The banquette or built-in dining corner is a favorite space-saver in restaurants because you can crowd many more folks into a banquette than at a free-standing table for four. It works as well in space-tight homes.
In a home I designed, most of the dining room was occupied by a grand piano and three music stands, because ensemble playing was an important part of the family's life. A big table in the center of the room was impossible, but some space had to be used for daily meals for a family of four.
The ideal place for dining was one of the corners of the room, where there was plenty of wall-space for a built-in banquette nine feet long on one side and four feet on the other.
I made the banquette's framing of two-by-fours, and the base of plywood. I upholstered the plywood by wrapping the fabric around the wood and stapling it to the top and underside of the plywood box. The plywood box sits on a recessed base designed to protect the upholstery. The plywood, of course,could have been painted or stained. I wanted the continuity of one texture to give it more softness.
The seat cushions are vinyl (for practicality), made with zippers for easier maintenance. The back is white duck, also zippered. There are a few occasional pillows, covered in brown and white batik, thrown in with pillows in dark colors to heighten the soft lock. A note about the depth: Don't make the banquette too deep; it's more comfortable to dine on shallow seating, with plenty of back support. This is where the throw pillows come in: They help support the backs of the children.
A square table with white plastic laminate top three feet square, on folding legs, provides ample dining space. It is surrounded on two sides by the banquette and on the other two with a pair of all-white directors chairs. When guests are dining, this table is moved out, and a large, round turn-of-the-century oak table, bleached to near white, is brought in from the front hall and fits easily into the corner, with enough additional directors chairs brought in to seat six or eight.
For a party of 10 or 12, two more of the plastic-top, folding leg tables are brought from the closet, and a long nine-foot-by-three-foot table is set up, easily accomodating the large party. I splurged and used a dark brown terracotta tile on the floor, but wall-to-wall brown carpeting in a flat velvety plush would have been my second choice and just as handsome.
The same idea could have been adapted for the corner of a small living room with limited wall space, or in a room where a traffic path cuts throught he middle or far corner.
Instead of a high table, a long low coffee table would do the trick, and the plywood box would be made lower, for lounge-type seating. Covering the cushions with old pieces of damaged oriental rugs, strewing many silk-covered cushions on this and keeping the light low gives it a harem look.