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.