Bad News For Banquette Fans

For all those wondering when the heck we’ll tackle that kitchen banquette idea that we mentioned a few weeks ago (here and here), well… probably never. Cue the frowny face emoticons.

Here’s the deal. After getting lots of positive feedback on the idea a few weeks ago (over 1,400 comments total!), Sherry and I were certain your collective enthusiasm would push us from “we think this is a good idea” to “this is definitely a good idea.” And it nearly did. But parts of us still questioned the whole commitment-factor when it came to actually doing it (we definitely described it as a half baked idea when we shared it). We worried if it’d really be the most practical solution (would it be a pain to scoot in and out of?) and if it’d really make the most of the space (we couldn’t figure out the right balance of big-enough seats while still maintaining flow around it to keep it from feeling cramped).

So one evening we decided there was a reason that we were stuck in Hesitation City: it just wasn’t The One. So we did what we always do when we get stuck. We went back to the drawing board to see if we could come up with something else that we ended up liking better. We made a few quick sketches of the floorplan, asked ourselves “what are we not thinking of???” and just started sketching ideas – no matter how good or bad our guts told us they were. Kinda like those DON’T THINK, JUST DRAW exercises that they teach you to access your subconscious or something. Of course some of them completely blocked the doorway to the dining room (fail!) and nearly all of them were completely out of scale (so things were too big or too far over) but it definitely got the ol’ wheels turning again…

We tried returning to some version of table in the middle (top left) and even modification to the banquette (top right, bottom left). But somewhere in that mess we had one of those “Ah-ha moments” that ol’ what’s-her-name used to talk about on the TV (this is a joke for my Oprah-loving wife). So allow us to introduce the banquette’s successor: the peninsula! Cue the confused emoticons.

Let’s explain. First, here’s our CURRENT floating-table-in-the-kitchen-and-larger-table-in-the-dining-room arrangement (courtesy of my rough Google Sketch-Up drawing):

Now for the doorway opened, cabinets painted, counters replaced, floor slightly discolored (not intentionally) and (of course) peninsula’d version:

Woo hoo. Before we go any further, we should warn you: we’re 100% sold. The above depiction of it is probably not going to make a believer out of everyone, but from taping it out in the space and moving around it “in person” for a while we giddily came to the following conclusion: it’s The One! So no worries if it’s not your jam or you love Mr. Banquette (he was a lovable guy – and there are always gonna be people who would do things differently if this were their house) but we’re definitely going for it. And we can’t wait to get started.

As for why we didn’t come up with the peninsula idea sooner, we were so stuck on the fact that a peninsula coming off of the cabinetry that we already have would actually hit (or come very very close to hitting) the fridge on the other side of the room. So it wasn’t until we came up with the idea of adding a base cabinet to the right of the cabinetry that we already have to space the peninsula further away (a smidge towards the fireplace) for better flow and even more counter space.

Speaking of counter space, when it comes to executing this whole thing, we’re basically planning to add some base cabinetry (and counters) near the opening itself to create a counter-height peninsula. Which accomplishes a lot, actually:

  • It adds additional work surface & cabinet storage to the kitchen side of the room (so it’s easy-access)
  • It helps extend and better define the kitchen space without blocking flow or feeling too heavy
  • It creates a casual eating space, keeping it distinct from the dining room table, which is just steps away for larger groups and more formal gatherings
  • We can most likely seat four people at the peninsula (it’s flexible, so ignore the three chunky chairs shown)
  • It can be used as a buffet to set out food (or to seat additional guests) when we have parties
  • It can be used for homework, laptop browsing, and general hanging out by the kiddo(s) as they grow
  • It even makes sense of our very off-center fireplace by creating a small casual living space that we’ll use as a little “chill corner” of sorts (the peninsula doesn’t block the fireplace, which our banquette friend did from most angles)

That last perk (centering the fireplace) was a nice surprise, since it’s something we’ve struggled with a lot (it’s just in such an odd place, practically shoved in the corner of the room). But you can see from this virtual view through the future doorway how it almost makes the fireplace placement seem intentional (picture it with a nice round mirror above it to balance that doorway next to it). Oh happy day.

We just love that we’ll get to see the fireplace from the dining room (it won’t be blocked by a heavy banquette) and if overflow guests sit at the peninsula, they won’t have their backs to the people seated in the dining room (which would have happened with the banquette).

For those who don’t do well with renderings (or are still scratching your heads), here are some pics we snapped to give you a better idea of how it’ll work in the real world. We moved some existing furniture around to mimic the placement (the table represents the peninsula) and have lived with it for the last week-ish to make sure it actually makes sense. Placements aren’t totally exact, but pretty darn close to what we’re thinking. Here’s the view from the laundry room. Ignore the broken pendant light in the far back (it finally crapped out on us). Instead look, there’s that fireplace nicely framed!

