by Nancy Mattia
The family gathering around a kitchen table with matching chairs may be a thing of the past—in contemporary kitchens, such iconic furniture is hard to find. “Most kitchen designs now have a center island, which has replaced the kitchen table,” says Suzanne Holt, project manager at Biber Architects in New York. “And without a table, very few people are using the kitchen dining chairs.” What are they sitting on? Stools, as well as in banquettes or booths. If you’re thinking of updating your kitchen, keep the size, layout, and existing décor in mind, and read on to find out more about the most popular seating choices.
Not every stool is meant for the kitchen. If you have an island, look for counter stools. Though sometimes referred to as bar stools, counter stools are what you need to sit at a counter. “For a kitchen island/counter, each stool should be 24 inches high,” says Holt. Bar stools won’t work because they’re 30 inches, a full six inches higher.
For a home with an open kitchen, think about getting stools that complement your dining and living rooms, says Holt. When picking a finish, consider your lifestyle: For example, if you’ve got young children, a durable seating surface that can be wiped may be your best bet over leather or fabric. You’ll also have to decide if you want backs or backless stools. If you plan on working at your counter/island for long periods of time, Holt says a seat back may be the more comfortable choice. The best way to judge comfort is to sit on the stool for a while and see how it feels.
As dining has become more casual over the years, so has seating. A banquette – an upholstered built-in bench along at least one wall – is a fun alternative to standard chairs. Besides adding a nostalgic touch to a kitchen, banquettes are very efficient, letting you fit a lot of seating into a limited amount of space. A bonus, especially for a small kitchen: Some banquettes come with drawers you can use for storage. Depending on the home’s layout, a banquette can also act as a wall, separating the kitchen from the adjacent room, which helps to define the space.
When you go to a diner, do you always ask to sit in a booth? If so, consider installing this cozy furniture in your own home. While similar to a banquette, a booth is comprised of two benches facing each other or a U-shaped unit facing out. They’re available in leather, wood, and fabric. Some offer built-in storage drawers as well.