator.

    As I am planning a re-do of my own narrow dining room that also functions as the link between the front of the house (living room) and the back of the house (Kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms) I am strongly considering benches instead of chairs. They visually take up less space both in height and without the clutter of chair legs. Benches can be pushed in further under the table to keep them out the way. Also, I have a dog with long hair who sheds a lot and getting the dog hair off the felt pads on the bottom of the chair legs is a pain.

    You are planning a dining table to fit 10 people. If you have two two-seater benches as auxillary seating you will still have six chairs available for those who need or prefer them.

  40. We’ve had a bench for 2 1/2 years. I don’t like it. My husband doesn’t like either. The kids don’t like it. On a rare occasion we can slide four little kids on it, but it’s not worth it. A pain to clean under, a pain to move to mop under, too hard for people to get in and out. And ours specifically has sharp edges that bang people’s knees.

  41. No, to bench, unless it is for kids. To hard for oldies to get into and out of. That said, just two to a seat would eliminate the having to crawl over thing, if there is enough space between them. Single ones might be better. They would be great for extra seating in other ares, if they were on rollers, as in foot stools?

  42. I detest bench seating in a house, although I also don’t mind it outside at a picnic table. We rented a cottage once with bench seating in the kitchen and everyone hated it. When one person on a bench needed to leave the table, everyone had to move in order to slide the bench enough for that person to get up. Even with upholstered seats, there is no back so it’s just uncomfortable for the length of time you need/want to enjoy a meal with family. And I can’t even imagine trying to seat an elderly person on a bench. I’d definitely want to stick all the kids on the benches and save “the good seats” for the adults.

  43. Yes, the personal space would be an issue for me. Even if the benches have a back, I would prefer a chair, I think. I like the way benches work but I don’t think they would be practical for me. How much maneuvering room does Matt need in this room? Could you add the wall storage at a later date if you find you have room for it and need it?

  44. We have bench seating on one side of our dining table. It is padded and has a back so it is comfy to sit on. It is also a bench for 2 so it’s no harder to get into than a chair. Those are the positives. The negative is that its heavy to move around to clean. One without a back would be much lighter.

    My brother and sister-in-law have long bench seating on either side of their table and it is hard to scoot to the middle ANd it has no padding so after 30 minutes or so you suffer from N.B. (numb butt) and the older members of our family cannot get in and out easily.

    I think the idea of having a couple of movable benches for full use of your table is a good idea and since you have the room for it – go for it! Just pad them and put pads under the feet to keep scratches from occuring on your flooring.

  45. I think your idea of movable bench seating is BRILLIANT!!! I also like the idea of two benches as opposed to one allowing each bench to be accessed from the ends as well as allowing you to move the benches in our out the appropriate distance for whomever is sitting on the bench. IMO and no offense to anyone, everyone is over thinking the whole thing. For the most part everyone at the table will have a chair with a back. Many people have kids sit at an entirely separate table during get together’s. So instead of having those individuals sit at a different table ask them to take a seat at the bench and leave the chairs for others. I think it’s pretty nice that you are trying to accommodate everyone at the same table. I also understand those that like to sit around at the table afterwards, I do as well, but if it seems like that might be an issue at that particular gathering then take everyone into the living room. Every get together is unique in itself and I don’t think you can plan for every scenario. Loving watching your progress.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to hijack your comment section. :o(

    1. I agree. The short benches provide extra seating if needed. They are also easy to use in other parts of the home. The picture with the lambs wool throws above actually looked inviting. I have back issues, but for a dinner, if I was offered a bench at the end of a table, where both people could slide in from the end, I’d be fine for an hour or so. If you have kids present, they’ll be fine. And they are easy to drop bags and groceries on when you first come in from the garage. 90% of the time you won’t need them. They can also be moved out to the front porch or sunroom if they aren’t needed all the time. Despite the fact most don’t like them, I’d keep the idea as a possible option once you got the room pulled together and saw what you needed in extra seating. And the living room is beautiful.

  46. May I suggest individual padded stools instead of a long bench for extra seating. They could still be placed side by side on either side of the pantry doors. There is no graceful way to get in or out of a bench. Love your designs.

  47. I generally don’t love bench seating inside, but only for functional reasons. I think they look great. There’s nothing like a cute little breakfast nook, visually.

    First, most bench seating has no backs, making them uncomfortable for sitting at for a long time. If you’re going to make them more like rolling banquettes, that might not be an issue.

    Second, there’s the issue of having to climb into the middle. Again, if you’re only going to do them two-seats wide, that might be resolved.

    Third, I never feel like I can get as close or far away from the table as I like to be because I don’t have control over my own seat (I have to share it with a friend). When you’re heavyset, as I am, it’s often more comfortable to be further away than the skinny person next to you. The first person who sits basically gets to choose the distance unless you want to make them stand-up. With fixed banquettes, you have to push the whole table away and disrupt everyone.

    That said, it’s not a terrible idea for occasional use. I love your idea that it won’t take-up extra storage for extra chairs. Depending how they’re built, they can include storage areas underneath. There are lots of pluses.

    One thing you might consider… How often are you going to have more than 6 people? If it’s only once or twice a year, you might consider just moving that party to the living room or music room and using folding 6-foot tables with folding chairs. Then, you only have to make your breakfast room seat 6.

    We do this for Thanksgiving and Easter every year. We’ll have up to 16 people over and we just push aside the living room furniture and place the tables down the middle. Works great and then people can lounge at the table or on the couches afterwards to chat and enjoy coffee. I then use the dining room table (without the chairs, since I’ve moved them to the folding tables) as the dessert/drink station or the buffet.

