Benches are by far my favourite way to seat people around the table. It's not just about functionality.
As seating goes, a bench is far more versatile than a chair, one more person round for dinner can always squeeze on the end, but they also just open up the dining room or kitchen. Benches reduce the clutter under a table. A standard eight seater dining set with chairs has 36 legs beneath it in total, which is messy! With benches, you just have 12. More space. Much cleaner. What's more, is that they complement your table instead of hiding it. Why put that beautiful expansive surface and those clean edge-lines behind chair backs? Let the table speak for itself and enjoy the symmetry of the parallel surfaces.
That being said, chairs at the head of the table are a different story, and carefully chosen chairs can be a create a beautiful feature. Buying benches often feels quite expensive, but bear in mind that they are probably cheaper than buying a full set of chairs.
Without further ado, here are our favourites for a range of budgets. Chairs, benches, the lot:
Call it egotistical, but we do like our own designs. The brief was minimal and modern. The end grain of the oak veneered birch plywood's is visible on the legs, showing off plywood's distinctive stripes. Made in our East London workshop, our benches are customisable in length to the cm. This means that, regardless of the table you have, it will fit beneath. What's more, not many wooden benches come in a range of colours: 3 shades of grey, olive green, pink, mint or bright orange (if you want to make a feature of it!) Enough about us.
Gabriel Tan Studio are one of my favourites. They make some really beautiful stuff. Notably, the unobtainable Ariake Bench - specifically the oak and paper cord one. I love the use of traditional feeling weave combined with a very organic structured frame down below.
If Shaker is more your style - Gabriel also sells his Brethren bench through The Conran Shop. Decadent hardwoods, flat surfaces with exposed end grain and old joints.
3) Industrial Benches:
I hate to say it... and I may regret it someday, but personally, I'm not sold on industrial furniture. Granted I like the unadulterated, exposed raw materials, but I think the 'industrial style' has been somewhat genericised by over-use in restaurants and bars across the UK (and probably the world?).
The idea of using original industrial items in your home is great though, so trawl auctions and antiques shops to see if you can find a gem. There has been some truly remarkable design that has stayed hidden away for a long time. If you are into industrial benches, I like the Xavier Pauchard Tolix inspired galvanised benches - the best one I found I think you have to travel to New Zealand to get, but there are others available in the UK. Beyond that I really like the ethics behind Sustainable Furniture based in Cornwall. They share a lot of values with us at Kobble - both environmental and societal.
Not many dining tables could pull off this, and the bench would probably have to back onto a wall if it did, but every list of benches needs to have this in it. The timeless original by Lucian Ercolani has been ripped off and stolen a thousand times for good reason.
Feature chairs are a great way to bring a dining space to life. They are a chance to introduce complexity or colour. The chairs I'm going to talk about aren't likely to work well if you have a complete set, but putting them at the end make it a focal point.
A classic, beautiful chair. Pretty easy to come by and available at most design shops. Again, it's the hybrid of weave and the incredibly organic back support that I love.
If you are on a budget and want something that is colourful, and a little bit of a statement, then go for these. Make sure you get the ones for 14+ year olds! They are cheap (but you usually need to buy 4-6 of them as a minimum order).
Colourful polypropylene once again, but far more design focused. The backrest is playful but sophisticated at the same time - they come in a range of colours and are made from a single moulded piece of polypropylene. Come in at a bit more than the school chairs though...
CC2 by Binocular is an incredibly clean piece, produced by an incredibly complex variety of components, from the bent walnut back and seat, to the turned legs and the intricate joints. Truly mid-century, CC2 was designed in 1951 and lay dormant as a single prototype until recently.
Another one for the wish list is the Miss Holly. The delicate spindles and curves across the back and bum make it simultaneously fluid and symmetrical. I think this is my favourite chair out there at the moment. One day maybe.
That's your lot! Stay tuned for our next blog and please feel to drop us a line if you would like to see us write about anything in particular!