The tried and true hallmark of every 1930s dinette, the banquette, has reappeared as a new, chic living room seating. Current home design imitates industry in the form of high tech, and commerce with the use of office furnishings such as dividers and file cabinets. Now we've turned to resturants for inspiration.
A fixture of most restaurants, even of the old corner drugstore, the banquette makes sense because it is a space-saver. It provides comfort in less space, because the seat is in a fixed position. The banquettes can be designed with a finished, high back and may be used, free-standing, in the living room, to provide instant privcy between dining and seating areas where these functions are combined.
New versions are now being turned out by living room furniture manufacturers about the same price as most modular furnishings. with these pieces, you can buy the corner units and combine them with armless loveseat sizes. A typical, right-angle combination is composed of one corner and two loveseat units about 6 feet in each dimenson. It's a compact living or dining room arrangement seating six comfortably.
Of course, there's always a way to beat the price rap. You can buy inexpensive, used banquettes at restaurant supply dealers and reupholster them in the fabric of your choice.
In a dining area I designed for one end of a long typical living room, I found just the thing I was look for: a second-hand right-angle banquette in three pieces turned out to be the perfect dimension for the room.
Even better, the exposed frame of the pieces was wood that could be painted and was simple to refinish. The job is not as difficult as it sounds -- the typical restaurant banquette must be recovered frequently, so the seats and backs were easily removable and easy to reupholster.
I painted the walls in the rich, dark taupe tone of the wall-to-wall, flat, plush carpet. The exposed wood frame of the banquettes were painted in a glossy finish, the same color as the recovered seats and backs. It is an off-white, pre-channeled, durable, brushed cotton that gives the look of a quilted fabric -- but at a much lower price.
If the room had been very small, I would have upholstered the seats and backs in taupe fabric to match both frames and walls. This would have given the room a built-in architectural look and "stretched" the space visually.
I designed the dining table out of plastic laminate in the same taupe color as the walls. The table is on casters and has shiny, chromed pulls on its two outer edges, making it easy to wheel out to let the dinners in. It's quite an improvement on the typical restaurant banquetts where folks have to slide in to take their places. Four folding chairs, stored elsewhere, take their places on either exposed end of the table to seat 10 for dinner. A floor lamp with a chrome-shade hung from a curved arm, arches over the table.
A big tree in a bright, chrome pot hovers over the whole space, to create a cozy, comfortable private dining space for two, four, six, eight, or 10.