The Do’s and Don’ts of dining banquettes & settees

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designer brian patrick flynn photographer Robert Peterson house beautiful 2018 dining banquettes settees

This month’s House Beautiful just landed in my mailbox and I was struck with how pretty and minimalist the cover is. I also noted the dining settee behind the round table and just love the elegant shape which draws the eye up along the ceiling line of the room. I just love a good dining banquette or settee, don’t you?

This is the Duralee Mina settee covered in a John Robshaw fabric. * {To the Trade}

Duralee Mina settee dining banquettes settees
Duralee Mina settee

This is from designer Brian Patrick Flynn’s own home in Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s a gorgeous, small house of 725 sq. ft (small homes is the theme of the issue). The pic below is from the more formal dining area (which is very near the kitchen table) and features a leather dining banquette. The banquette is listed as Duralee but I can’t find it in their catalogue, however the ottomans are Duralee’s Abbey style. * {To the Trade}

Brian Patrick Flynn House Beautiful 2018 photographer Robert Peterson dining banquettes settees
Design Brian Patrick Flynn | Photo Robert Peterson | House Beautiful

Dining Banquettes or Settees – what’s the difference?

So, a banquette is usually a long, low armless sofa that is often meant to be integrated into a wall area or corner – if not actually a built-in piece it will usually look like it could be.  A settee may or may not have arms, but is more like a small sofa or large chair and can stand alone.

We have to remember that dining furniture has several specific needs and requirements. It should be comfortable. This seems obvious but get the proportions wrong and it will not be comfy, at all. Many restaurants use banquettes because despite of their built-in nature, they are actually quite flexible in how many people can be accommodated versus how much room they take up. If they don’t want you to sit comfortably and linger for hours, the back to seat proportion will be 90 degrees – which is super uncomfortable for lounging. Additionally, if the space requires one to slide in and out across several seat widths, a nubby fabric will be hard to slide across and a leather will stick to the backs of the legs of one is wearing shorts or a short skirt. Things to consider.

Fine Home Building Banquette proportions dining banquettes settees
Fine Home Building

Modern line high back dining banquette with measurements

Let’s talk dining banquettes

This banquette featured below is an example of a 90 degree back to seat which probably isn’t comfy enough for long term lounging. But then, neither are the ottomans. It’s more of a cute little place to perch and have a quick cup of tea. The only thing that might mitigate the stiff proportion is if the upholstery is soft and you can sort of sink into it a bit. Lovely spot though!

Traditional Home Photo by Emily Jenkins Followill Desiger Susan Ferrier dining banquettes settees
Designer Susan Ferrier | Photo Emily Jenkins Followell | Traditional Home

One of my favorite examples of a dining banquette is from the 2017 South East Show House which I featured last year. This is a formal space off the kitchen and features a sloped back with leather seat for easy clean up. The only issue one might have in this configuration is that the table legs would be underfoot when sliding across, which will likely cause a little finish damage to the legs.

SE showhouse 2017 Atlanta Homes Lauren Deloach design blue dining banquettes settees
Designer Laura Deloach for South East Showhouse 2017

This space below show how a banquette can be built in the space to create a separation in the room. If you notice, the banquette base is straight angles, but the back cushion is wedge shaped to support the lower back. The seat is very deep, so so the pillows are there for shorter legged people. That’s another thing to consider with banquette seats – the seat should not be too deep or too narrow because neither will allow for a good seating experience. Standard chair depth (24-28 inches) is usually a good range. Pedestal tables are usually the best options for banquette seats, but this table has fairly minimal legs which are set back from the edge, so they probably don’t present problems.

jeremiah brent designs architectural digest dining banquettes settees
Jeremiah Brent Designs | Architectural Digest

 

Are they or aren’t they?

This pretty space features a piece that could be either a banquette or settee – it has a sofa like feel, but that could be due to the width. The Saarinen oval Tulip table is perfect for use with a banquette or settee.

Photographer Jessica Glynn | Designer Ashley Waddell Courtney Whatley dining banquettes settees
Photographer Jessica Glynn | Designer Ashley Waddell Courtney Whatley

This is the Serena and Lily Dining Banquette, which they also call a bench. These are also pretty close to being more of a settee. These are pretty pieces with some good flexibility for space as it’s a modular system and has a gently sloped back for comfort. I wouldn’t recommend that table with the banquette though – while the ends look fine, the side legs are too close to the bench seat for comfort.

