A banquette is a type of upholstered bench which is typically built into the walls of a structure. Many people associate banquette seating with classic diners, although they also appear in restaurants of other persuasions and in some private homes. For people who want a more homey eat-in kitchen, a banquette can be one way to create efficient, pleasant seating for diners. The term “banquette” also describes a type of military fortification, which consists of an elevated platform which allows people to fire weapons while still being protected by ramparts.
Banquette is merely a diminutive of the French word for “bench.” This built-in furniture feature usually takes up much less floor space than an assortment of chairs, and it is more efficient to work around, since the banquette does not have to be moved for cleaning and the solid construction ensures that dust and grime do not accumulate underneath. Many people also find banquettes cozy and friendly, and they do tend to encourage a lingering meal.
The design of a banquette is fairly basic. A solid bench is built into a wall and typically attached, although free-floating banquettes are not unheard of. Often, a banquette is built into a corner, to make a more efficient use of space, or multiple banquettes are installed back to back, as is the case in many restaurants. Both the back and bottom of the banquette are upholstered to make the seating experience more comfortable.
The material used to cover a banquette is usually stain resistant, and in many cases it is designed to be wiped with a sponge or cloth to remove stains. Vinyl and leather are common upholstering materials, although thick canvas, duck, and other fabrics can be used as well, as long as they are treated to be stain resistant. The padding for the upholstery is typically a thick foam which will rebound after use to ensure that the seating stays comfortably padded for years, if the foam is sturdy enough.
In home kitchens, many people like to build banquettes which are also used as storage containers. In this case, the seat of the banquette may lift up to allow access to a hollow space underneath, or a panel in front can slide away for the same purpose. There are a number of ways to creatively install banquette seating in a home kitchen; some people take advantage of prefabricated upholstered benches available from furniture stores, while others prefer to build their seating to exact custom specifications.