Bench Seating In The Kitchen

June 23, 2010 | 29 comments

Pull up a seat, stay awhile. No, scratch that. Pull up a bench, stay awhile...

I submit that the age-old saying needs an update to reflect the reinvention of kitchen seating as we know it.

Browsing through my collection of house photos, I've noticed that many of the kitchens by my favorite architects and designers feature bench seating at a kitchen island. While I've never actually sat on a bench at an island, I'm particularly enamored with this configuration. I can't quite put my finger on why, but there's something about it. Perhaps it's because the upholstery adds the perfect complement of softness to all of the hard surfaces found in a kitchen. That said, I'm admittedly curious if this setup is even practical. Can two or more people realistically share a bench without getting in each other's way?

I do tend to have an affinity for form over function in many design elements so this may just be another example of that. I'm curious if anyone has sat on a bench at an island and can tell me what they thought of it. Did you share the bench?

Most of the benches in the following photos are from the McAlpine Home collection by Lee Industries, including the photo above of Melanie Turner's award-winning kitchen. There are, however, other styles of benches in the mix too.


In this photo, South of Market proprietor Kay Douglas' kitchen features two benches in what appears to be white leather paired with limed wood. Leather, to me, is an ideal material for the bench in the kitchen given the possibility of spills and lots of use. For more pictures of the house, see my More Cleverly Conceived post.


Similar to the kitchen featured at the top of this post, this Rosemary Beach kitchen is by Melanie Turner (architecture by McAlpine Tankersley). I especially like the pairing of the McAlpine bongo stools with the bench. And of course the neutral palette speaks to me.



These two kitchens were designed by Pursley Architecture and showcase two distinctly different bench styles. The skirted benches really take the edge off what appears to be a concrete counter top on the island.


A very popular kitchen designed by Tracery Interiors features side-by-side benches. It appears that these benches are also upholstered in leather. Hopefully Doug from Tracery will chime-in with some details about this kitchen and his perspective on bench seating.


Remember that perfect English house I posted about earlier this year? The post has a couple pictures of the kitchen, but I didn't share this one that includes bench seating. The pairing of stools with the bench is a give away for Melanie Turner's hand in the design.


This kitchen with interior design by Susan Ferrier features backless benches. While different than most of the other benches I've shown, the effect is similar. Photo courtesy of House Beautiful December 2006.


This picture highlights an important detail of the McAlpine benches: the extended platform for your feet at the front of the bench. Notice that the platform is broader than the wood spans between the other legs. I like the larger nail head trim used on these benches. Most of the other McAlpine benches feature smaller nail head trim. Design by Melanie Turner; Architecture by McAlpine Tankersley; Photo courtesy of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.





A few renderings from the portfolio of Charlotte-based architect Ruard Veltman show that bench seating is a regular configuration in his kitchen designs. In an email dialog with Ruard he mentioned that he also does a lot of banquet seating in kitchens. That too is one of my favored kitchen seating designs. The last rendering features both. As I see it, that's perfection.

After reviewing the various options for bench seating, I have to say my favorite configuration is that of the Melanie Turner kitchens that mix the bench with the upholstered stools from the McAlpine Home collection. This seems like the most functional solution to me, allowing for the single bench to be shared and for other people to sit solo at the stools.

What do you think?

** Don't forget that you can click the photos to enlarge them. Most of the photos I include in my posts are much larger in size than they are displayed in the post.

29 comments:

Terry said...

Excellent. We have a rustic home-built bench for our screened porch. It can seat a big crowd. It's very easy to step over so people can come and go without making others move. Away from the table folks facing many ways for party. Sometime we'll throw a cushion on it.

The-Countrypolitan said...

I like the idea of a bench at a counter, which if upholstered does a great job in softening the overall space. I'm working on a makeover project for a country club and there are two separate bars in the dining areas. I was thinking of mixing a few of the upholstered benches or double wide bar stools in with the regular bar stools when I replace them. A great way to cozy up to your date... or to quickly become familiar with a stranger... ~Terri

Things That Inspire said...

Interesting...I hadn't really specifically noticed all of the benches in kitchens, but I could probably give you an additional 10 pictures from my favorites file that incorporate this look.

I love the idea of an upholstered chair or whatnot in the kitchen, but a bench isn't too practical for my family with 3 kids. It seems like each kid needs to have their own barstool.

Along these lines, benches at kitchen tables is also a concept I have dismissed for similar reasons - not practical with 3 kids. But, I see it as a great solution for a no kid - grown kid - 2 kid family.

greg tankersley said...