Serena and Lily dining banquettes settees
Serena and Lily

And now for the dining settees

By nature, a settee tends to sit higher – more like a chair. Below is my own little dining settee, shown in two different settings. The first, my French Condo Kitchen which was featured in Country Woman Magazine. It was paired with a formal mahogany double pedestal table (easy access!) and chairs. I’d bought this little cane back French style settee at a local second hand shop for $100.00 and used extra fabric on hand to recover it myself.

Linda Merrill Design dining banquettes settees
Linda Merrill Design | Photo by Michael J. Lee

Here’s a better shot of the settee, now happily in my Nook Cottage dining area. Nook Cottage is 900 sq. ft. (which is why I was so happy to read all about other small stylish places in this month’s House Beautiful). You will see that I have a long narrow lumbar pillow for a more comfortable sit. It’s a little bit of a hard seat; not great for long term lounging, but it sure is pretty, isn’t it? Actually, this is one of my favorite part about dining banquettes and settees – they can be pretty little places for pillows and throws and exist simply for decoration.  Since I’m in a smaller, more casual space, I’ve paired the settee with a black 48″ round pedestal table (with one 20″ leaf when more room is needed) and velvet covered parsons chairs. The table cloth comes and goes depending on my mood.

Linda Merrill dining settee floral french dining banquettes settees
Linda Merrill Design | Photo by Michael J. Lee

I am in love with this space below – it’s modern yet feels vintage at the same time, doesn’t it? It does highlight one big consideration when pairing dining banquettes and settees with tables – and that is whether it should have an arm or not. This is a relatively low arm, but it still possibly impedes entrance into the settee. If one is larger, this can present a problem in that you might not fit in between the arm and table at all. Or, at the least, it will not be the most graceful maneuver. (I may be speaking from experience…) Additionally, this table looks fairly heavy, so pulling the table back a little may or may not be a workable solution.

kevin-dumais-apartment Eric Piasecki photo Elle Decor dining banquettes settees
Designer Kevin Dumais | Photo Eric Piasecki

Below is perfect example of getting this look in a teeny tiny space and on a budget. The simple bench seats with matching back pillows create the banquette settee effect really well. Very chic and well done.

JESSIE ARTIGUE OF STYLE & PEPPER dining banquettes settees
Jessie Artique of Style & Pepper

I love the whole look of this final photo. It shows how a dining banquette can so beautifully integrate into the architecture. My only issue here is that the seat looks narrow and the back too straight – though that could be just how it looks in the photo. I will say that the seat cushion looks a little thin – I’d rather see another inch in thickness. But, an altogether lovely space. I wish I knew who did it!

dining area orb pendant white drapery white dining banquettes settees
source unkown

Summary Do’s & Don’ts

What’s your experience with dining banquettes and settees? Any thoughts on what works or not? I’d love to hear.

{To the Trade} If you’re not currently working with a designer, I am happy to help you with any purchases available to the trade only. Get in touch here

xoxo Linda Would you like my Favorite Tips for a Well-Decorated Home? Click here!

8 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of dining banquettes & settees

  1. Oh, this was interesting! We struggled with how to do the seating in our eating area, just off the kitchen. We have no dining room: made it into a study when we moved here eight years ago, so this eating area (12 x 12 approx) is our only dining room. I finally bought “dining bench” at Arhaus where I have never bought anything else! But it is absolutely perfect. Low arms! Lovely upholstery fabric. Seats 2 nicely. High (ish) back. We finish off the round table with two Pottery Barn upholstered Parsons chairs with high backs and arms. The bench is elegant and over it is a fabulous painting my husband bought me for my birthday which is colorful and reminiscent of textile designs! Anyway, I am a big fan of settees and benches!
    Guess I’ll have to do a post someday…

    • Hi Carla – The cover is gorgeous and his whole house is as well. I loved the whole issue was focused on small home living. Not tiny house (those are kind of ridic) but small houses where you can put in the best of everything – so much more cozy! Have a great weekend!

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