Organizing Chaos - Banquette seating in conference rooms.

We like the finished and organized look and feel of built-in seating.  If you have ever entered a room after a large meeting and experienced the chair jumble that resembles a room hurriedly evacuated by a fire alarm you'll understand what we mean.The main questions we hear from our designers regarding supplemental seating in larger boardrooms, team or conference rooms are 1. Why would we not just purchase additional conference style seating to position around the perimeter?  2.  It looks nice, but isn't it expensive?  3.  Is it comfortable enough for a 2-4 hour meeting? Here are our thoughts on the subject.

Fixed or Banquette Seating as an alternative

In special or formal rooms, fixed seating always looks organized, neat and inviting.  We mostly see this solution positioned against the glass or wall opposite the door especially down the long wall of the room.  This type seating always presents a good look to a viewer when first entering the room, it is often inviting enough to take a seat and enjoy the view before starting the meeting.  Many designers think about additional chairs so they can be pulled up to the table as well,  but due to budget limitations, many times those chairs are not castered, and are not fully ergonomic with tilt swivel and roll feathers, so they are expensive and not always the best solution.  Rather than crowd support staff at the table we think a comfortable banquette is a terrific alternative and an easy way to organize the chaos of side seating.

Cost Parameters of Banquette Seating

While there is a lot of subjectivity on this topic, the facts are that if the room is a special or formal room like a Main Conference Room or a Board Room, the Conference chairs each should be in the $1,000 - $1,500 each range in an appropriate leather finish one would expect to see in this level of room.  If side seating is properly specified similar if not identical to the same seating, and you can seat 2 every 5' (30" allowed per chair), then side seating runs between $2,000 to $3,000 per 5' section, very similar in cost to built in banquette seating.  The difference is that a banquette is like a long sofa where in a pinch it is possible to seat 5 people in 10 feet without robbing adjacent rooms of seating, so there is additional flexibility that you can enjoy.  Banquettes properly designed may also feature small intervening  or end tables for refreshments, with wall outlets to keep laptops and devices up and running.

Comfort Factors

In all appearances a banquette looks alot like a sofa, but appearance is where the similarities stop.  Seat height and firmness should allow a more vertical seat in a business like position, similar to a conference table, and a firm back with a 7 degree slope and purposeful height allow for arm resting position and keeps visitors comfortable.  It is not intended to be lounge seating for slumping or reclining.  Once your client experiences this look and feel they understand the utility and the benefit their designer has provided.  The combination of seat and back height and slope make it very easy to sit up or stand up from the seated position to join any discussion.

Acacia Originals has been building quality custom corporate furniture solutions for 25 years.  We pride ourselves on using our experience to bear to bring your designs to life.  I'm Will Fuller, Owner, and I would enjoy speaking with you on how Acacia can help you with our Intergrated Millwork Solutions.  Call me at 877-565-5995.

HOW BIG IS BIG?

We’ve had a lot of inquires about proper sizing of conference and boardroom tables based on seating capacity, room size and functionality.  While there are no strict rules, there are certain guidelines that make sense and we’ll discuss some of them here.

Seating Capacity Parameters

One of the main criteria for sizing tables is based on seating capacity.  Assuming a standard rectangular table with multiple seating on both sides and one at each end, it’s easy to see that a table for 8 will have three chairs on each side and one on each end.  Each chair will average between 24” and 26” wide (depending on design and arms) and allowing for adequate space between, a designer will allow about 28” per chair minimum or 30” per chair for a more comfortable experience.  This would indicate a need for 7’ long table minimum or 7’-6” to 8’ long table for a more user friendly environment.

Another example is a rectangular table for 24, with one seat on each end and 11 seats on each side.  Using the same allowances of 28” and 30” per chair, this gives us a table that’s about 26’ to 27’-6” in length.  As tables grow in required seating, these proportions still work just fine.

Finally, the space around the table will govern certain other dimensions.  For small to medium seating capacities (4-10 people) we recommend 54” of distance from the table edge to nearby walls or furniture for a comfortable pathway.  A smaller opening of 48” can be used if constraints demand it but walls and chairs tend to take a beating.  For larger tables, we recommend a minimum of 54” of floor space from table edge to nearby walls or furniture and 72” if the adjacent furniture is perimeter seating for others.  Reason being, the room is simply more densely populated and movement becomes more challenging when people enter or exit the room simultaneously.

Room Size Parameters

If the room is existing, we will need to work backwards from the wall surfaces and perimeter furniture placement to determine the largest capacity table that fits the room.  A typical example would be a 15’ x 20’ conference room.  Allowing 54” of pathway minimum around the full perimeter yields a 6’ x 11” space suitable for a table (this assumes no other perimeter furniture are in the room). The designer can use any size table from a 4’ x 9’ to seat 8-10 people to a 5’ x 10’, 5’ x 11’ or even 6’ x 11’ table to seat 10-12 people.  If you are using a catalog line of furniture sizes could be limited whereas custom lines will often times offer almost unlimited size options.

Similarly, a 20’ x 30’ existing room, allowing 54” minimum around the full perimeter would yield a space that’s 11’ x 21’ for table placement.  An obvious solution is a 5’ x 20’ or 6’ x 20’ table that seats 18 comfortably.  A 5’ x 21’ or 6’ x 21’ table would seat 20 well but with slightly less space per guest.  Keeping the table to the 5’ or 6’ width allows a good personal distance for meetings and communication.  Unused space for the table width could allow side furniture or side seating to be integrated into the design for additional meeting attendees.  Wider tables are also readily available in custom lines however if interfacing technology is used (table boxes, etc) the amount of devices usually needs to be doubled to create two twos of accessible devices since a single row of center mounted is out of reach for most users.

Good Planning Rules

Always ask the client their seating needs by count and size the room and table accordingly as it’s the best way to avoid disappointment once the room is in use.  Ask about additional furniture needs like conference credenzas or side seating, AV or Technology support, keeping in mind that a video display at the head wall will often void out the adjacent end seat at the table.

Make an effort to adhere to these spacing standards.  Clients unfamiliar with such planning parameters will often feel that more seats can be use, and indeed this can be true for special times when some additional staff members must be included, however as a point of reference clients will also be upset if it isn’t easy to maneuver past attendees sitting in chairs or difficult to get in and out of a too crowded room.

Make certain to plan as needed for housing AV equipment, power connections or data sources in the table itself to avoid the hazardous situations of cables strung from the wall to the table.

Finally, plan adequate zoned lighting for the room.  By this I mean, good work light directly over the table and properly positioned so shadows of people sitting at the table don’t occur, dimmable side lighting, and lights at the head wall or any AV wall that can be extinguished in the event flat screens are used.  

We wish you all the best on your project.  Feel free to call us anytime if you need help.  We would love to share in the excitement of what you’re working on!