At a restaurant in Seattle recently, we opted for the privacy and comfort of booth seating. When our dinners arrived, however, we ended up eating with high elbows. As it happens frequently in restaurants, the banquette/booth seat cushions were simply too low in relation to the height of the table.
The magic number for the distance from a seat to the table is 12 inches. Since tables are typically about 30 inches off the floor, the seat height should be 18. That measurement should be from where your rear end ends up rather than the installed height of the seat cushion.
There are many densities of foam but, more than likely, a standard 4-inch seat cushion will compress to about 2 inches. A spring seat, especially a coil-spring-seat, will also compress. That means that the starting height of that seat cushion should be closer to 20 inches. An all-wood dining chair seat should be close to 18, but a padded seat needs to be higher than that.
For upholstered living-room furniture, such as lounge chairs or sofas, the top of the seat cushions should be close to 16 inches. You will find, however, that grandmother’s Victorian-style pieces are higher than that. Just keep them away from each other and you can use them all in the same room. Within each conversation group, the seat heights should vary no more than one inch.
A problem that has been with us for a half-century or more is the height of a built-in window seat. Pretty much every builder and most architects will specify that height to be 18 inches.
That’s fine if you’re going to sit on the wood platform. But if you want to have a cushion added, it would have to be 2 inches or less in thickness. Otherwise, you will be sitting at the height of a sofa arm and not the seat.
The best seat cushions are 4 inches thick, so allowing for a 2-inch compression, the wooden window seat should really be close to 16 inches, possibly even lower.
In the ’50s and ’60s it was popular to have a game table or a TV table at a continental height, which is about 26 inches from the floor. In that case, the chairs should end up about 14 or 15 inches high. Tables of that height can frequently work with sofa cushion heights.
So the number for seat-to-table distance is 12. OK to be an inch off but not more than that.
Very important to remember is that foam as well as spring-seat cushions compress. Allow for that.