Sometimes, a single long table really is the best option for a particular room. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with matching chairs.
“In one dining room we did,” says New York-based interior designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz . “the owner had a very long dining table. Having 14 chairs around it made the room too busy with legs. Our solution was to select four high back chairs that divide the table in two sections, and then to design a banquette that was repeated four times. The host and hostess sit in the middle chairs, so that they have access to all guests.”
If you’d like to re-create this look on a modest budget, you needn’t have benches and chairs custom made. Many furniture stores sell settees that could work quite nicely at a table; just make sure you select pieces that coordinate well with the upholstered chairs so the arrangement looks thought-out, not thrown-together.
If you have a screened-in porch or sunroom, consider using it for casual dining. To make this windowed room meal-ready, designer April Sheldon placed antique Chinese scholar benches on either side of a table made from an ironwood platform from India. The backless benches are surprisingly comfortable, she says — and they are easier to get in and out of than benches with high backs. And because there is no upholstery, spills are never a concern.
You could create a similar feeling in an indoor dining room, too, says Sheldon; just make sure the furniture is not only beautiful, but comfortable, as well. “People really like to linger at the table,” she says. “It’s all about feeling good, relaxing and enjoying good food.”