Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kitchen Seating: our hunt for the perfect banquette

Our slumbering cat on the banquette
During the many years we spent planning our kitchen renovation we would often refer to something we called our future dining sofa. We would say, "It will be so wonderful to sit here when we have our dining sofa!"  To our aging cat who loves to lie on the floor between our chairs at mealtimes, risking accidental kicks and all of the dangers of being underfoot just be be nearby, we would say, "When we have our dining sofa, you'll lie right up here between us and save yourself the cumulative effects of being trodden upon daily," or words to that effect.

All this time, we didn't really know what form this dining sofa would take, or whether such a thing specifically existed.  We'd certainly seen sofas pulled up to dining tables, imparting an air of luxury and cosiness to the scene, but we wondered about getting the proportions and firmness just right for the quotidian task of dining.  After all, this was to be our daily perch for all our meals, and not mere set dressing.

When we began searching in earnest for the dining sofa of our dreams, we discovered that our terms weren't quite right.  What we actually wanted, apparently, was not a sofa, but a banquette.  Banquette to me had always conjured an image of something built-in and quite often badly built--like something cobbled together out of plywood in a new chef start-up restaurant. You know the kind of thing: the back and seat meet at right angles, the seat is far too short for comfort and upholstered with meager cushions that do nothing to save your spine from the jolt when you sit, and the base, also constructed at right angles, leaves no room for your heels, so you wind up kicking it every time you move.   Of course we'd also sunk our tired bodies into beautifully upholstered, plush restaurant booths, with properly sprung seats and everything at the ergonomically correct angle. Could both extremes be called banquettes?  We'd need to define our version.

We decided we wanted a piece of  furniture that could be moved from the end of the table to the side--depending on the table orientation and how many were dining.  We wanted a sprung seat, bare legs, durable upholstery that could take a beating, no arms to impede access from the sides, and simple elegant enduring design that would perfectly complement our new kitchen.  Eventually...we found it, the perfect thing: Hickory Chair's Bistro Banquette.

The Bistro Banquette by Mariette Himes Gomez for Hickory chair
Hickory Chair allows you to customize your banquette right down to the size and finish of the upholstery tacks.  We chose a smooth black leather, and dark stain for the legs, very much like the chair version shown below.
The Bistro Chair by Mariette Himes Gomez for Hickory chair
We'd found it, but we also found we couldn't have it for about 12 weeks.  Since the kitchen renovation had taken so many years to come to fruition, we decided several months for the perfect banquette/dining sofa was not too long to wait.

And now, the wait is over: 

Here it is in situ with a lambskin over the seat (luxurious cat claw protection)
When the banquette arrived, it made our much abused Duncan Phyfe dining table (purchased very cheaply via an ad in the Pennysaver, long before the days of Craigslist or Kijiji) look very shabby and out of place with it's medium brown scratched finish.  But the table dimensions were so perfect for our space that we decided to refinish rather than replace it.  I scraped all the peeling veneer from the edge of the table with a razor, sanded the top and the curvy tripod legs, and stained it all with a dark Minwax oil based stain that I mixed to match the legs of the sleek new banquette--so dark that the missing edge veneer is not at all apparent. We we surprised by the effectiveness of the transformation.  I wish I had a picture of its state prior to refinishing. 

Another view without lambskin and refinished Duncan Phyfe table
We now think that the two pieces live quite happily together in the space.  The table gets to stay.  We still need to find chairs.  Right now my wicker-look black resin outdoor IKEA chairs are sitting across from the banquette.  They're quite comfortable, but maybe aren't quite the thing.

Hickory Chair Bistro banquette, Duncan Phyfe table, and IKEA outdoor chairs
But who knows?  It may be sometime before I get around to changing things.


Roncy Vic said...

Your banquet is beautiful. There are 3 names in furniture that i've always felt exuded traditional elegance. Hickory Chair is definitely one of them. Baker and Henredon are the two others that come to mind. What a great spot to dine, i love the painting and the fireplace too!

S and N said...

Thanks once again Roncy Vic!
I'd love to have a whole house of furniture bearing the names you mention (Baker, especially, is for my fantasy 1930s New York apartment) but we're pretty content with the banquette for now.
The fireplace is great for providing real and psychological warmth at the table.

Windlost said...

I love the new banquette and refinished table - incredible! The table has great lines and I am glad you salvaged it. I scrolled back through - your soapstone counters are incredible. The house is amazing - so classic and elegant.
xo Terri

S and N said...

Thank you so much Terri.
We're still waiting on a few finishing details--a pot rack we plan to custom order and two barstools--and then we'll post the finished kitchen.

dreemkaggs said...

Love!! we're looking for a banquette and dining table and this is the look we're looking for. Where's Hickory Chair located and if you don't mind me asking, how much was the custom made baquette?

S and N said...

Hi Dreemkaggs,
Thank you. Hickory Chair is the manufacturer. We ordered our banquette through a furniture store in Toronto. If you visit the website, I'm sure you'll find a distributor near you. The banquette was pricey (price will vary with upholstery and other details), but exactly what we were searching for. Now, after many months, we still love it.