Designing Our Kitchen Banquette

Today is the day we talk all things banquette; the before, the design process, installation, styling details, etc. In case you missed the before tour of our home, below is a before shot of our breakfast space where we planned to install a custom banquette.

Yikes! Though it had a lot of potential in terms of space and natural light, the area needed some work! We knew we definitely wanted to remove the outdated box lighting and popcorn ceiling as well as refinish the floors. Obviously, the peach walls were also a no-go for us. When we purchased the home, though it had great bones, we wanted to add architectural features wherever possible to create even more character and visual interest.

After ripping out the drop ceiling, rewiring, adding drywall, painting, and much more, we were able to move in. When we moved in, we originally made due with a table and chairs we already owned from our apartment.

As you can see, this was already a drastic improvement. For lighting, we chose this beautiful pendant light from Schoolhouse Electric that gives a nod to the classic feel of our home while also having a bit of drama to set the space off. We’re really happy with the height (not too long not too short) and the amount of light it puts out. Easily one of our favorite light fixtures in the house.

After getting the basic bones of the space in order, the time came to design the banquette. We started by measuring the space and drawing up a plan including measurements and design specifications. Some of the challenges we had to face were:

  1. It needed to sit on top of one of our return vents, meaning we had to come up with a solution to allow proper ventilation under that portion of the banquette.
  2. A limited number of outlets exist in the space, and we simply could not afford to lose the outlet against the left wall in the above photo.
  3. The original trim went around the entire space, requiring us to decide how we wanted to handle it and whether to install the banquette flush against the wall or just right up against the existing wood trim.

Here is the original drawing of the banquette I created along with a preliminary mood board. Though I like these fabrics together and appreciate a rich green when used appropriately, I am so glad we went with our final fabric choices for the space as opposed to these. When we originally created this mood board, it was in the dead of winter, and snow covered the ground. I really think the weather and time of year pushed us to a bit more of a woodsy, cozy vibe than what we wanted long term.

Though I can draw out and design specifications for a banquette all day, they really mean nothing without a carpenter/builder. My father-in-law is incredibly talented and agreed to build the banquette for us, giving us a builder to bounce ideas off of to see how practical (or impractical) they truly were. After weighing options for the three challenges we faced, we decided to:

  1. Leave a small opening under the bench that would sit on top of the vent to allow it to function and circulate air properly.
  2. Build an electrical outlet into the side of the banquette to extend out the original outlet from the wall.
  3. Remove and cut the original baseboards to allow the banquette to butt right up against the wall to make it look more custom and remove a space for dropped food to fall.

We wanted to pull the design of our kitchen (final reveal with process details coming soon) into the breakfast area. For us, that meant keeping with the shaker cabinet details, bringing in this awesome cabinet hardware, and using the same white paint color found on the upper kitchen cabinets. Because storage space in our house is limited, as with most any older home, we decided to incorporate two drawers (one in each side of the banquette) that can be pulled out from the ends. When it comes to storage, accessibility is key, and it just didn’t seem practical to have drawers on the front or to have the seats lift up. I think we’ll use the drawers on the ends much more than the other two options merely because they’re more accessible.

Though we knew the proposed scale worked for the space in theory, we, as truly visual people, set about cutting out and drawing the banquette on brown paper to actually see it in the space. If you want to see our other “genius” uses for brown paper, check out this post Amber did last week. Once we knew the scale really fit in the space and still allowed for good flow from our living room to the dining room, we sent the measurements and design plan off to Amber’s dad.

With this behind us, now was the time to think cushions, fabrics, new chairs, etc. We’re big fans of the Canadian company Tonic Living. We ordered some samples to check the color in person and to feel how durable each fabric felt to determine if they would hold up against a lot of use and potential spills.

One of our main inspirations for the space was an original oil painting of Paris from Wickstrom Studio, which brought in immediate life and subtle colors that added warmth and picked up some of the kitchen colors. For textiles, we decided to bring in pattern with subtle stripes, with the grey striped fabric to be used for the banquette cushions (better for hiding stains than white). We stayed mostly neutral but pulled in a soft blue/green that complemented the painting and cabinet color.

We sent the dimensions for the banquette cushions and throw pillows to Tonic Living, and they sent us back a quote. We approved and decided it was worth the extra cost to add piping to the cushions. One nice thing about Tonic Living is that you can order pillow inserts for any throw pillows you have them make, which was surprisingly affordable. The cushion covers are beautifully made, have hidden zippers that make them easily removable for spot cleaning, and feel so durable. We bought two rolls of foam from JoAnn’s to cut and stuff into the two cushion covers on our own.

For the window treatments, we debated everything from plaid, to stripes, to the textured solid we ultimately chose. Throughout, the design process we tried to keep in mind that we wanted it to feel layered and textured and not too trendy. We also wanted to mix cool and warm tones to tie it in with our kitchen and the warmth we have through the wood detail. We decided on roman shades from The Shade Store in their korinthos parchment fabric to bring in warmth and a neutral, subtle layer. We chose two inside-mount shades to ensure the beautiful trim around the windows remained a focal point. We also chose cordless shades for safety and a clean look.

Two new chairs from Akron Street Studio also helped ground the space while keeping with the streamlined, Shaker lines used elsewhere. Since the scale of our table worked in the space and since we could not find a different table we really loved for that spot, keeping our original table made the most financial sense for us.

Much better already, right?

About a month or so later, my father-in-law sent us these photos of the banquette! Amazing, right!? It was definitely starting to feel real. We scheduled a date for a visit where we would finally install the banquette.

Fast forward a few weeks to install day. One of the biggest challenges of our home throughout the entire design process has been that the floors roll and the walls are not perfectly square. However, because my father-in-law is a major perfectionist, he added adjustable legs under the base of each banquette bench to allow them to sit evenly on the ground. Genius! See how useful it is to have someone who really understands construction and the building process? We are lucky indeed.

Around the same time, we got our cushions and throw pillows in and decided to style out the space and shoot it just in time for our home tour on The Everygirl.

We are so excited with how it turned out and love using it daily! What do you think of the transformation?

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