Double Duty

by | Sep 13, 2022 | Designing

There are many ways of optimizing seating and storage with built-in seating.

As a consummate multi-tasker, I love nothing more than things that serve more than one function. (Give me an air fryer any day—it toasts, bakes, broils and air fries!) Serving more than one function is why built-in seating is so appealing. You can make the most of your home’s space for seating and storage with built-ins in almost any room in your house—and even in outdoor spaces.

Making a comeback

Built-in seating was big in the 60s and 70s and became less prevalent over the ensuing decades, but it’s back in a big way. You don’t have to sacrifice form for function, either—today’s built-in seating options are limited only by your imagination. They are an efficient use of space that feels comfortable and warm even in big rooms, while adding a touch of custom character.

M. Shawn Leatherwood & Associates / Photo by Roger Wade

In small homes, built-in seating gives you more seating in less space while adding significant storage options. The added storage helps you to keep your home clutter-free—helpful in homes of any size, and essential in smaller homes where space is at a premium. And as home designs move away from distinct, formal living and dining rooms, built-in seating in those areas makes even more sense.

Built-in seating can be designed to suit any home style, from the sleek lines of the most contemporary home to the natural charm of the most rustic cabin. In log and timber frame homes, the use of wood for built-in seating fits right in. Best of all, built-in furniture can add value to your home, can be built quickly, and can be relatively inexpensive to create—depending on the species of wood you use. Adding custom upholstery will increase the expense, but you can save money and gain design flexibility by using cushions instead.

Photo by Heidi A. Long

Kitchens and Dining Rooms

I don’t know anyone who has too much cabinet space, so added storage in the kitchen is always welcome! If you’ve been storing pantry items in the garage or appliances in the guest-room closet, banquette seating in the kitchen with built-in drawers or lift-up seats is a great way to add extra seating and extra storage capacity. This is a perfect spot for appliances you use only rarely, holiday serving pieces, or your collection of table linens.

Photo by Heidi A. Long

The other benefit to kitchen banquettes is that you can fit more people around the table than you might otherwise be able to accommodate. Be creative! You can opt for an L- or U-shaped banquette with two sides built-in if you have a corner space available; if you just have one wall to build along, add a bench on the other side of the table, with chairs at the ends. Consider a rounded banquette if you have the right floor plan to accommodate that shape. Or tuck a cozy breakfast nook—booth style—into a bumped-out area with windows on all sides.

Around the house

Built-in seating in the living room evokes visions of a sunny reading spot, a quiet conversation corner, but don’t limit yourself to window seats. You can also plan space for a built-in study or work nook with space designed to hide clutter. The end of a couch can do double duty with built-in shelving for books. In bedrooms, a window seat can easily double as a reading nook or a daybed for overnight guests and serve as storage for out-of-season clothing or extra bed linens.

Rec rooms are another living space that are natural spots for built-in seating. Consider a built-in L- or U-shaped sofa around a television: it serves the same purpose as a sectional couch but has the benefit of providing storage with drawers below. You can add low benches along walls in areas where you wouldn’t normally put a piece of furniture because they can be smaller and less obtrusive but add extra seating and storage when you need it!

In my own home’s lower level, we have built-in benches along a wall next to our pool table. They provide extra seating when we have friends over to play pool, and the cushions lift up to store pool cues, racks, and balls when not in use. The benches were in place when we moved in, and we just updated the upholstery on the cushions to update the look.

Photo by Heidi A. Long

Outdoor seating

For many of us, our outdoor living areas get just as much use as our indoor spaces. Patio walls and benches around a firepit are ideal for built-in seating that does double duty. Great for a sunken patio or a transformed retaining wall, lift-up seats can safely store seasonal gear like cushions, candles, fire tools, and more, protecting them from the elements when not in use. Built-in patio seating is also typically more durable than traditional outdoor furniture.

Don’t look past the mudroom—built-in seating can keep your mudroom from looking messy. A bench along one wall is a great place to store sports gear out of sight and doubles as a seat to remove muddy boots or peel off ski gear.

If you’re considering built-in seating for your log or timber frame home, you don’t have to sacrifice form for function—today’s built-ins are limited only by your imagination.