    Another suggestion comes from a sectional sofa we recently bought. All the pieces of the sectional clip together with a peg that drops into a slot between the pieces. When you want to separate them, you just lift the peg out of the slot. I wonder if you could design your banquette pieces in such a way that they clip-together and look like one piece when they’re in the corner but separate into individual benches or “chairs” when moved to the table. Just an interesting idea to ponder…

    1. I wholeheartedly second the notion that it feels like you can never get the proper distance from the table. Even though I’m 30, I’m the youngest of the siblings, so I still get grouped with my nieces sometimes. They obviously sit pretty close to the table, so I’ve ended up with my boobs in my mashed potatoes more than once.

  48. Disclaimer: We have a small house (so no official dining room)… But…

    We built a banquet (I call it a bench seat) under 6ft window in our dining area, and then designed a table to match the space with it. The bench seat will be cushioned (when I get around to sewing those!), seats 2 EASILY, 3 still very comfortably. If it were small kids, I could easily see even more seated there since it’s the full 6ft long. Around the rest of the table we have 4 chairs. We’ve had guests who want to sit on the bench, but if they don’t we are happy to take those spots and leave the chairs for everyone else. Considering our alternative when we we had just chairs only was a small table that seated maybe 3 people (4 was really pushing it), the bench drastically increases our seating capacity, but we do keep in mind that for older guests they generally want to have a nice solid back to lean against. Since ours is a window, it’s a pretty long lean back if you want any support when you’re seated on the bench and we don’t like to encourage it.

  49. I know it’s trendy and a big part of the whole “farmhouse” (ugh – so sick of that word!) look, but I don’t really get the point. Unless you’re using it as kids seating, you still seat the same number of guests as you would with chairs.
    And, yes, you can have too much storage space and too many built ins. Built-ins restrict how you use the space and limit furniture placement. Too many storage cabinets just encourage the collection of unnecessary junk.
    I know you like the challenge of building projects but here I think it’s a case of “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should”. If I were you, I’d finish trimming out your windows and doors, paint, buy a dining set you like, and get started using that room! 🙂

  50. I think the removable benches are a good idea. You would only be using them when there’s a lot of people at the table anyway, and they eliminate elbow room problems some chairs can cause as their legs butt against each other. Some people might find the lack of back support uncomfortable, but I have no problem sitting on them.

  51. I would rather sit on a hard, metal folding chair with a back, than an upholstered bench without a back. Padding or no, it is still picnic-table seating.

  52. Hi….I love the look of a bench, but…not sitting at/on one. If you have someplace else you can use a bench and can have extra coordinating dining chairs that’s what I would do for when you have an all adult dinner. We like to lean back and linger over dinner and dessert…..the bench doesn’t allow that.

  53. Growing up in a house with 5 kids- our long dining table had a bench on one side. It wasn’t exclusive to just kids, you could pile 3-4 adults on it and still have room for card table chairs (gasp!) or high chair depending. I love the look and the function of a bench. I have no doubt you can do multi-purpose mobile seating to boot!

    What are large dinners about? Basically breaking bread with those nearest and dearest to you or at least momentary truces and expanded tolerances. 😉 lol Our dining room was no where near the size of what you have (think narrow enough to barely fit around the sides and the obligatory china cabinet on one end. But it was enough. As the years went by- kids got bigger, grandkids appeared, those kids got bigger…etc. We were packed in like sardines. We even had some people with t.v. trays off to the side, highchairs…etc.
    So what am I yammering along about? Make it look it how you want. You are talented enough that your natural foresight will automatically account for the function of seating many people. Just do it. That said- I realize a lot of people like formal style of dining and prefer to reflect in their dining experience (what the heck is elbow room?) 😉 . That’s all good and dandy but one or two meals a year is not going to dictate my design. That’s just me. I mean you already moved the dining space back out of the living room. Design for the other 363 days and those special meals will be even more blessed. That’s just me. 😀

  54. Bench seating seems to me to be less formal- and I’m an informal kinda gal so that works for me. You may not be, but with banquettes that can be brought into use on the probably rare occasions that you host a dinner party for 10, it seems that you get the best of both worlds. And a look you like as well.

  55. I would not recommend bench seating. It just limits you… Who can sit there? Not an elderly person, who can’t clamber over or sit without a back. Will the person sharing be the kind who gets up frequently, requiring their bench partner to keep scooting back and forth, interrupting their meal? You don’t need more limits on your room.

  56. So this crew of 10 you need to accommodate…are they a linger around the table crew or a retire to the living room after dinner crew? If it’s a retire to the living room crew then benches for dining are fine. Especially since they are two seaters, just make sure each person will have plenty of elbow room.

    If you guy linger at the table, then backless benches will become uncomfortable quickly. Also, if you do the built in banquet, I’m missing how this will free up floorspace when the benches are at the table. Won’t the cabinetry/shelves/whatevers left still project into the room? You could do freestanding benches that flank the door, but that gives you no additional storage.

    Also, how come you need seating for 10? Wouldn’t it b 9? Table for 10, yeah, but does Matt transfer to a dining chair at meal times?

      1. Ok. I thought maybe the wheelchair was at an awkward height for a dining table and he had to transfer. That seemed like both a hazard and a huge inconvenience for him. It’s been very interesting to see you address issues that most of us would not even have thought about as you make your home work for your whole family.

  57. Bench Seating – not a fan. Not good on your back for long periods of time – think about bleacher seating at a foot ball game. Even padding won’t help the back. How about some vintage folding chairs that can double as wall art?