We also traced out the future opening (again, not exact) to show how that’ll work too. We’re thinking there will be a little half-wall (i.e. knee wall) where the peninsula meets the open doorway…

… like we showed in this rendering:

We considered a narrower doorway (where the peninsula doesn’t hang over into the opening) but we think this wider version makes it feel much more open and lets in more light, so it’s the current winner. And of course as previously mentioned, we love how balanced the fireplace and doorway look through the cutout.

Admittedly it took us a little while to figure out what to do with the space in front of the fireplace. It was our biggest hurdle in getting on board with this idea, actually. But after we brought in a placeholder chair, ottoman, rug, and light we realized it was actually completely awesome. There have been approximately 14 hours of reading-with-Clara from that chair in the last week or so. We’re even toying with the addition of some sort of tall built-in bookshelf behind the chair to balance the tall cabinets on the other side of the doorway. Not sure yet, but we’ll keep you posted.

We’ve already discovered it’s a great spot for Clara to play while we’re getting stuff done in the kitchen (since we can’t see her if she’s in the living room, but it’s easy enough to peek over the peninsula to check on her if she’s in the kitchen on the rug).

Sherry’s already making plans for how she’ll relax in front of a fire (we’re contemplating one of those convincing modern-looking electric inserts that Candice Olsen uses – possibly even a double sided one if we can eventually open the back of the fireplace into the living room as planned).

Meanwhile I’m dreaming of a little TV mounted above the mantle so I can watch the news during our morning breakfast routine (Sherry is rolling her eyes as I type this- so we’ll have to see where we land on that). Either way, can you tell we’re getting more than a little excited about this set up? Yup, it’s The One.

The peninsula will also give us 3-ish base cabinets worth of deep functional storage, unlike the largely decorative storage (open 12″ bookshelves) that the banquette would’ve provided. Plus a nice wide 3′ x 5.5′ work surface for prep, serving, eating, and homework is FAR more functional than what we would’ve gained from a distant island or a narrow banquette located a lot further away. And we’re probably gonna use the new counterspace as an excuse to change the countertops in the whole kitchen. We’ve never loved our existing granite color (it has a few pitted/stained parts too), so it seems silly to actually buy more for the new peninsula (we’ve debated a mismatched look, which we like for an island, but for a peninsula it seems like it would look most like it has “always been there” with the same counter to keep things seamless). Of course we plan to craigslist the existing granite and put that money towards whatever we’ll use for the new material (not gonna lie, we’re already talking about DIYing concrete counters).

Oh and for anyone debating a peninsula, we’ve learned that the pros recommend 42″ of walking space between the peninsula and whatever’s on the other side (in our case it’s the fridge, which we hope will sink back a foot or so when we replace it with something that’s counter-depth). So that’s how we arrived at our peninsula length.

In fact, flow through the room is almost better because there’s one straight pathway through the room, whereas the old table (and the once planned banquette) made us walk in a slight circle. Hoorah for ten less steps a day. Haha.

So now that we’re unequivocally sold and geeky-excited about our new plan, it’s just going to come down to working out the logistics. Namely how to find/build perfectly-sized cabinets that match our old ones without breaking the bank. And finally hire a licensed contractor and get the permits needed to bust out that load bearing wall of ours. But that’s a story for another post. Another ten posts, probably…

Update: You can check out the new “cozy corner” behind the future peninsula in action (on video!) over on Young House Life.

Another update: Lots of people are sweetly suggesting some sort of bookcase or built-in feature on the side of the cabinets that face the dining room (instead of a knee-wall) but we’re unsure if that’ll be too much since there are already built-ins in the dining room that are just a few feet away. We’ll keep you posted as we go though! Who knows where we’ll end up…

Psst: Tomorrow I’m going to post my thoughts on trying Google Sketch-Up for the first time (and how it compares to two other 3D rendering tools I’ve used). So stay tuned for that if you’ve got any questions about how I made the 3D graphics for this post.


  1. says

    Truth be told, I’m glad you guys aren’t doing the banquette! I like this layout much better (I’m a big fan of peninsulas/islands). I think this new layout will make the kitchen more friendly when you entertain guests. I can’t wait to watch this as it happens!!

    • RBC says

      Yep, didn’t want to be negative when you guys were on the banquette-bandwagon, but I really hated it. This is 100% better! Love!

