Kitchen Trends: Banquette and Kitchen Nooks Kitchen Trends: Banquette and Kitchen Nooks

If your family always chooses the corner booth in your favorite restaurant, then you know what a "banquette" is. Also known as a breakfast nook, corner nook, or kitchen nook, it is the perfect choice for the busy family's kitchen. This relaxed style of dining is also the latest trend in family eating. With padded backs and padded seats – often including hidden storage – banquettes are both beautiful and functional. While some families will always prefer formal dining rooms, other families are bumping out the walls and planning for more casual seating and entertaining arrangements.

What IS so special about banquettes? Anyone who fights for the corner booth at the pancake house knows why banquettes are so popular. They are cozy, intimate, and carefree for the family who loves to celebrate breakfast together. In the family kitchen, a breakfast nook is a cozy place to gather throughout the day. A banquette is perfect for homework, board games, working on a laptop, or watching a carefully placed T.V. My family is all grown up, yet we still love those intimate times together – just looking stuff up. Sure, the encyclopedias are gone, but we still love to gather around a laptop and look up the largest dragonfly in the world (which, by the way, has a wing-span of over 7 inches).

How do nooks help with traffic flow? The most popular family living/eating/entertaining design is the open-flow pattern. When the walls come down kitchen flows into dining area, which flows into the living area. No more doors. No more "what are the kids doing?" No more shouting to be heard. No more isolation in the kitchen. No matter the size of the house open walls create space, and lots of it.

Are banquettes merely a fad that will soon go out of style? Banquettes have been popular ever since that corner booth showed up at your grandmother's favorite restaurant. While she still had the formal dining room, by the 1950's families were dining less formally. What do you do with an extra, useless room? Bump out the walls, of course. If you love those little breakfast nooks, then in your house, as well as mine, they are here to stay.

Will they ruin the continuity of traditional family eating? Actually an open floor plan with an eating nook encourages more family gatherings. Teenagers have a host of activities that can keep them on the go. They need a place where they can stow their books; bring their friends; do their homework; and share what has happened in their day. Younger children need a place where they can be creative and not have to worry about messing things up. They need help with their homework, a place to eat a snack and just visit with the family. Your family's needs will answer this question.

Does a kitchen nook have to be in a corner? Not at all! A kitchen nook can go anywhere in the room. Two sides can create a sense of intimacy. They can frame a window. A single cushioned bench can travel a few feet against a wall, flanked by chairs with matching seats, and a table in between. Kitchen nooks can be bought, along with matching cushions, from catalogue stores or furniture houses. Or you can create your own, working with a professional designer.

A professional designer will quiz you on your likes and dislikes, along with your preferences in color and design. If you hate angles and everything built on a square, a designer will help you plan curving lines that will still give you that intimate "nook" feeling. Here is a small list of creative banquette designs:

The window nook. Creating an L-shaped bench, that faces the window and allows everyone a view of the outdoors, can be a wonderful selection. You may want to frame the window with airy curtains or leave the curtains off entirely, so that you have an unobstructed view of the lake or a lovely tree or a wild-flower meadow.

A half-round nook. A curved bench can take the angles of the room and soften the edges. You can add an oval or round table, and flank the table with a couple of chairs.

Custom fit nook. If you have only one space, or a small space, a custom fitted-banquette is the choice for you. You can conserve space without sacrificing comfort, and still maintain that link with family continuity.

Formal Dining. If formal dining appeals to you, there is no need to lose the intimacy of a banquette. A curving velvet upholstered bench stretched beneath a formally curtained window can add a note of tasteful elegance. Consider pairing that with an oval dining table that easily sits four additional guests, and you will have given your table an ambiance for easy conversation.

Whichever style you choose, a banquette is probably the most family friendly form of dining. Think of all the laughs you will share in later years, as your children look back upon the best of times, when the entire family gathered around for food, fun, and most of all, love.

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