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If you're looking to squeeze in more people around a table, or maybe stay on top of decorating trends, dining benches and banquettes are a popular alternative to the traditional chair. They come in many different shapes, sizes and materials — you can choose between a bench or banquette or opt for wood or upholstered. Before you jump on the dining room bench and banquette bandwagon, here are a few things to consider.

Why should I add a dining bench to my table?

Benches are a great way to break up the monotony of chairs, especially if you're looking for a more updated, trendier look. They oftentimes are practical too; instead of fitting only two oversized chairs per table side, you can often fit three or even four people to a bench, especially with small children. And because they're oftentimes made of wood, they are usually more affordable than purchasing individual chairs.

What's the difference between a bench and banquette?

While a dining table bench doesn't have a back and is often very simple, banquettes are like mini sofas — they include a back and are oftentimes upholstered with nice decorative details. Because they often have plenty of cushion, they are more comfortable than a traditional bench. On the other hand, a bench with a back often takes up more space and might be harder to match with tables because of armrests and height differentiation.

How many dining benches should I buy?

Typically, two dining benches, one for each long side of the table, are used with two head dining chairs. You can also use one bench for dining table use, if you're looking for a slight change of pace but don't want to overcommit to the trend. One is also ideal if you need a bench for kitchen table use and the table happens to be backup up to a wall on one side.