  58. I saw some bench style seating on the Wayfair site that had tufted high back and it was super cute. Comments said they were using them for dining room seating. Thought I would send the link but sorry not sure how to.

  59. We had bench seating when our boys were younger but, once they became adult-sized as teenagers the benches were ridiculously awkward and too small. We got rid of them and went back to a table and chairs where everyone could have some room.

  60. Been there, done that long before it was a “fad”…one person is never happy, the bench is too close or too far from the table and if they have to get up for some reason it disturbs the other person sitting on the bench. I think it is more practical for each person to have their own chair.

  61. Growing up, our kitchen table had chairs on three sides and a bench on the fourth. The bench was popular seating now just for the kids but also the adults and people loved to sit there. Scanning through other comments, I think its important to note that our bench had a back (although it was hard wood and not upholstered). I think the back was key since it made the bench more comfortable to everyone and also “fancied” it up as compared with a picnic bench. One benefit to a bench is that, depending on age and size, more people can be comfortably fit onto a bench to add extra seating whereas only one person will ever sit in a single chair. For example, we could easily (and comfortably) seat 4-5 kids on the bench vs 2-3 adults.

  62. We have a bench on one side of our table and I love it. I like that it makes the room feel more open since you don’t have chairs sticking up on both sides. I find I prefer the bench to the actual chairs and ours is just a durable farmhouse style bench. We also have traditional chairs on one side so my dad, who has back problems can be more comfortable. With your proposed small benches I think they make a lot of sense and you won’t have to worry about adults climbing over to get in since they are small and can be easily moved.

    1. Susan, there’s a section on the sidebar labeled “archives.” You can go to the very first month, and then click on the very first post. (Warning…my blog has changed drastically over the years. Those old posts are probably pretty silly.) Then at the bottom of each post, there’s a link to the next post, and you can work your way through them in chronological order.

  63. For children and young people, probably fine……for older folks like me (75) — not good. We need the comfort and stability of a chair with a back. 🙂

  64. Wow! A lot of comments here already! Anyway, I’ll also add mine-
    I’m 62, and would not be comfortable on a bench without a back. I agree with most here, that benches are more suited to kids and younger folks.

    Our dining table has hard, wooden seats, and I hate them! They are fine for a quick meal, but horrid for lingering. I keep searching for another alternative, but either can’t afford them, or hubby hates them. (Story of our lives!) Now hubby is starting to say he hates the dining set, so maybe we will be shopping for another soon!

    If you are considering movable benches, why not just put your extra chairs in the space the benches would sit at by the pantry? If you don’t like seeing them lined up like soldiers, build a “cabinet” for them to fit inside to store. On top, it would give you space for a few decorative things!

  65. I think your idea of a built in banquet that you can then slide over to the table for seating is a really neat idea and creative. However, I agree with a lot of others that bench seating just isn’t comfortable for long visits and hanging out at the table after the meal is over. At restaurants or bars, I dread getting a bar stool that has no back and it gets uncomfortable when you’re there for a while. I think this would be the same, it’s not whether it’s cushioned or not, it’s whether it has a back or not. If there’s no back, it’s just uncomfortable.

  66. I love your idea! I’ve had a bench for extra seating for several years. It’s great for kids because you can fit a bunch of them on there, but I’ve never had the impression that any of the adults minded it. Maybe because my mom drilled into us to sit up straight at the table, I rarely lean back in a dining chair. And I’m no Spring chicken!
    I think you have a great idea! One thing I’d disagree on is having too much storage. I think it is actually possible. Too much just tends to accumulate stuff you don’t really need to store. IMHO (-:

  67. Forget the benches. How about two chairs on each side of the door. You can cover those with different covers than the other chairs and put your bird panels above. No need to store extra chairs. It is a dining room.

  68. I am one of those people who responded ANTI-bench seating. It is okay at a picnic table where, honestly, you sit hunched over the table. I wish I could say I sit upright all the time, but I don’t and after a bit, I am very uncomfortable with benches as my back hurts. Of course, with benches you can’t leave the table unless you sit on the end or everyone gets up. If you want your guests to be comfortable and sit and chat, I strongly vote for something with a back support and leave what this is up to your creativity. If you only have guests over a few times a year, get padded foldable chairs and lovely chair covers–like in wedding receptions. Think of how many times you will actually need this seating.

  69. If you have ever sat at bench seating for an extended amount of time you would never even consider bench seating. Aesthetically is looks wonderful but kills the back and leads to a desire to prematurely leave the table.

  70. I used 2-person benches at the end of my rectangular table when I needed extra seating. Easy for each person to access their seat. Benches lived elsewhere when not in use. BridgetG

  71. I personally do not care for bench seating. Too uncomfortable.

    How about using small love seats that seat two? Those could easily be pulled up to a table. People can lean back, be comfy and enjoy the meal.

    Keep up the great work!

  72. Kristi – I find that as the meal goes on, I find myself leaning more and more on the table with an elbow as my back starts to get tired without support. I’m one of those people who can sit on cement chairs, if I have to, and that’s not a problem. Padded benches would not make a difference as it’s all about the back support.

  73. You’re never going to be able to read all these comments, but NO to the bench. It would be good for a picnic (as in picnic table & benches outdoors) or for children or a cafeteria. Otherwise, it offers no back support and you have to be willing to sit the same distance from the table as your bench mates and have them move when you get up to pull the bench out.

