This form of streamlined seating has all sorts of advantages for your dining area

 Belvedere bench with dove grey cushion
Our Belvedere dining bench, now available with a dove-grey cushioned seat (as well as oatmeal) is here matched with our grey velvet Burford and Kingsley dining chairs.

Once upon a time in a world before dining chairs (when humans were threatened by pox and plague rather than Covid-19), the dining bench reigned supreme.

In the Middle Ages, for example, when dining took place in great halls, benches and long trestle tables were the order of the day.

Seating reflected social status, so while a feudal lord may have had a chair, the rest of his family would have sat on benches or stools at the main table with the remainder of the household positioned in order of rank on benches and tables below.

Benches gradually fell out of favour as dining moved away from the great hall to ‘privee parlers’ – for smaller and more private gatherings. Dining chairs around smaller tables became more prevalent from the 1700s, by which time dining had become a more intimate affair.

In recent times, however, the humble dining bench has been enjoying a resurgence, reflecting a growing trend for relaxed meal times at home – both in our kitchens and dining spaces. A dining bench is invitingly informal, encouraging us to squeeze up and be more sociable – something we can look forward to doing again once this pandemic is over.

Ahead of the trend

At LRI, we introduced dining benches back in August 2015, so we like to think we were ahead of the trend.

“The idea initially was to create an exact replica of the Belvedere dining table in a smaller size with an upholstered cushion in our trademark Belgian oatmeal linen that could be tied on to add comfort, explains LRI co-founder Sarah.

“We wanted the bench to be practical and functional but also to look beautiful rather than basic – which is why it has attractively carved and hand-finished pedestals to support it at either end and a central bar running underneath, she adds.

Courtesy of one of our favourite Instagrammers, the_suffolk_nest, here's our Belveredere bench demonstrating just how stylish and unfussy it can look. With no chair backs in view, it adds to the feeling of calm and uncluttered space in this gorgeous kitchen.

Enhancing a view

The benches have proved popular from the outset. They’re a particular favourite with families – perhaps imagining just how many children they can shuffle along them at the next birthday party? In non-social-distancing times, they’re also a useful way of squeezing in an extra adult around the table.

Another major advantage of using dining benches either side of the table is that they don’t block the view – which makes them ideal if your dining table is positioned in front of a large window or doors to the garden, for example. With benches you can see right over the table, rather than the tops of chairs.

Belvedere dining table and bench
The dining bench is covered with a fur throw, making it extra cosy and perfect for winter. The space looks particularly open and inviting and it's easy to appreciate the buttoning on the Burford dining chairs as well as see clearly through the window.

If you prefer a more formal set-up, you could add a couple of upholstered dining chairs at either end, or mix and match with one bench on one side and chairs on the other. In this way, you’re also able to appreciate the luxury buttoning on our Burford dining chairs, for instance.

Although our weathered oak dining benches are designed to fit perfectly with our ever-popular and elusive (they’ll be back in stock soon, we promise!) Belvedere tables, they can also be partnered with any of our weathered oak tables, from the Montague to the Belmont should you so desire.

 Belvedere dining table and bench
The bench with an oatmeal cushion, partnered by oatmeal Belgian linen upholstered Burford and KIngsley chairs.

Not only have we now introduced a dove-grey cushioned bench to our collection, but we also have two sizes (a 6 seater and an 8-10 seater) with measurements that ensure they tuck in snugly between the legs of the corresponding size of Belvedere, which makes them even more spatially practical.

Alternative uses

Of course, you don’t have to use our bench for dining. They also look great in a hallway – where they can offer a practical solution when scrambling to get shoes and coats on each morning.

And in these challenging times, we can even think of a few more quirky uses:

Weight-training bench

If your gym is still closed or you can’t face the idea of going there yet, grab some weights (or full water bottles) and practise some bench presses, triceps extensions etc. According to youtube, there are 57 exercises you can do with a bench. Top tip: Remove cushion first (you don’t want it to get all sweaty!)

Cuddly toy slide

If you’ve run out of ways to entertain toddlers (and let’s face it most of us have) this is a good one. Simply prop up one end, untie cushion (again) and give teddy bears/furry elephants/plush rabbits, etc. a gentle shove from the top.

Flower press

Step 1: Pick flowers, place between two sheets of paper inside a magazine and position under the cushion on bench.

Step 2: Invite friend to dinner, make sure they sit on top of magazine and ply them with food and wine to ensure they remain in position for several hours.

Any more ideas? We'd love to hear them…



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