8 best benches for a functional upgrade to your living spaces

Update your dining table or furnish your hallway with one of these stylish pews  

Ali Howard
Monday 21 September 2020 17:11
We tested for durability, quality of craftsmanship, style and value for money
We tested for durability, quality of craftsmanship, style and value for money

The humble bench has seen a sharp rise in popularity over the past few years, and that’s largely thanks to our desire for informal canteen-style eating.

Not just for open-plan kitchen set-ups, conventional dining spaces are increasingly embracing the casual long-seater, too.

And we’re all for the informality of a dining bench. By its very nature, it’s a barrier-breaker, encouraging us to be a little more sociable, especially when we’re wedged in for a cosy family dinner.

If you’re looking to team your kitchen or dining table with a bench or two, think carefully about maximising space.

Consider buying a single bench for one side of the table with more traditional dining chairs on the other – this can prove a nifty space-saver as well as award your dining room a lovely, laid-back look.

If you are mixing and matching, measure up well to ensure your dining bench will tuck neatly under the table.

In the hallway, a fuss-free wooden bench can bring an edgy, industrial feel to our homes:  think locker rooms or school hall-style pieces that put functionality at the fore. Not only do these look the part, but they can be a godsend when we’re scrambling to get our shoes and coats on each morning.

A simple bench is unforgiving in its exposure of any shoddy woodwork, and so we put our top long-seaters to the test, looking for quality of craftsmanship alongside style and affordability.

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Noa & Nani Canterbury bench in dark pine and grey

Dimensions: H45cm x W157cm x D40cm

Sleek and stylish, this dining bench forms part of Noa & Nani’s ever-popular Canterbury range, which celebrates Scandi style and solid, simple craftsmanship. In its new colourway, a rich dark pine seat is contrasted with a contemporary silk grey frame and we loved this chic update.

The longest of the benches in our round-up, this one lends itself to sociable gatherings around the table – and it’s designed to fit perfectly under the dining table of the same range. Solid, sturdy, and timeless in design.

John Lewis & Partners Calia 3-seater dining bench, oak

Dimensions: H45cm x W147cm x D42cm

Crafted from solid oak and steel, this is a striking furniture piece that plays to both the rustic and industrial trends. Simple and elegant in its makeup, its flat plank-like seat boasts a wire brushed, distressed finish, while its chunky angled legs in black offer a heady contrast. Visible knots and knolls, and a swirling wood grain, give the top a pleasing visual texture despite being smooth to the touch. We loved this no-frills utilitarian bench at our breakfast table.

Studio Gud twine bench, solid oak

Dimensions: H42cm x W137cm x D46cm

Our priciest pick comes courtesy of this little known Portuguese brand by way of high-end furniture stalwarts,  Heal’s – and it is a design-led beauty. Intricately handcrafted from solid oak, the contemporary bench features a seemingly continuous looping pattern that’s not dissimilar to a column radiator, awarding it a cool, industrial feel. But with its Scandi-influenced pale blond wood it’s an altogether homely piece, too. Just shy of £600, this is one investment bench to show off in the hallway.

Ercol for John Lewis Shalstone 2 seater dining bench, oak

Dimensions: H82cm x W118cm x D51cm

No benches round-up would be complete without paying tribute to Ercol, whose mid-century spindle-backed furniture pieces have become bona fide design classics. This elegant dining bench forms part of the brand’s wider Shalstone range for John Lewis & Partners. In pale, smooth, solid oak, it boasts a delicate frame with its supporting backrest intricately criss-crossed. Lightweight in both look and feel, this is a dining bench that doesn’t overwhelm the space, rather offers Scandi-influenced grace. Its carved, ergonomic bottom indents are a delightfully cheeky addition.

Pib bench larsson

Dimensions: H42cm x W120cm x D35cm

This stylish bench recalls an old gymnasium pommel horse with its densely cushioned top and tapered wooden frame ­– and we loved its vintage-inspired presence in our hallway. Strong and sturdy, the bench is crafted from a rich and warming walnut wood with a durable and textured upholstered seat in a complementary (and equally warm) basalt grey. It’s a beautiful and versatile furniture piece that works just as well in the bedroom as the hallway. Note that the seat itself is slightly narrower than the listed dimensions due to its angled legs.

By Boo Dante bench

Dimensions: H73cm x W121cm x D48cm

We loved this stylish bench for its versatility – as a standalone piece it makes a statement in the hallway but works equally well at the kitchen table. Its frame is made from birch wood and painted jet black, while the seat is a natural woven cane – and this makes a beautiful contrast. It also offers a knowing nod to classic mid-century Danish design with its angled and tapered legs. We found the back rest to be reliably supportive, too.

Garden Trading longworth hallway bench, oak

Dimensions: H45cm x W110cm x D36cm

This is a woven seated bench full of old school charm. Boasting a slender silhouette, and offering both seating and storage, it comprises a place for two to perch along with a handy under shelf for shoes, making it ideal for busy family hallways. It’s crafted from a mid-toned oak frame, while the seat is formed from a twisted paper cord that’s reliably dense but also allows for a tiny bit of bounce. At just 36cm in depth, this one’s suited to a narrow space.

H&M rattan-seat bench

Dimensions: H43cm x W75cm x D30cm

H&M’s homeware and furniture offering continues to go from strength to strength, with trend-savvy pieces that are both high on quality and affordability. This lovely little bench is no exception. On the shorter side, you’d need to cosy up to fit two people on it but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in laid-back boho charm. Available in black or brown wood with a woven rattan seat top, it’s reliably robust and makes a perfect, practical piece for smaller hallway spaces.

The verdict: Benches

Noa & Nani’s Canterbury bench in dark pine and grey is a stylish and affordable piece that marries high quality, considered craftsmanship with a smart and timeless aesthetic. It proved itself to be reliably sturdy – and it’s long enough to sit a number of diners, big and small. We also loved By Boo’s Dante bench for its striking contrast in materials and it’s cool, mid-century styling.

For the full dining set up, read our reviews of the best dining tables

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