  74. Bench is a decent option where a dining room isn’t wide enough. They can butt up to the wall (or even be built in and take less space than chairs do. If you have adequate width, and aren’t trying to cram the maximum number around the table, do chairs. That said: I have a table that seats 10 with all the leaves in. When we have a bigger crowd over, I just butt another table against the dining table and add 2 two-person benches from our front entry. It’s a nice, easy, rarely used option for an extra big Thanksgiving or soccer team meal.

  75. I went on a ski trip and they had a bench seat. I sat on one end and the bench flipped. I was very embarassed.

    Besides the lack of a back, it’s very awkward to get off the bench when someone is sitting next to you, unless you’re on the end.

    I’m in my fifties and yes I would run to dedicated seat versus a bench seat.

    Having said all that, I love the look of bench seating.

  76. just joined this site I t like bench seating – too casual and uncomfortable what kind of table do you have? if the table legs are at the edge instead of a pedestal type a bench can make it tighter than a chair

  77. I would put 2 upholstered chairs on each side of the door. They could be made to appear to be an upholstered bench with a back but could be used as single chairs. This would avoid looking as if you are just storing extra chairs against the wall but you would have the option of using single seating instead of bench seating. A two seat bench, even with a back, is an strange seating option and a 3 seat beach traps the middle person.

  78. When I have guests over, we eat and talk and like to linger at the table. It’s the best place for good long conversations over coffee. Bench seats, in my opinion, are great for restaurants and kids, not for friends and family I want to be comfortable.

  79. I’m going to add to what seems to be a growing consensus:

    If it is a two person bench with a back, no problem. Just as comfortable as a chair.
    Any longer than two person (with a back), it becomes a problem to get in and out.
    Backless bench seating is great for kids, but not as comfortable for adults because of the climbing in and out and not being able to lean back due to being backless. It makes lingering at the dining table to visit after the meal much less appealing. Everyone that I have known who has had bench seating uses it as the kids’ side of the table.

  80. My in-laws have the bench sitting on one side of their dining room table. We hate it. The older generation of their siblings can’t master the “leg-swing” required to get on and off of it. They have admitted it was a poor choice but the sales associate in the furniture store assured them it was a glorious option (inset eye roll).

  81. Growing up my Mom had a deacon bench in the DR for additional seating. it was just wood and was o.k. to sit on. I’m a Pinterest fan and are always seeing people make benches from old chairs. I’m sure you still have some of those dining room chairs left you never did. After seeing the side chairs you did for the entry I’m sure you could do this. Take 2 chairs and add a little in the middle for width and then upholster them. Don’t add storage in the bottom as that would add weight you don’t need when having to move them. The open legs could match the new chairs you are doing. They couldn’t be as long as your wall space as that might cause problems sitting them around the table. You could upholstery them to match or complement your other chairs. I don’t think the added storage issue is as big a deal as needed seating so you could just put beautiful art work above them over the wall. Just something to think about.

      1. Sohttp://www.houzz.com/photos/dining/banquette-dining-room-/p/8

        Sorry link didn’t go where I wanted it to. Try this one.

  82. We have four chairs at our dining room table and then a padded bench is on one side. I always sit on the bench when we entertain because I don’t want one of our guests to have to sit there. It’s not that comfy for dining and after-meal conversation, but it looks great when we aren’t actually sitting at the table. It needs a back.

  83. I’d go for it with two small benches. I wouldn’t make them look like built-ins. Nor would I put shelves above them flanking the doorway to the pantry. Just some simple art there: perhaps not even something abstract or representational, just matching wrought-iron decorations painted a shade darker than the wall behind or perhaps even the same color. And the benches would have a cushion.

    Whatever you do, I think you should finish the room, get the furniture in, and then decide on benches or more cabinets there. You can always go back and add those more easily than putting them in now and then taking them out later.

  84. Ask yourself this, if a guest comes to the house are they going to HOPE for a chair as opposed to a ench for whatever reason? If so, go for chairs. I agree with eeryone who says benches are for kids. And older adults much prefer a chair generally. Plus with a chai you feel you ‘own’ your own space rather than vying for elbow room, bench room etc.

  85. Go with your own brilliant mind and do what you really want to do. You could – and probably will -come up with a design like no one else has ever done, and it will be FABULOUS!!! Instead of asking all of us, why not ask Matt?? Just go for it, and the rest of us will enjoy the ride – along with the inspiration AND education. YOU ARE AMAZING!!!

  86. When I think of sitting on a bench at a picnic table, it is more casual and you’re leaning on the table, quite possibly elbows on the table, because you can’t lean back for support. So when it comes to the dining room, I definitely want a chair, cause mama always told me no elbows on the table. I would be one running for the chairs. My back would thank me later.

  87. My grandmother has a long table with long bench seating on either side. The seats were just as comfortable as any wooden chairs she had such that in 30 yrs of many dinners I never remember caring where I sat. Of course it’s hard to get in/out if everyone else is already sitting down, but that was more because the benches were long and the dining room was tiny. I don’t see that being a problem with only two people per bench and with lot more room (You can just slip out the side, just like a chair). And anyways, I’d hate to know that my host went out of their way to make the dining room less practical the rest of the year just to cater to my absolutely perfect comfort for the 1-2 hrs a year. I think most guests and especially family would be fine with whatever.

  88. Sorry, but I’m in the “anti-bench” camp on this one. I had one & I hated it, only the children chose to sit on it. I won’t be redundant since all of the anti-bench reasons have been already listed, but do wish to reiterate that people with health issues (myself included…back & knees) find the benches, even if unholstered & with backs, difficult to deal with. I did love your condo banquette! It was the perfect solution for limited space but since you have more space now, build yourself some awesome upholstered chairs & have two of them stored on either side of the pantry door. With beautiful artwork hanging above them! (Or will the mural be on all of the dining room walls?) Either way, I think you have enough storage now but in the future you could add some later if you deemed it necessary! That’s my story & I’m stickin’ to it! 😀

  89. I am in the minority here, but I think two benches on either side will be beautiful and practical. I am sure anyone who feels they would be uncomfortable will opt for a chair. Also, it will look so pretty in your room when not in use. Actually, it won’t be in use that much, only when you have a large dinner party. I would go for it!

