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Built-In Seating & Banquettes

built-in banquette with table

Built-in seating comes and go in design circles. The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright championed the look of built-in sofas in some of his most prestigious Prairie Style homes, but it later faded from favor. However, built-in seating is once again seeing a resurgence! People are craving the streamlined look and also some of the storage opportunities that built-in banquettes and built-in sofas provide. And the current popularity of Mid-Century Modern design is feeding the trend.

Built-in Seating Popularity

There's a reason for the rising popularity of built-in sofas. People are longing for the modern, streamlined aesthetic that this type of seating provides. And then there's the storage. Since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, everyone tends to spend a lot more time at home. Activities that were once performed at outside venues are now completed inside our homes. That translates into having more stuff in our houses.

No one really likes clutter. It's stressful to be surrounded by too many possessions with no place to go. The solution is proper storage. Get everything up and out of the way. Built-in seating often provides storage opportunities in addition to a place to sit down. It is also another way to open up floor space because it takes up less visual room than regular seating. All this plays into current design trends for home interiors that stress a streamlined, minimalistic aesthetic. Between the added storage and open look, it no wonder built-in seating has made a comeback.

Different Types of Built-In Seating

Banquette Seating

Banquette seating is usually used along a wall and wraps into a corner. It is very popular for dining. Restaurants often use this type of seating to surround a table, referring to it as a "booth." Banquette seating can usually hold more people than traditional chairs lined up next to each other. Many people find this type of seating to be more comfortable than chairs. This is because banquette seating is always upholstered and always offers a back. The cushioned areas can be constructed using springs and foam or a platform with foam cushion on top. The springs are more comfortable but also more expensive.

Banquette seating with storage for rec room
This banquette was designed to provide both seating and storage next to a pool table/ping pong table in the home's rec room. There's enough room to run a competition here. And everyone gets a comfy place to sit while waiting their turn.

Built-in Sofa

The main difference between a built-in sofa and other built-in seating is the room it sits in and its purpose. Built-in sofas are most often placed in the living room, family room, or great room. They are rarely used around a table. Intended for lounging, they are often deeper and about two-inches lower than a traditional banquette. They also usually offer thicker cushioning than other types of bench seating. Built-in sofas always have a cushioned back to lean against. They are custom constructed to fit the space they occupy and are often multifunctional — meaning they might also function as storage and sleeping space. Visually, custom built-ins take up less space than traditional furniture. This makes them perfect for small or oddly-shaped spaces.

Built-in sofa surrounded by shelving unit
This built-in sofa is part of a custom shelving unit. It's actually an ordinary settee that sits inside a box. The box covers the bottom of the sofa to achieve a built-in look. The open box is used instead of a solid platform with cushions. This allows the owners to have the comfort of traditional coil springs in their sofa. The bottom piece of the box tilts up like an overhead cabinet door so that there is room to access boxes stored under the couch.

Built-In Bench Seating

Bench seating can be upholstered or unupholstered. But if you spend a lot of time sitting in it (as in for meals) you will probably want some sort of cushion for comfort. A bench seat like those added to closets and mudrooms as a place to put on shoes does not necessarily need to be upholstered. It's up to you. In its simplest form, bench seating is nothing more than a platform for seating placed over a box. It provides the opportunity for additional storage under the seat of the bench. The bench top may be flip-up. Drawers, simple shelves, and cabinet doors are also sometimes used under the bench. Unlike other types of built-in seating, bench seating may or may not have a back. Often the wall or closet island is left to function as the back of the seat. Seat height is generally 17-19 inches high, which is a couple inches higher than a built-in sofa.

Bench built into a closet island as a place to put on shoes
This bench is built into the closet island as a convenient place to sit down and put on shoes. The top includes an upholstered cushion for comfort. Under the seat is a large drawer used for storing extra pillows.

Window Seats

A window seat is a type of bench seating. They reached they heyday during the American Craftsman period of design but are steadily making a comeback in contemporary interiors. As custom built-ins, they can be designed to match any home decorating style. Window seats can be bumped out or built-in. The bumped-out variety is usually used in a nook so that it can be surrounded by walls on either side. The built-in variety is part of a larger storage system, usually shelves or cabinets will surround both sides of the window. The window seat/bench then extends under the window proper. It offers a place to put things under the bench seat in addition to the storage provided by the surrounding wall unit.

Window seat in girls room surrounded by shelving and cabinets
This bench is built into the closet island as a convenient place to sit down and put on shoes. The top includes an upholstered cushion for comfort. Under the seat is a large drawer used for storing extra pillows.

Consider built-in seating for your home.

If you plan to create some built-in seating for your house, you're not alone. People want to get more out of their homes and custom built-ins, whether in the form of seating or something else, can make it happen. Because it is custom, built-in seating is sized specifically for your space and needs. It often performs multiple functions, such as storage plus a place to sit down. Use built-in seating around a table to get more people into less space. Use it in your living room or family room to create a custom, integrated look. Put it in any odd-shaped nook for a custom fit. Built-in seating is versatile. It’s a look that’s here to stay.