Get Inspired with These Ideas for Kitchen Seating

Custom cabinets let you create your personalized kitchen seating layout

Get Inspired with These Ideas for Kitchen Seating

The popularity of open floor plans in today’s homes has created a need for clever and creative kitchen seating arrangements. The open floor plan by definition eliminates the separate dining room.

So where is everyone supposed to sit when they eat? 

The casual and informal lifestyle no longer includes a traditional kitchen dining table with chairs on all four sides. Many homeowners are exploring different seating options to add a personal touch to their kitchen.

Let’s take a look at kitchen seating ideas that people are incorporating into their homes. The most popular options are:

  1. Kitchen islands with seating
  2. Peninsula seating
  3. Banquette seating

Kitchen Islands with Seating

By far, the category with the most seating options is the kitchen island. Thanks to the infinite creativity of kitchen designers, there is a great variety of functional kitchen seating arrangements for open floor plan living that work well and look good.

The layout can be as simple as a countertop with a designated breakfast bar arrangement or it can go as far as including table-and-chairs seating.  In the open floor concept, the countertop eating area creates the imaginary border or buffer zone between the food prep zone and the rest of the living space.

Countertop eating area creates a buffer zone between food prep and living areas

Naturally, the number of seats at the island should be matched to the size of the family. Although islands are often shown in photos with the maximum number and size of seats that can fit, in real life, people actually take up more than just a seat’s width of space. Knees and elbows need room of their own.

Allow plenty of elbow room for everyone seated at an island

There are three different heights to take into consideration when planning the seating at an island.

  1. Table height is 30” high
  2. Traditional counter height is 36” high
  3. Bar height is 42” high

Other measurements to know when planning for counter height seating. You will need:

  • At least 4 ft. of open space around the island
  • 18” underneath the countertop overhang for comfortable knee room
  • 24” to 30” between seats for elbow room
  • 30” high bar stools for 42” bar height counter
In this kitchen seating layout seats are located at the island end

One-Sided Kitchen Island Seating

When your island is used for family meals, don’t line up all the seats on one side of the island. You will have to choose between having everyone face in one direction, like strangers in a diner, or pulling a stool around to sit on the other side of the island with someone’s knees bumping against the cabinets. This arrangement looks good in photos we see on Houzz and Pinterest, but it doesn’t lead to family conversation.

All seating on one side of the island is ok for two or three people

Where there’s only two or three people who will be seated, this configuration is fine. If the island isn’t expected to be used for larger groups than that, it makes sense not to dedicate any more space to seating.

Two person seating at island

Another thing to be aware of when thinking about island seating. If your island has sides or legs that the kitchen seating will be between, this needs to be considered during the planning stage so they don’t cut into the legroom.

Legs and posts must be considered when planning out kitchen seating

Choosing an island without sides will give a bit more space for legs and knees, and more flexibility to move a stool to the side so diners can face toward each other.

Two-Sided Kitchen Island Seating

Adding seats to one adjacent side of the island can make it more inviting for eating. By extending the island overhang to two sides instead of just one, you allow diners to sit facing each other.

Scoot one seat around the island end to facilitate conversation

You can keep seats on both sides all the time, or save space by keeping seats on just one side most of the time and then pulling a stool over to the available shorter side when needed.

If you use a rounded corner like the one shown in the photo below, you can effectively get three directions of seats from just two sides of the island.

Seating at a round island lets diners see each other and the cook

Three-Sided Kitchen Island Seating

Island extended to create a table for casual dining

In this kitchen seating layout, the island is built out to include a table. Compared with having a stand-alone table away from the island, three-sided seating takes up less floor area because you don’t have to leave “circulation space” between the island and table. Of course, the trade-off is that your “table” has only three useable sides. For casual dining, this is a great solution.

Kitchen island with integral table for casual eating

Seating Options for a Two-Level Island

A two-level kitchen island is useful and functional and – bonus – it creates visual interest in your new kitchen. Especially if you use two different countertop materials, one for each level.

In the typical configuration, the lower height section is for cooking and the bar height section is for seating. With this arrangement, people sitting at the island are close enough to talk to the cook, and yet, they get protected from cooking splashes.

two level island seating is useful and functional

In kitchens that are open to other areas of the home, adding a higher countertop at bar level provides an informal barrier between the kitchen and the living area. It eliminates the view of kitchen clutter and cooking messes as it helps define the space.

A two-level island creates visual interest

The height of the staggered island countertops depends on how you will use it. Aside from the typical countertop height, you can either add a lower level at table height, or a higher section at bar height. 

The table height level is particularly attractive to avid bakers, as that lower height lets them fully extend their arms when rolling out or kneading dough, as seen in photo below.

Island with lowered section for rolling out dough

Peninsula Seating

A peninsula combines seating, style and function

According to HGTV, “A peninsula is basically a connected island, converting an L-shaped kitchen layout into a horseshoe or U-shape.” Peninsulas are ideal for creating a home bar, a breakfast area or a snack space. It combines style and function.

On one side is a sitting space, while on the other side is practical storage such as roll-out shelves, deep drawers, possibly a super susan, or maybe a spice storage pull-out. In addition, the peninsula provides lots of counter space.

A peninsula offers seating on one side and storage on the other

A kitchen peninsula creates a natural room divider, while keeping the kitchen and living spaces open.

Banquette Seating

Banquette seating can really personalize your kitchen. You can make it cozy, casual or elegant – whatever you want. It also offers a great space-saving solution, since fitted seating requires less floor space than a freestanding table and chairs.

The seat of the bench should be around 20″ high and the back of the bench should be around 42″ high. There are several ways to design banquette seating.

  • A bench on one side and chairs on the others.
  • An L-shaped bench with chairs on the other two sides.
  • A U-shaped bench surrounding three sides of the table, and an optional chair on the remaining side.
  • Parallel benches facing each other, like a restaurant booth
Personalize kitchen seating with a banquette

A banquette comes with storage. You can hide things behind the closed doors or in the drawers below the banquette. When a kitchen opens to another room, this storage can be used for everything from extra placemats and serving pieces to crafts supplies and toys.

If you love the look of a banquette but need the flexibility of a table and chairs, you can position a table in front of a banquette and place chairs around it.

Kitchen seating using a banquette takes up less space than a table and chairs

Other Kitchen Seating Options

Not everyone likes sitting on bar stools when they eat. Or any other time, for that matter. For those people, an island with a built-in table offers regular seating for the eat-in kitchen.  The back of the island can be turned into a built-in bench and a table for seating.

Seating in this open plan kitchen includes a bench seat on the back of the island

Although islands are the #1 most requested kitchen element these days, you don’t have to follow the trend. You can choose instead to use a traditional farmhouse table for two or four or six as your kitchen seating, provided there’s enough room. You’ll have enough workspace from the counters around the room’s perimeter, and your table can be used for extra work space if you need it.

Farmhouse table instead of island for kitchen seating


Although there are no hard and fast rules for where to place kitchen seating in your eat-in kitchen, the kitchen flow must be considered. You don’t want people who are seated at the island getting splashed or burned or smelling the trash bin all evening. Seating should be situated so that diners can see and talk with the cook and others around them.

If the only dining area in your open floor plan home is in the kitchen, you can get creative when decorating. Upholstered stools, unusual counter-height seats and colorful cushions can show off your personality in an otherwise functional space.

Personalize your kitchen seating

To truly love your kitchen, you have to make it your own!

KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.