The quirky bench

The quirky bench

A decade ago, benches were an integral part of our homes and schools. Gradually, they receded into the background. However, they are making a comeback now. They are quite the simple interior element that can be brought into just about any room in your home. It can change the look of a space, giving it a whole new feel. "Benches are a useful, space-saving form of seating," says Susan George, owner, Xanadu Home Boutique.

"A popular way they are being used is in lieu of chairs at a dining table. Also, as designs for benches become more colourful, varied and exciting, besides serving the original function of seating, they are being used in other innovative ways as furniture for the home - they make interesting coffee tables, shelving units and bookcases, and even console tables in the right spot."

Besides saving space, another reason benches are making a comeback is because of their offbeat and trendy appeal. Gita Ramanan, chief design officer, Design Cafe, says, "World over, benches have become extremely popular in hospitality projects. Whether as part of booths, bars or community tables, benches are the new team-building, group-seating option. From hospitality, the benches quickly found favour in offices, as part of the new wave of quirky and trendy commercial furniture, used primarily in discussion areas, breakout zones and cafeterias. And from there, these benches, in different sizes, materials and finishes have finally found their way to our homes."

Elaborating on the material, Gita says that benches are available in different options of wood, from natural wood, mango wood, sheesham, pine and rubber wood to the old favourites of teak, rosewood and mahogany.  

How to get it right

If you're already nostalgic and excited about getting benches for your home, then Sandesh Dhanraj, founder and CEO, Noah Interiors has some suggestions. "Placing a bench at the entrance makes your home appear warm and welcoming. It not only becomes a comfortable space to sit but a bench with shelving units above will give the foyer a chic look. In the living room, benches can be used as a centre table. Placing a bench with tall artefacts around it serves as a partition in a room. You can even place it behind a sofa to fill up the awkward space."

He adds, "In the dining area, chairs can be substituted with benches. These benches can be upholstered to make them more comfortable. They accommodate more than the conventional number of people in chairs and are great for casual dinners. For the bedroom, consider placing an upholstered bench at the end of the bed and make a statement. It serves as a perfect place to read a book or put in your footwear. Consider using metal legs instead of wood to make it eye-catching."

Bear in mind

The theme of your home must match the selection of benches. Susan elaborates, "The use of benches needs to be be decided, i.e., are they being used in the traditional sense as seating or as accent pieces?"

Gita points out that benches are easy to fit into an interior scheme."They occupy lesser space than chairs and can be pushed against a wall. They also tend to offer a nice sense of harmony and balance. A drawback though, especially if it cannot be used as a booth against a wall, is that it usually has no back-rest and therefore some people tend to view it as mildly uncomfortable."

Furthermore, Sandesh adds that the size and material are common aspects to be considered. "Finishes should stay in the same family as other pieces of wooden furniture in the room. Solid wooden benches are ideal for the foyer. The colour, fabric and pattern of the upholstery also play a vital role," he states.

A few tips for maintenance

The upkeep of benches depends on their material and where they are placed. "Treated and painted wood benches can be used indoors and outdoors. However, leather benches cannot be exposed directly to the external elements. Leather will also have better longevity if maintained through regular conditioning," advises Susan.

"For natural wooden benches, keep them clean and away from stagnant water. Cleaning with a dry cloth with an occasional  'wipe down' with a damp cloth will suffice. For upholstered seats, regular vacuuming would be ideal. For metallic seats, one needs to be careful of scratches, otherwise keeping them buffed and clean is a simple task. For fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) and acrylic benches, which are indestructible, keeping them away from extremely heavy weights and hot flames is essential," says Gita.

So, go on and get a bench today!

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