When most of us think about furniture, our minds conjure the obvious: chairs, sofas, daybeds. But there’s another option, and it’s one that is not only welcoming and enveloping, but also relatively compact: the built-in banquette.
“A banquette can really ground a room and make it feel cozy and nurturing,” said Nancy Ruddy, a founding principal of the New York-based architecture and design firm CetraRuddy. “It can also be a design focal point, as a contrast to free-floating furniture. In our single-family work, we’re integrating more and more of them.”
Although not as common in residential settings as sectional sofas, banquettes aren’t a new idea. The fireside inglenook — where built-in banquettes by a fireplace offered a place to warm up on chilly days — was a popular feature in homes more than a century ago, including some designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Ms. Ruddy noted.
Reath Design, frequently uses banquettes to design kitchens that encourage casual conversation. In a midcentury-modern house she renovated in Altadena, Calif., she added a long banquette at the end of the kitchen, against a wall of windows. The owner of the house loves to cook, Ms. Merrill said, “and she was like, ‘I want people to hang out with me when I’m cooking.’”
In another renovation in Los Angeles, Ms. Merrill designed a U-shaped banquette beside the kitchen as the family’s main dining space, freeing up the old formal dining room for other purposes.
Hollis Jordyn Design built the dining room around a custom banquette. “We thought we could make it not only an area where you eat, but also a cozy place to spend time,” said Hollis LaPlante, who founded the firm with Jordyn Grohl. “We felt it almost needed a couch, so we did an upholstered banquette piled with pillows.’”