I believe that all those benches in the pictures are from the McAlpine home line from Lee Industries.

allison said...

I lived without barstools for many years because I just couldn't find ones that I thought were attractive. {It was driving my husband nuts}. I recently purchased a bench from the McAlpine home line at Lee and covered it in a Hodsoll Mckenzie linen ticking. It was well-worth the wait! Not a day goes by that I don't receive a compliment.

Anonymous said...

We have a pair of benches (McAlpine by Lee) in our lakehouse kitchen. They are covered with high quality grained vinyl and trimmed with nailheads. They are extremely comfortable and practical. They are used every day ..... just great!

doug @ tracery interiors said...

We certainly do like using this type of seating in kitchens. Thanks for including us and since I've been called upon in the post, I suppose I should impart a few thoughts on the subject! We actually find bench seating at countertops work pretty well with children, the scale is big enough that two smaller kids can sit comfortably side by side. The thing that appeals to me about this seating more than anything--and particularly the McAlpine products by Lee--is that the benches are comfortable enough that one can sit for a while and not feel 'perched' as on a bar stool. The seat depth is good, the back comfortably curved and the quality of the construction is equal to a good lounge chair or sofa. We typically upholster kitchen benches in leather, or in the case of the photo above, faux leather which is easily cleaned and cared for.

Mona Thompson said...

I love this look as well. In fac tI have several of these pics in my files.

Ann Porter said...

I tend to like the look of the backless bench when mixing it with other seating. I imagine sitting back is more comfortable for longer periods of time though.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Fantastic post! I love the look tremendously and could be persuaded to sacrifice function for beauty!

My only real concern would be the weight and ease of mobility...trying to move it away from the bar/counter as you get down?

Capella said...

I don't think I have ever seen/noticed counter benches in a kitchen, how amazing that you found so many instances of this design!

Greet said...

Love your post! What a great ideas! And the kichten designs of Tracery Interiors are just gorgeous! I am a big fan of them! Exquisite work!
xx
Greet

Mrs. Gibbons said...

I have completely fallen in love with the designer from the first post. Thanks for introducing us to her!

Shorely Chic said...

Gorgeous! These all remind me of the rustic chic home from the latest movie, It's Complicated, which I adored.

Renae said...

These are really nice. I would be concerned with the upholstered ones with kids, they would certainly have something on them all of the time. The look is fantastic though.

Elizabeth said...

Hi, you must me my long lost twin! This is my first visit to your blog and I LOVE it! Not only do I, love your choice of pictures, love Rosemary Beach, love South of Market, love tracery interiors (well, mainly because I found them in Rosemary), but I live in Atlanta. Keep blogging!!! I will follow.

Charlotta Ward said...

Yes I am with you - I love bench seats in kitchens. Both mobile ones and built-in benches!

Fell in love instantly with Kay Douglas' kitchen. The simplicity of it all, the texture in the lamp, all that white and those sexy studs. And of course, a fave of mine, the window. Love it all!

Off to read the post where you reveal the rest of the house now.

Have a nice weekend.

x Charlotta

Optimum Window said...

Love the design, so beautiful. Thanks for sharing this great post!

Dana said...

What beautiful, classic spaces. Thanks so much for sharing-

Vicky said...

This is such a beautiful home! There are so many beautiful details that are only seen in older homes..they always have such charm!and this is incredible post!love it,inspiring.

Beadboard UpCountry said...

I came by way of A Perfect Gray.... Glad I did. I have been seeing benches like this in pictures of lavish weddings for years....Glad they are making their way into homes......This post will be in my file. Beautiful examples. Thanks!!!Maryanne ;)

La Dolfina said...

OMG, I'm so glad I found your blog... this post is amazing. These kitchens, WOW. Count me in as a devoted follower from now on!!
Be back soon :)

Columns and Balustrades said...

Same here! Excellent blog, looks like its been a while since you last posted though, I hope you don't give it up!

bella vita said...

Thanks for sharing! The pictures are beautiful and inspiring, and the bench idea is fabulous!

Kathy said...

Over here from Things that inspire and so glad to find you...please post again...love your blog and need another fix!

mydesignchic said...

Bench seating is my lastest obsession...adore it!!

ZoeB said...

Anybody there?
Have you fallen off the edge of the planet ?
ZoeB

James said...

I'm still here...

Casa Très Chic said...

Love the benches, love the color.
Fantastic post!
Tereza

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