The humble bench may not make a statement in the way a sofa or armchair can, but it’s an incredibly versatile and handy piece to have around the home.

Make use of their slim and long proportions to bring function to odd spaces in the hallway or on the landing; draft them into the living room for extra seating when guests stop by; or use an upholstered one at the end of the bed to boost storage and comfort.

If you’re thinking specifically of the dining room or kitchen, go for a longer style (120cm or more) that can seat two or more comfortably. Wood is a natural winner for benches – you endlessly sand, re-finish and re-paint to suit your interior. If yours is bound to take a few knocks over its lifetime, go for a sturdy solid wood piece that comes assembled.

1. Ikea Skogsta Acacia Bench: £40, Ikea

Budget basics are what we’ve come to expect from Ikea, and this bench doesn’t disappoint. Made in solid acacia wood, it’s sturdy and has a pleasing natural finish. It suits the hallway, and at 120cm-wide, makes a good dining bench too. The simple design means it’s flexible for use all around the house, and the wood can be sanded and re-finished to keep it looking fresh.

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2. Cotswold Co Farmhouse Painted Hall Bench: £199, Cotswold Co

Made for the hallway, this traditional bench makes a smart place for storing shoes and boots, as well as a comfortable place to pause. There’s a 120cm-wide padded cushion as a seat, and three compartments with wicker storage baskets to hide away gloves and scarves. It’s well made, looks smart in ivory paint, and would suit the bedroom too. The cushion cover is removable.

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3. Garden Trading Hungarian Settle Bench: £395, Garden Trading

The folkish cut-outs on this spruce bench are based on a traditional Hungarian design, giving it real character. Its compact dimensions (111cm wide by 46cm deep) make it a cosy place for two, and ideal for making the most of odd spots on landings, hallways and spare rooms that are too small to accommodate an armchair or sofa. The seat is hinged, with storage underneath.

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4. John Lewis Peyton Dining Bench: £79, John Lewis

Made to match the Peyton dining table, this budget bench has a melamine top and oak effect frame. At 100cm-wide, John Lewis says it seats up to three, although it’s much more comfortable for two. It suits a compact kitchen, and the bench is designed to tuck under the table when not in use. The materials let this bench down, giving away its lesser quality. Self-assembly is required.

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5. Skagerak Turn Bench: £399, Hus & Hem

Technically it’s a bench, but an 80cm width makes this more of a generous seat for one. It might be tempting to dress it up with cushions, but the untreated ash surface does look beautiful as it is. The ambiguous design means this piece could equally be used as a coffee or occasional table – something to draft in when extra seating is required, or simply admire for its unusual form.

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6. AM PM Hasuko Bench: £279, La Redoute

There’s just a hint of Japanese influence in the Hasuko bench. The woven paper cord seat has been neatly done, adding texture and comfort – although these can stain badly if you’re thinking of using in the dining room. The birch construction feels solid and has a smart black finish. This 120cm-wide bench would work well at the end of the bed, or as occasional seating in the lounge.

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7. West Elm Tufted Dining Bench: £299, West Elm

This elegant piece has a walnut frame, tapered legs and a smart upholstered seat in grey fabric. It’s intended for dining, and there’s a mid-century dining table to match, but its 112cm-width suits a living room bay window or end of the bed much better. For the dining room, just 10-20 extra centimetres would make this bench more comfortable for guests to sit side by side.

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8. Habitat Talia Bench: £175, Habitat

A good all-rounder, the unfussy Talia bench can be used at the dining table or as a standalone piece. There’s a matching set of table, chairs and stools if you do want to use it in the dining room; the mix of colours and materials are a casual approach to dining. It’s made of solid beech with a lacquered finish in either white or grey. Some vibrant cushions would up the style factor.

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9. Oliver Bonas Miroco Rattan Bench: £295, Oliver Bonas

Rattan continues its comeback, and the Miroco bench gives the natural material an up-to-date twist. The iron back, arms and seat are wrapped (not terribly neatly) in rattan, and the legs have been finished with a trendy mint-green. At 133cm-wide it is bigger than most on the list, and the back and arms offer the impression of comfort. It’s not something to spend hours in, however.

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10. Made Jonah Bench: £249, Made

An upholstered bench lends itself to many uses. This one is designed to match’s Jonah bed, but if you don’t have the luxury of space in your bedroom, it can make a nice accent piece elsewhere in the home. The frame is made in birch with beech legs, and the foam seat is comfortable and deep. It’s very wide at 153cm, and comes in light or dark grey, yellow and blue.

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The Verdict: Benches

If you can see past the endless aisles of flimsy flatpacks, you can find some real gems in Ikea. The cheapest on the list does sometimes end up being the best, and the Skogsta bench is a prime example. It’s made of solid wood that you can customise yourself or leave with a natural finish. It’s sturdy, lasts well over time, and has a neutral design that will make it useful in the hallway, bedroom or dining room. Needless to say, its price puts others to shame.

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