  90. Love your thought process, Kristi!
    I have to say… I’m much more concerned about my feet and knees. There are so many tables that have legs and feet that are so annoying and make me uncomfortable. Generally, I’ve found that the bench seats are taken by the younger diners. I love the look when viewing the dining table with the benches in front and can make a room feel less furniture heavy.

  91. Several people have mentioned the problem of having to step over to sit on a bench. If they are 2-seaters, that won’t be a problem, as each person can step in from their side.

    I’m short, so I don’t typically lean back in a chair, anyway. Sitting on a nice cushioned bench would be perfect for me. (I’ll volunteer to be one of the ones who sits on one of the benches!). 😁

    I think the benches having a place where they “belong” on days when they’re not being used is brilliant!

  92. Well Kristi, there’s nothing more I can add here, I think everyone has said it all. One comment that struck a chord with me was “just because you can use an idea doesn’t mean you should.” I have been trying to apply that way of thinking in decorating my own house and I’m wondering if a super-creative person like you just has so many ideas to try and the skills to go with them that maybe you’re trying to make something work that isn’t really what you need…? Maybe not, just a thought. Bottom line is, if dinner time bench seating served The Waltons all those years, who are we to disagree?

  93. I love the look of many benches for a dining area, but in reality it’s just not comfortable. There is no hanging around the table conversing after eating because you can’t lean back and relax.

  94. You can buy upholstered folding chairs for $20. http://www.foldingchairs4less.com
    Bench seating is just awful. I was very slender in my youth and when we went to Grandma’s for dinner I dreaded having to sit on the spring-cushioned piano bench. I would prefer a regular card-table chair over a bench.

  95. I think your idea is great! We have used a bench with our dining room table for over 20 years and it has been a wonderful option when we have all the extensions in. We have 8 chairs plus two larger upholstered chairs that are part of the mix as well. We’ve also brought in extra chairs and tables if needed. The bench typically lives against a wall under our stairs and is most often a resting place for something I need to take upstairs. But when we have a big dinner, the bench is great for fitting extra kids/teens but has worked just as well for adults over the years. We linger and talk after dinners as well and use the table for board games etc. If we use it, I usually sit on it because it is closest to the kitchen. I’ve never been uncomfortable or noticed any issues for others. Given the negative comments, it does seem to be good to have options for people that feel strongly against sitting on a bench. I wonder if adding a back to it would make it less stable and heavy to move. We generally seat elderly relatives in the upholstered chairs at the table head, but some think upholstered chairs are too heavy or cumbersome and prefer to sit in a simple chair or the end of the bench. I don’t like the cluttered look of extra chairs around and love the options a bench provides. We also have a built-in banquet in our kitchen and it is the most popular spot to hang out–even over the “comfy” chairs at the island. I would design around your every day life /preferences and include options that increase your functionality and comfort for times that you entertain. Your bench idea seems like a great option for these occasions. I seriously doubt you will have a stampede to your table fighting over who sits where!

  96. For me it is about the depth of the bench. I’m tall and I hate sitting on anything that doesn’t have enough depth. I feel like I’m perched on a tiny little child’s chair. However, if you are only using them twice a year and kids are the only ones using them, they would come in handy.

    I also love hanging out at the table after dinner and need back support for comfort.

  97. We have an amazing barnwood table built with wood from my husbands grandparents barn. I wanted one side to have a matching bench. We also have cushioned chairs. My 91 yr old mom sits on the bench even over the chairs. On the occasions when we have a large group over, no one complains about the bench. Awlays room to add extra chairs to accommodate. I love the bench and it tucks so nicely under the table giving us more walk by room when not in use. It’s a practical piece of furniture and I love the look!

  98. I agree with the posts that mention they would race to tag a chair. I believe that family/friend gathering meals are meant to be savored and lingered over. It’s all about the time spent enjoying the company. The benches, while creative, would not lend to that feeling. And, my concern with a bench design that seats only two, is that there would not really be enough space between the two adjoining benches to be able to access inside seating any differently than if it were a full length bench. In order to allow the guests sitting on the insides to access their seat, you would need them designed to allow a minimum 10-12″ of floor space between adjoining benches for someone to “squeeze” into their seat. That would cut down on the number of people and the “comfort space” between them at the dining table. No, I’m not a fan of this idea unless in a craft room.

  99. I can see both sides of the question here.
    My first thought was of the dining chairs at a friends house which are those narrow rush seated style… the front leg posts always dig into the side back of my thighs and I hate sitting at them! And I’ve had plenty of discomfort with folding chairs as well (seats too narrow, legs too tall so the chair digs into the back of my thighs, too rickety in general). I’d rush for the bench instead if that was an option! Surely a comfortable bench is always better than an uncomfortable chair?
    But I do like chair backs for leaning back in, and without one I can feel the strain in my lower back after a while.
    All in all… I’d still sit on a bench rather than most folding chairs.

  100. Not sure this has been mentioned, a lot of comments to go through! lol How about your idea for the move out benches that look built in but with an attached back?

  101. I’d nix the built-ins; you really CAN have too much storage. I find the more storage I have, the more un-needed stuff I collect. Open space is so much more versatile. As far as benches go, I have one, and I just make sure that’s where the kids or younger people get seated.

