After years of eating, entertaining, and working at a big 8-seater dining table, I’m going to be downsizing to a smaller place with no room for a separate dining and living space. In contemplating how I’m going to make this work, I’ve been eyeing my favorite coffee shops and bistros for what makes them such an inviting place to lounge, converse with friends, enjoy meals, and get stuff done. After closely studying many a bistro, I’ve found a failproof formula that’s easy to recreate at home.
A banquette – The one similarity I’ve found in so many of my favorite eating spots is the booth! To make this setup work at home, find a banquette that’s padded and upholstered so that it feels comfortable, but is high and firm enough to sit at a dining table comfortably.
A round table – Round tables are an ideal option for small spaces, and are perfect for entertaining a small, intimate gathering. They take up less space and can make the flow of movement through a small room easier.
Mismatched chairs – One of my favorite attributes of the best cafes is the mismatched chairs – every one looks like it has a story. It’s also easier to shop for one-off antiques this way, and gives so much charm and character to your dining set.
Plants – A durable, easy-to-care-for plant like the rubber plant above will always make a space feel more like home. Add a bud vase with a few wildflowers and a candle on the tabletop for another sweet bistro touch.
Lighting – The soft light of a pendant or even candlelight will quickly set the ambience for cocktails to wind down at the end of the day, or a romantic dinner for two.
Photo of Bardonna by Monica Wang, pendant Rejuvenation, banquette La Redoute, painting Anthropologie, bistro table Overstock, walnut chair Crate & Barrel, fiberglass chair Modernica, rubber plant greenery nyc