I think every designer has a few signature pieces or ideas, that he or she likes to incorporate into every project. One of mine has to be built-in banquettes and casual, comfortable breakfast nooks. When I begin the planning phase of a new kitchen remodel, I am always looking for ways to incorporate a built-in window seat to anchor the back side of a breakfast table. The custom built-ins provide character and charm, while the bench seat allows drop-in guests to squeeze in--family-style! For extra seating, I add comfy chairs that invite one to stay and relax, rather hard wood that ones that scream dine and dash. Aesthetically, I seek out warmth, texture and beautiful finishes, yet my practical side demands forgiving fabrics, so that meals with kids can be relaxing and worry-free. The challenge is to incorporate all of these ideas into one cohesive space, that eventually becomes one of the most-loved and most-used areas of the home.
Here is one little dining nook, that I designed quite a while ago, but still love for all the reasons listed above.
This was a kitchen reno project that included the addition of a new bay window at one end of the room. As is the case with many Tudor-style homes, this kitchen was tiny and narrow, so there wasn't the space for a free-standing island with bar seating. The little window bump out gave us the room for a sweet little seating nook instead. It's the first thing you see when you enter the kitchen (just off the foyer, so very visible!) and it gave us a pretty focal point. The bench seats have hinged tops and storage inside, to make up for lack of space elsewhere. Another favorite bit for me was the wrap-around stone countertop, that flowed from the breakfront cabinets on either side of the nook, around and into the window ledge, nicely capping off our custom upholstery. Everything has a nice, clean, fitted feel--important when space is at a premium!
Here is another, more recent project. This nook is very different in feeling (more airy and open), yet still very compact. I love all the soft, soothing fabrics, the simple drum-shade pendant, and custom valance that coordinates with the pillow fabrics. Perhaps the best feature though is the corner window, which offers views of the garden while one is sipping coffee or enjoying a sandwich. Who wouldn't want to linger here?
This last example from my portfolio archives is a simple, under-the window bench, with built-in china cabinets on either side.
This window was existing when we started the kitchen remodel, and we decided to just work with the size rather than change it. There wasn't enough room for a proper backrest, so we made-do with an abundance of comfy pillows. One neat feature is the proximity of the coffee/tea counter, which is just off to the right and visible in the second photo. Though simple in design, I think it all came together nicely. In fact, this image is my most-pinned on Houzz.com! As of today, it's up over 7,000 pins, so something about this little spot must resonate with homeowners. So much so, that one of the Houzz.com contributing editors wrote about it in an article. Too bad it was in Italian!
http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/60063317/list/16-angoli-colazione-che-vi-faranno-diventare-mattinieri Actually, I shouldn't say that...the ironic thing was that the homeowner IS Italian and she was able to get someone to translate it for me. My image is the last one in the article, and it closes by saying "For the most lazy...Like a family room: a warm and inviting breakfast nook is the place to grant oneself a last moment of relaxation before going out. The key ingredients: Wood, warm color, and indirect light." I couldn't have said it better myself!