  102. I adore the little look of bench seating. My daughter has one and it is not only uncomfortable, but difficult when one person needs to be excused from them table. Every one must get up to let the person in the center out. Thank has been a regretted purchase. I have decided bench seating belongs outside with the picnic table where you can stradle the bench to get in and out.

  103. I’m with the group who love the look but also would like a back to the bench for comfort.
    A two seater not much of a problem- but more than that and my husband doesn’t like scooting down after his hip replacement.
    Also, is a two seat bench gong to work out with your chair placement ? It seems to me that it will look odd to have a bench on one side next to a chair- so either have a table that has seating for six or your placement is kind of wonky.

  104. I have a bench at my table. I considered several things when I added it:

    It’s the same height as a dining chair.

    It has no arms, because trying to squeeze in around arms seemed like a pain in the butt. Plus, it slides completely under the table, like a chair.

    It seats two people. My guests at Thanksgiving had plenty of room and were comfortable while eating.

    It has a back, because who wants to sit on a picnic bench while you’re eating?

  105. If the bench has a back, it *might* be ok. Having said that, one of the great things about sitting in a chair is the ability to lean back into it and relax during dinner conversation. Bench seating doesn’t allow for that, not to mention that if the middle person needs to get up, the others sharing the bench will have to get up to let him/her pass. There’s also the question of how close to the table one likes to (or needs to) sit as all those seated on the bench would have to agree on a comfortable distance. A bench is ok for a breakfast nook or kitchen table where breakfast and lunch are eaten fairly quickly, but not for a dining room table where people usually like to linger once the meal is finished.

  106. This is just my opinion, but I HATE bench sitting. It kills my back. But not only that, I don’t care for the looks of them. It just seems to me that it looks like an after thought that, oh I need more sitting spaces.
    I get the added benefit of shoving it under the table and not taking up room, but just no, for me. I also agree that you CAN have too much storage. Been there, done that 🙂
    I know that whatever you decide in the end, will be perfect for you and Matt 🙂

  107. Hi, Kristi,
    We have to use our upholstered piano bench for two people at large gatherings, and it is NOT ideal. Maybe one doesn’t have to climb over a 2-person bench, but every time one person gets up or down, the other person has to help “scooch” the bench back or forward. Even our preteen grand-daughter tries to avoid sitting there.

    Another respondent said they’d rather sit on a folding chair than on a bench. May I suggest some comfy, smallish folding chairs instead? We use some molded plastic ones that are actually quite comfortable, extremely lightweight, and easy to store. (They actually get brought out to our deck in the summer for extra seating quite often, too.) Our guests definitely choose them over the piano bench. I made some slip covers for them that get stored with the holiday tableware when not needed, and they look good all dressed up.

  108. My sister bought a new dining room set with a bench on one long side of the table. It didn’t last more than two months. Hard on the back and awkward for diners. I’ve had to sit on a dining bench a few times, and I find it difficult to position to everyone’s satisfaction. Please think very hard about who you will be inviting to your home before you commit to this. Of course, you could probably knock together a temporary bench and sit on it yourself for a few weeks before making up your mind. There’s nothing like experience.

  109. I think aim the odd man out…I enjoy benches, without padding. The flat wood adds more support than sitting on cushions, imo. I agree with those that said it takes up less space visually, and it can be pushes out of the way. It will be interesting to see what you decide !

  110. My sister has a 2 person bench seat at her table and it is the most fought over. We all love that bench! It does have a cushioned top. I think what most people don’t get is that it is not like a picnic table bench where you have to climb over the bench, no, you just walk around and sit down on either side as you would a chair.

  111. Too many decorators put looks over practicality and the bench seating in the picture is an example of this. Back support is important. After a while, guests (and hosts) would start getting uncomfortable, which is fine if you don’t want them to stay too long.

  112. When there is a table I usually lean forward and don’t really touch the back of the chair, but I haven’t actually been in houses with benches, only restaurants (and those weren’t upholstered). I do wonder about sitting around the table after the meal and having coffee though, maybe you do use the back at that time. That said, that link someone gave you early in the comments looks great (this one http://www.livingspaces.com/ProductView.aspx?productId=77104&landing=dynamic&gclid=CPrykMnS9tACFVyewAodSFoA7g#close_welcome ). So two-seater benches with a back are probably going to be great – just remember to allow enough space between the two people sitting together.

    I can’t help but notice you got two types of comments though (at least as far as I read): “I don’t like benches” and “we/my family/friend have benches and they are fine”, but not one comment of “we have a bench and I hate it”.

  113. when i was a kid, we had bench seats at our house for holiday dinners….i hated it, because after a while my back began to hurt, as there wasn’t a way to rest back in the chair

  114. I live in a brownstone (Townhouse) in NYC. It is a long, rectangular space where against one wall of the kitchen I built bench seating. I padded the back from the seat to the ceiling (very dramatic) and built a wooden frame around the whole thing to highlight the space and bring in color and pattern. It was a feature in my kitchen. But alas, rarely did an adult want to sit on the bench. The issue seemed to be the thought of “sliding” into the space even though we NY’ers are VERY used to banquette seating in restaurants. Yes, all your concerns are legit. And since I just renovated my space and created a whole new dining room, I’ve taken out the banquette. Sorry no photos.

  115. Wow, I bet you wished you hadn’t asked!😜 I admit I didn’t read all the comments, so someone else may have already suggested this………….use chairs at the table, but if you need “overflow” seating, perhaps you could have two built in benches against the pantry wall with “tv trays” (or something similar) for those guests. Good luck!

