Try a restaurant booth solution to save space

June 10, 2006|by CHRISTINE BRUN / Copley News Service

It's fun to play hooky from making dinner and eat out once in a while. Besides escaping the grind of preparing a meal for the family, you can also learn a thing or two about conserving space in your small home by observing restaurant decor.

The typical booth is the original space-saving concept. The seating is just a few inches from the table, but slipping in and out is easy. A built-in eating nook in your house can supply the same efficiency and convenience.

Seek out an upholsterer who does restaurant seating. He or she will understand about the correct pitch for the back cushion and the proper depth for the seat. Booth seating is usually quite comfortable unless it is too shallow or too deep.

In order to feel good, the cushion you sit on has to be just as deep as any stand-alone dining chair. Don't try to duplicate the luxury of a window seat where you might curl up with a book. Remember that you'll be pulling a table up to the seating area and you're trying to achieve a good "sit."


If you don't want to risk a mistake or you're looking for long-range flexibility in a room, think about an off-the-shelf solution. Some catalog companies, like the one that makes the checked unit shown here, offer ready-made alternatives. These three pieces - a corner unit and two armless sections - give any corner restaurant-booth ambience. The table you choose for your corner can be round or square.

The corner itself might be in your kitchen, the living room or family room. In a house where no delineation between living room and dining area exists, this design solution can free up precious floor space. By scooting the dining area over to the corner, perhaps a china cabinet could be placed on the wall next to the seating.

The net effect could be more space in the other direction, between the eating area and the living room. Even if your efforts don't allow for more furniture pieces, you'll realize the wonderful sense of more space - always a plus in a small room.

Pay close attention to the colors and tone of wood used. Here we see a sort of blended result because the tan-and-white fabric choice is close in tone to the white-washed finish of the chairs and table.

Of course you would want to consider the entire area before selecting finishes. If you have dark mahogany furniture in one part of the room, it would be good to stay with that wood in the eating nook in order to provide balance. If you have hardwood floors or wood laminates, take them into consideration, too.

The fabric you select could stay rich and deep in tone or have a lighter background with a pattern that incorporates the richer colors. Stark contrast, such as an off-white fabric, will make the chairs pop out and jump visually toward you. If your goal is to blend and stretch the corner, you don't want to create strong contrast.

A restaurant has the advantage of repetition: Many seats and backs appear to the viewer at once. In your home you will have only one shot at this kind of visual impression. Make your choices with consideration and you'll create an inviting picture that is also practical. Meanwhile you'll achieve coziness and comfort while saving a bit of very valuable space in a high-use part of your home.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at or to Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112.

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