Great Spaces: The Perfect Banquette

In the living room, a tricky design challenge with a comfy solution.

Photo by Robert Radifera; styling by Charlotte Safavi, Stylish Productions

The remodel of this Country Club Manor home presented a dilemma for interior designer Liz Mearns and architect Charles Moore. Removing walls to create a more open floor plan transformed the main level, but doing so resulted in a long, narrow living room with dimensions that made furniture placement challenging—particularly along the back wall of the house.

“Even if you had a 9-foot sofa, it was going to be awkward,” says Mearns, whose firm, Imagine Design, is based in Arlington.

The solution: a 16-foot, built-in window seat with task lights by Visual Comfort at either end. Not only does the banquette fill that odd space in an intentional way, it frames a picturesque view of the family’s lush backyard, whereas a couch would have partially blocked the windows.

Moore Architects, based in Falls Church, designed the home’s improvements and added a bump-out for the banquette—a move that gave shape and definition to the living area without interrupting its openness. “Their great idea was expanding that space a little bit,” says the homeowner. ”It would have been much less functional if we had not bumped out that little spot. It gave us a square area to work with.”

Mearns, who jokingly refers to herself as “the banquette queen,” touts the economic efficiency of the design. Herndon-based Phoenix Builders “constructed a low platform, which is not that expensive,” she says. “Essentially, you’re getting a custom sofa, but you’re just doing the top cushion.” (Or in this case, three cushions by Sky Upholstery in a high-performance Kravet fabric.) “We made them extra deep, so it sits more like a sofa than a bench.”

The owners—a family of book-lovers—now use the banquette for reading, lounging, watching TV and playing board games, calling it “a focal point for the whole home.”

The window seat flanks a conversation area with a leather sofa from Room & Board and mod swivel chairs by Lee Industries. “We wanted them to feel a little vintage,” Mearns says of the chairs, “so we used a patterned fabric. I love that they have legs and can swivel to face multiple seating areas or the TV.”


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Categories: Home & Design