    • says

      I totally agree with Kristen (I usually do…huh) I LOVED the banquette in theory, but it was definitely a huge floating, blockish structure. Also, I love that you are extending the peninsula into the doorway, because I think it will make people in the dining room feel more connected with those in the kitchen (cause you know at big family dinner things you can never seem to keep anyyone out of the kitchen) LOVE IT!

    • Tracy says

      Ditto! I didn’t like the idea of the banquette facing away from the kitchen. This is going to be awesome. Can’t wait to see it.

    • Aimee says

      I’m with Kristen as well! I didn’t like the banquette – seemed to big and to occlusive (can you use that word related to DIY/home improvement, I think it is a medical term)…lets just say blocking and playing “king of the corner/keep-away (the corner from life surrounding it)”. Love that you can use it as a buffet or whatever. So versatile.

    • says

      Thank goodness I’m not the only one! I think this option will definitely make the kitchen feel ‘finished’ as opposed to an open area with cabinets lining the walls. It gives clear walkways and an eat-in breakfast bar that is really versatile. I also love that it joins the area to the dining room (like a servery area) and one can never have enough kitchen cupboards!

    • Brittnee says

      NVMD I see where it will be a small wall in the doorway. I like it though. so much more functional! You guys are so creative.

  2. says

    Looks awesome! I spotted this layout in your day in the life post and guessed this might be what you were thinking. It looked so natural in that pic (and the fireplace looked right at home). Should be awesome!

    We had a penisula growing up and I loved kneeling on a stool on the opposite side of the counter when baking with my mum. It’ll be great for that when Clara is a smidge older.

    Plus, great excuse to get new countertops.

    Will you have any overhang for seating on the kitchen side or are you thinking just one side of stools? Have you asked your designer friend what she thinks?

    • says

      We’re not sure about the overhang (thinking it might just be on the one side, but also toy with a slight overhang on the side so we can stick Clara’s highchair/big girl chair there). Haven’t talked to Nancy yet but can’t wait to show her where things have evolved! She’s awesome when it comes to planning out the base cabinet layout and all that so we can’t wait to get her take!


    • says

      Ok I must be really tired today because I totally just read that last sentence as “we can’t wait to get her to the lake” and I was like “oh must just be a new Sherry saying, like instead of let’s get her on board – let’s get her to the lake”

      And then I read it again and felt like an idiot.

      Really really loving the peninsula idea though. We have the same sort of thing in our kitchen and my husband is constantly sitting at it to check his fantasy football teams and talk to me while I cook dinner.

    • says

      Ok I must be really tired today because I totally just read that last sentence as “we can’t wait to get her to the lake” and I was like “oh must just be a new Sherry saying, like instead of let’s get her on board – let’s get her to the lake”

      And then I read it again and felt absolutley ridiculous.

      Really really loving the peninsula idea though. We have the same sort of thing in our kitchen and my husband is constantly sitting at it to check his fantasy football teams and talk to me while I cook dinner.

    • says

      Bwahahah I saw what this post was about and had a feeling someone would probably write “penis”ula at some point. *slow clap*. i was browsing comments for more on the concrete counter top mentioned (which is number one on my list of choices for our home too, a long with recycled glass) and I saw the comment and had to laugh.

      And of course point it out, because I’m that person.
      Just keepin’ it classy.
      No big deal.

    • Jenny says

      When I read about the “new countertops” I was shocked since I know those are granite countertops in there now. I am not sold on getting rid of those! Those are pretty much top of the line when it comes to countertops, although solid surface are nice….

  3. Jenn says

    love love LOVE this!!! i liked the banquette but was never completely sold either. the minute i saw the first drawing of the new plan, i thought it was GREAT!!!! sooo excited to see it all done :)

  4. Brigid says

    LOVE this idea! It looks so much more intentional to have it connected with the kitchen while still taking advantage of the cozy little area in front of the fireplace – I can’t wait to see how it all plays out! Congrats on finding something you love 100%!

  5. Ericka says

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! I wasn’t sold on the banquette idea either (although I LOVE banquettes). This idea seems to work for your space so much better!

  6. Chrestomanci says

    Definitely better. Now I’ve read that it suddenly seems like the obvious thing to do. That’s got to = great idea…

  7. VA says

    I would never in a million years have thought to put a sweet little armchair in a kitchen. You guys blow my mind with the way you think outside the box and create truly multipurpose spaces with great style!

  8. Jenn M. says

    love it and very clever indeed! cant wait to see the final result.

    ps: reading your blog post in the mornings for some reason, makes my coffee and toast breakfast more interesting :)

  9. Bridget says

    I was so sold on the banquette idea and was sad when i first read you werent doing it….BUT this is sooo much better!! The chair is such a cute unexpected idea but fits perfectly with the fireplace! Awesome job guys and I cant wait to see it finished….

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