Robert Downey Jr.'s kitchen seating arrangement is one the best we've ever seen – it makes the most of an unused corner

Conversational banquette-style seating offers a savvy, space-saving solution for today's modern kitchen

Robert Downey Jr.
(Image credit: Getty Images / JC Olivera / Stringer)

Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr. might be better known for his role as Tony Stark in Iron Man, but his home is a far cry from the modernized 'Stark Mansion' in Malibu. His real home, designed by Fox-Nahem Associates, is a riot of color, pattern and creative furniture layouts. 

A contemporary, playful space, the actor's home embraces one of my favorite kitchen seating ideas to date – corner seats that prioritize conversation, and make the most of an underused space. 

The kitchen is the central hub of the home – a place to eat, cook, socialize, work, rest, and play for the whole family. As physical barriers between these separate rooms merge into one, a functional and comfortable kitchen seating area (with or without a table) is a must-have feature. 

Introducing architectural features in a cooking space is also one of the best ways to make a kitchen look expensive. Sometimes the obvious wall for a run of cabinetry ends at a window. Rather than abruptly stopping the sweep of furniture, with wasted space at the end, Kasia Piorko, founder of Kate Feather, suggests making a feature of the area with a window seat. ‘Soft seating in a kitchen is always desirable,’ she says. ‘Creating a spot to look out of the window onto the garden brings calmness to the design.’ 

One of the big surprises in an open-plan room can be just how little space you need to add to gain enough useable room for a dining area in your existing kitchen – often a mere matter of feet is all you need to fit a compact solution such as banquette or bench-style seating. 

Banquette seating comes into its own when space is at a premium, for three practical reasons. Firstly, you can fit more people on a bench than on individual chairs. Secondly, it is positioned against a wall, therefore reducing the overall footprint of the dining area as you do not need a thoroughfare on one side of the table. Finally, if you don't quite have the same amount of space as Downey Jr., you can design the banquette with storage underneath – perfect for housing bulky appliances and other paraphernalia. On a decorative note, a beautifully executed banquette can be used to introduce artwork, color and pattern.'

Don't be afraid of using bold and darker colors, especially in bigger spaces. It makes the room feel more intimate in the evenings, particularly during the summer when doors and windows are open. Avoid using too much white as it can be too startling and won't create the inviting and relaxing space that you've planned for.

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Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.