Once associated with summer picnics and school lunches, benches now look at home in the home. The trend may have started in casual kitchens but Ikea is selling more than ever to pair with dining room tables.“Benches are popular for small spaces since you can fit more people at the table,” says April Minister, marketing specialist of Ikea in Portland. “It makes the design of the dining room more fun and offers a casual and inviting atmosphere for friends and family.”Another advantage: When not needed for dining, benches can be easily put to use in other areas of the home. Placed against a wall in the entryway, it becomes a handy catchall for jackets or a rest to remove shoes. A formal dining chair in the same place would likely look awkward, as if it had wandered off from the dinner table before being excused.“It’s also very Swedish to have a bench in the dining room, so we love that,” says Minister.