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Bench Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Contemporary dark leather bench

Often overlooked in favor of sofas, armchairs and ottomans, benches deserve more attention than they receive. These versatile pieces of living room furniture serve as style accents to any room and act as convenient seating surfaces. Whether indoor or outdoor, benches come in varieties to satisfy multiple decorating functions. This bench buying guide will give you some shopping points to consider when fitting benches into your existing and future home decorating.

Buying a Bench:

  1. Bench uses: Benches can provide a comfortable seat for several people. They make excellent lounge seating, window seats -- even coffee tables and ottomans. Benches with drawers, cubbies and shelves are stylish storage solutions for books, DVDs and magazines.

  2. Seating: Seating in your home is -- first and foremost -- about comfort. If you'll be using the bench to watch television and movies, a banquette with adequate upholstering and cushioning will keep you comfortable for long stretches. Seldom-used benches, such as entryway or accent benches, won't need as much padding. Consider what use the bench will have and what room you'll be placing it in to get an idea of how comfortable it should be.

  3. Storage: Because they can double storage and shelving, the right storage bench can really help you effectively use floor space. The two main storage bench options available are the chest style and the exposed-face style. The best way to decide on a storage bench is to consider a cluttered spot and then try to find benches that will help you organize it.

    Organizing with Storage Benches

    • Chest benches: Chest-style storage benches have a hinged top which may be padded to allow the bench to double as an ottoman. These storage benches are great for hiding extra pillows and blankets; set one near the couch.

    • Shelf and cubby benches: Storage benches in the exposed-face style have open sides. The open sides can easily hold books, DVDs or magazines. An entryway bench may include compartments for shoes, galoshes and boots.

  4. Accent benches: A lovely accent bench is primarily decorative, perfect for wall or floor space that just seems a bit empty. Whether against a bare wall or just helping to balance a large couch in your living room, accent benches can make a room shine. Combined with an outdoor stool, umbrella or patio table, they can give your back deck a more stylish feel.

  5. Lounge benches: Lounge benches are an excellent alternative to bulky couches where space is limited. The small footprint and lightness make these benches easier to move than large sofas. They're a great way to open up a room without sacrificing seating.

  6. Entryway benches: A great place to keep shoes, coats and umbrellas is an organized entryway. An entryway bench will hold shoes and give people a place to sit while they pull on their boots on stormy days. You can match your entry bench with an umbrella holder and coat rack for a well-coordinated foyer.

  7. Vanity benches: Vanity benches are most often found in bathrooms and bedrooms. This category of benches is usually smaller in size than other benches to fit underneath a vanity table or bath counter.

  8. Bench construction: Leather, metal, upholstery and wood all make their way into the construction of benches of all types. Your choices will probably depend on the furniture you want to coordinate the new bench with. Keep in mind the weight and durability of bench materials and coverings. If you want to be able to move the bench easily, wood construction may be a better choice than metal, for example.

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