  116. As someone with Spondylitis (severe) and RA; I couldn’t do bench seating – unles they had backs and they were normal seating height. In fact, I’ve recently replaced my kitchen set for a countertop height set. It even has an extra extender to go from the current round, to an oval kitchen table. I can’t see a real problem with bench seating, if you know your guest(s) well, and are knowledgeable as to whether they do have auto-immune related, or an otherwise caused back or knee issue. I typically assign seating even when there are only six in the dining room. Everyone always got into their spot after coming to our house for Christmas dinner every year. My mother’s seat would always have thick cushions placed on it because she has bad knees. If you do not know your guest well enough to know they have a condition that would create an uncomfortable experience, then it may not be a bad idea to keep a couple of extra chairs stored away – just in case. As for the look, it’s a great look, in my opinion. I once thought of getting a two seat set that came with a corner bench for the kitchen, that could, if needed sit up to six – even though there were four of us in the family. Dad liked to stop by for coffee of a morning, and it would have been a great way to have him sit with us if we were having breakfast together at the time. There are solutions if you really have your heart into this one.

  117. We have only benches at our dining table. We have four kids. It’s not annoying at all as long as you have the bench the right distance away from the table. And if there aren’t too many people sitting on the bench even swinging your leg over to get on and off is not bad, and since you would have benches that seat only two, you’re right, that problem would be eliminated altogether for you. Just make sure you have good sliders on the legs of the benches and they’ll be easy and painless to move, particularly on a hard floor (which you may not have if you’re planning to put a rug under your dining table). I personally Bally think your idea sounds super cool!

  118. Wow! So many opinions on benches – good luck! My comment is on your space fears, and since the pantry end of the table will likely be Matt’s place, time for a practical demo. You have a table, place it where you envisage the end of your extended table will be …. measuring back from the front windows. Place some boxes to mimic the built-ins. Then see what room Matt needs to manoeuvre in and sit comfortably, add a margin for more comfort, marking with chalk on the floor if need be. Then step back and see what you have left to work with. Obviously, overhead cupboards might be fine, since Matt will be seated at all times …. but you might need the lower part to be completely empty …. in which case moveable backed banquettes (which can split in half to be singular at the table) are the answer to everyone’s concerns! Ha ha, have fun and remember an adage here in Australia: it is always easier to add a little more salt to the stew, much harder to take a little away.

  119. Nope. They look good but are miserable for those who sooooo wish they could lean back like those in the chairs can do. Nothing like guests looking miserable! The dining table is such a great place for post-dinner conversation, but by the time dinner ends, those on the bench do not want to sit and linger any longer. I just purchased a vintage danish/mid century modern with a very unobtrusive back (classic clean lines). It will be used as a dining bench, but only because it does have a back for comfort.

  120. I think it’s easy to find photos in magazines and websites because tall backed chairs make it harder to see the tabletop. However, in real life, I think it depends on who comes to your dining table. As my mom and in laws got older, they needed to sit at a seat with arms so that they could more easily get up from the table. As others have said, if your dinner guests are predominantly young and agile, a bench probably is fine. Personally, I like chairs though.

  121. I have bench seats in my outdoor entertainment area. Yes it’s technically a picnic table BUT it’s where we spend long leisurely family dinners. The adults that are seated on benches are always the first to get up and move, and move around a lot. We have a ‘grown ups get the real seats first’ rule 🙂 The kids seem to like the benches.

  122. 1. A two seater bench would help in getting up without having to ask others to move, but how do you adjust the bench so that everyone sitting on it is a comfortable distance from the table? 2. If the bench is upholstered, will the seated person have trouble sliding into place? Most restaurant benches have vinyl or leather upholstery, which makes them easier to slide on. 3. Will the bench be firmly attached to a wall, (a banquette) with a supporting back, or will it be freestanding, with no back support? 4. How often will you need the extra seating? How will the room be used on a daily basis? Just a few questions that come to mind.

  123. Not a fan of the bench. I like having a chair that I can lean back and relax. Heaven forbid if I wore a dress, I would not head for the bench. With all of this work and time you are putting in I am assuming you will be doing a lot of entertaining and I know you want your quests to be comfortable. My vote –CHAIR

  124. I’ve gotta go with the NOs on the bench seating. Would that limit Matt’s ability to function around the table? At least the ones you are describing are short. Long ones need to be left for kids.

  125. OK, but only because you asked. I H.A.T.E. them. A family member has them and any holiday we spend there, I feel hunched over a quarter of the way through. I’m not 18 anymore, I need to be able to sit back in my chair to sit comfortably. They’re OK for the kids table, but for adults, they’re a no go for me.

    This pictures you posted are pretty inspiration though!!

  126. Being the youngest in my family, I have to say I’m totally not good on bench seats. I was always the one crammed in the middle, not being able to move anywhere. 😛 However, if your banc seats are just two seaters, then go for it. Each person can get in and out easily and you don’t get the feeling that you’re at Oliver Twists’s poor house or boarding school.

  127. We had a bench seat for one side of a table in an apartment we rented a few years ago. It did help with the space in the room. It was comfortable to sit for a meal. It was okay when I was on that side working on paperwork at the table. It was however, awful to get in and out when other people were there. Very awkward to get in an out when you are the center person. So unless there was a bench seat sized for two people I’d skip it. Even then though I’m not sure if two – two people sized benches would have worked at our rental as we would have had to move the seat apart to take advantage of the shorter bench. You’ll need to do some measuring, that’s for sure! Thanks for sharing all your decorating adventures!

