Inspired by the questions/comments on/reactions to my recent piece about swapping outdoor shoes for indoor slippers, I’ve decided to use this space to clarify something: I have a shoe bench by the door so guests who are able to and want to take off their shoes can do so more easily. For guests who can’t or don’t want to, a hardy mat is on standby to catch any debris and soak up any water or snow. Sorry to break it to ya, but I’m not some kind of monster who makes family and friends choose between wearing slippers, going barefoot, or leaving.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, back to the shoe bench. I’ve had one from SimpleHouseware (that also makes this genius organizer one of our contributors uses around her apartment) for almost three years now and it’s the most underrated piece of furniture in my house. While most shoe benches just look like regular benches with a hard seat and unused space underneath, this one has a cushion on top for comfort and a two-tiered shoe rack underneath for extra storage. I know it sounds simple and obvious, and you’d assume every shoe bench was designed with these features in mind, but surprise—they’re not. And for someone like me whose older parents and grandparents visit often, these features have become increasingly important.
I keep shoes that I wear the most often underneath the bench, while any extras or out-of-season kicks are stashed away in another shoe rack in the hallway closet. I also have a washable small mat underneath to catch mud, dirt, water, salt, and whatever else I’ve trekked in. The sturdy metal frame is surprisingly lightweight so I can move it around as needed. I bought it when I was still living in a one-bedroom apartment so I can confirm that it’s small-space friendly, too.
A shoe bench is endlessly versatile as a shoe-changing spot (obviously), a catch-all for bags and jackets, a safe haven for my phone while I hunt for the car keys, a seat for guests to catch their breath, and more. Depending on the style, you can also use it as a dining bench for kids or extra seating in a pinch. During the pandemic, it even became a decontamination station where I’d drop off my mask, hand sanitizer, and bags after coming home so I could wash my hands before touching anything. And yes, I’d wipe the cushion afterward to keep it clean.
In terms of aesthetics, I’ll admit that the one I have isn’t the most stylish, but it does serve its purpose as a multifunctional piece of furniture that surprises me with its versatility.
Since we’ve already established that I’m not a monster, here are some of my favorite shoe benches if you’re in the market for one, including the bench I’m sitting on as I type up this post—told you it was versatile.
The two-tiered shoe rack can hold about six or seven pairs of shoes, and I’m able to sneak a few extra sandals underneath the bottom-most tier. The steel frame is durable, while the faux-leather cushion is comfortable and
I love the mid-century modern look of this bench with its sleek hairpin legs, as well as the cushion that you can move around to hold books, magazines, or plants. While this one doesn’t have a shoe rack underneath, it’s easy enough to provide cover for a few shoes and a small mat.
For a more rustic look, I love how this bench resembles an old barn complete with a sliding door. Inside are six little cubbies for shoes, umbrellas, decor—whatever you need to drop off before heading inside.
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