A storage bench is such a wonderful and versatile household item. They serve so many purposes and come in such a variety of styles that they are useful in many areas of your home to help keep things tidy and organized.
Some of the most common places for a storage bench are at the front door. It is always nice to have a place to sit while you take your shoes on or off which is much easier than trying to stand or kneel down while preparing to leave a friend’s home. They are also excellent at a back door in the mud room for when you come in from yard chores. A storage bench in the kids’ room is infinitely useful to keep toys neat, tidy and out of the way. It is a convenient place to store blankets and pillows in the family room for a movie night; at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom, or in any of the bedrooms, for that matter. And of course, if you do require a little extra seating in a room, they are usually easy enough to call into action.
Benches customarily have a closed flipper top so that it is easy to lift and access the contents inside. Open front benches are generally used at a doorway to allow users to take off their footwear and tuck it on the shelf, out of the way. Closed front benches do the same job but with swinging or sliding doors that conveniently hide all the contents neatly out of sight. Benches are available in many sizes, most commonly being the single, double or triple seat widths and most will be 12” to 18” deep with a 16” high seat. The lengths (or widths) of the units will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and according to the numbers of seats required.
Like all furniture you want to find a bench that is solid in its construction; sturdily built all the way around with high quality hinges that will be able to open and close constantly over the years ahead. Unless there is show wood on the unit, you can get away with using soft woods (*see our page on types of woods) plywood and particle board. If the unit is not going to be used outside where dampness can get into it, you are fairly safe to use different combinations of woods. As always, be certain to test it, while in the store, for sturdiness.
One style option for the humble storage bench is the backless style. Easy to use, and seat depth doesn’t come into play as much on this style of unit. Low back benches are nice just so the user has a little something to lean against while putting on footwear, or sitting on one over the course of the evening. Then there are the high back versions (think Gaston in Beauty & the Beast) some will have coat hooks added to the back, which allows you to be able to hang things on, such as a wet coat that you would like to dry out. Just come in from outdoors, toss off the shoes, throw the jacket over a hook and you’re done.
An all wood bench works well because there is no upholstery to worry about. No shoe marks or water to contend with; ever. Upholstered benches require a bit more careful attention because you can’t be tossing messy boots or shoes around and getting everything dirty. Leather is always a nice option especially in dark colours so it won’t show water marks or dirt, however, it still should have a protected finish. When you choose an upholstered bench for interior spaces other than the front or back door, so to speak, you will have to consider all of the woes of fabric that will be touched, sat on, laid on and possibly spilled on. It is always best to find a serviceable fabric to stand up to the type of usage you are going to put it through. Again, leather can be terrific in these applications but many of the lighter colours will show all the accidents that you have had over the years.
Now, although dining benches don’t usually have storage in them, I am going to address the pro’s and con’s of them here. Dining benches have grown in popularity over the past few years for both kitchens and formal dining rooms. The thing I love about benches is that they are easy to get into and easy to get out of, and can fit several small children in the span of space that would fit two adults. The thing I don’t like about benches in the kitchen or the dining room is, that when a piece of furniture has no back it wears out my back. I’m good for about one hour in a backless bench until I am done. I need to stand up or do something else. It is very difficult to sit straight with good posture while you trying to eat your dinner all night.
However, dining benches with a back are becoming fashionable; when they are an upholstered high-backed one, they can be unique and quite fun! Not everybody you know will have one. Whether they are wood seat and back, upholstered seat and wood back, or fully upholstered, they create a really different environment. It can transform your kitchen into a little bistro. The only setback I have seen is when one of the two people needs to excuse themselves from the table, both parties need to move back away from the table in order for this to happen. It’s not terrible but it is a fact.
Counter or bar height dining benches are also very cool. All of the same information I previously mentioned applies with one extreme exception. You have to try this at the showroom in order to fully understand what I am telling you. If you are not wearing shoes or slippers, when you sit at a high bench for any length of time, your feet will start to suffer horribly from resting on the wood or metal rail. Trying to keep your feet balanced on a little metal or wood rail for even a short period of time becomes very tough unless you are wearing shoes and then you won’t even notice. If the user is wearing slippers you may obtain comfort by making adjustments while being seated. If by chance the manufacturer you have purchased from has a larger foot rail, then there should be no problem being comfortably supported with your feet on the foot rung for however long you wish.