  128. How often do you have 10+ over for sit down dinners? even if it’s 6x a yr, that’s every other month. I wouldn’t consider that often enough to warrant the cost/effort to make benches that are otherwise useless.

    Also I tend to slouch when I sit on benches or backless seating. It gets uncomfortable for me fairly quickly, and I don’t have any back/leg issues, but i imagine for someone who does it would be the same, maybe worse. Cushioned/upholstered seats might help but… I think chairs would work best. Especially if your dinners are the type where everyone lingers for discussions/debates/board or card games after the meal is over.

    Storage is never a bad idea. Even if built-ins flanking the pantry had to be shallow, you could display upright plates/platters, vases, photos, glassware, which would free up storage elsewhere.

  129. No no no… I think you need to scrap that idea. Your husband won’t be able to sit near the table w bench seati. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have chairs? 99% of the time I’m sure it’s just you and him, why make something so structured? And why so much storage? You have so many different rooms in your home to use as storage. That pantry you made is going to be storage enough, and so are all the cabinets in your kitchen. How much stuff do you really need to store? Sorry for stepping on your toes!

  130. Kristi, you have a clear picture of what you want your home to convey. You are so creative and talented that you will have many more ideas than time or rooms to decorate. I think the choices you make from here forward will need to be made by determining how the house conveys comfort, warmth and a welcoming atmosphere. These are a few criteria that you listed for your new whole house plan. Do chairs or a mixture of benches and chairs come closer? While you may not entertain frequently you and Matt will most likely take your meals there as well as pass through the room frequently. What will be most pleasing to you? What will provide the most comfort? Your followers have given you helpful advice and I am eager to see what you come up with!

  131. Whew! There are a lot of strong feelings about benches here. Seems like those with big families have fond memories of benches (obviously the benches served practical reasons for their families). While those of us with smaller families, maybe not so much. Anyway, you have more than enough comments on this topic, including one from me yesterday!

    But, I remembered on one of the DIY shows where a couple turned 2 chairs into a bench. It’s photos 85 and 86 in the link below. I don’t LOVE the bench, totally, but there are some elements that might be relevant to you. First, the way the bench is designed, it’s pretty “light”, since you can see the legs, the back is pretty open, etc. You may want a “lighter” looking bench if you’re worried about it looking heavy. More importantly, though, I was thinking what if you had 4 chairs, but, when you lined them up on the wall when you weren’t using them you turned them to be facing each other (like they are in the bench redo) and made them look like a bench (maybe covering the seats somehow)??? They look like a bench with not in sue, but when you need them you actually have 4 chairs. Not sure how to do that, but thought I would throw that out there!


  132. Dear Kristi

    I would rather not see benches in the dining room. This is something that works well with children in the kitchen, they can easily get in and out if the need arises. As an elder adult if I had to excuse myself from the table during the meal. I would have to disturb my bench partner.(this would cause me an embarrassment). I am much older than most of you and it isn’t that unusual for my bladder to require me to leave the table. Something to think about.

  133. I love looking at bench pictures, but in reality I find them very uncomfortable to sit on for any length of time. I think not having a place to rest my already worn back is the biggest problem.

  134. Bench seating is not conducive to long, enjoyable conversations at the table, and that is the most people will congregate together. Once they get tired at the table and get up, the disperse to several rooms and you have lost that unity. I would never use bench seating because of this. Don’t make plans for the sides of your pantry until after the room is in use, so you don’t end up tearing it out for more room. I’ve seen lots of benches in rooms, but how many times do you see people sitting on them?

  135. Have you decided on a table yet, Kristi? Comfort issues aside, successfully using a bench/banquette -even a 2 seater- depends on the base of the table. If it is a table with 4 legs, letting even one person out means everyone on the bench has to back it out from the table. A fixed banquette cannot really even be used with a legged table. A pedestal base makes it possible to slide off the bench without group effort movement of the bench. Something to keep in mind.

  136. Exactly what Jana Leigh just said! (I was reading through all the comments, waiting for someone to make that point, gave up and scrolled to the end to add my two cents and there it was! LOL)

    Your very last question, if it’s only a two seater “each person can just slip around the side, right”? Correct, but ONLY IF there are no table legs in the way!

    I think the idea of storing the benches in the built-ins on either side of the pantry door is brilliant. I hate storing fold up chairs for those few times I need them. I bet you can even design the benches with backs that look like cabinet doors or something, so when they are tucked in they just blend right in with the built-ins.

    Also I agree with the people who say most of the commenters are overthinking it. You’ll have both types of seating; anyone with a strong dislike of bench seating or a true need for a chair can get one without having to race to the table. Can you even imagine someone not giving up a chair for grandma if she was the last one to the table? C’mon, it’s not going to be a problem.

  137. I realize this is an old thread, but thought I’d add my two cents. We have an informal dining area (“breakfast nook”, for lack of a better term) in addition to our “formal” dining room. The table I bought for this area is 60″, so I also bought 4 chairs. The table extends to 72″ — we don’t usually need this much table for our family of 3 — but when we have a large crowd over it’s nice to have seating in both the formal dining room and in this room. I’m pondering buying a bench that can stay in formal living room in front of a window, but then pull over to our 72″ table when a crowd is over. Our crowds typically have kids in them so the bench would probably be more than fine for the short period of time a kid sits at the table.

  138. I have a small home with the living rooom and dining room connected. I like the idea of a settee for two people and then maybe 2 – 3 dining chairs. I think the settee es easier because nobody is stuck in the middle of a bench. I could also move the settee into the living room for more seatlng.