The built-in bench in our dining nook was one of the first DIY projects we tackled after moving into our new house last April. I was confident we could do this ourselves after building our built-ins at the condo but we definitely learned some lessons along the way on this one.
To start we built the legs of the bench (3 of them for ours but it will vary depending on the length of your bench) out of 3/4″ birch plywood. I wanted a really beefy looking leg for aesthetics and stability so we glued 2 pieces of 18″ x 18″ x 3/4″ birch plywood together and then cut the leg profile out of that.
I was really inspired by the banquette that Kristen built for her in kitchen dining space and wanted to re-create the leg profile for our banquette too.
Using a combination of a square and a pyrex lid (so profesh!) we experimented until we got the shape we wanted and then just used our jigsaw to cut out the legs.
With the legs cut, sanded, and primed (sorta) – now came the fun part – actually building the dang thing!
Since the legs were 18″ tall we marked where the studs were in the wall 18″ up from the floor and marked a level line across the entire back wall and over onto the adjacent wall too.
Knowing we wanted the middle leg centered on the wall, we found the center of the wall and marked where the middle leg needed to go. From those marks we double stacked a 1×3 brace to the left of center and secured the braces into the studs along our level line. The double thick 1×3 is what we secured the legs to and also what the bench seat top would rest on.
Here’s a closer look at how we attached the legs:
To provide extra stability for the bench seat top and to make sure the front of the legs stayed square, we added an additional 1×3 support mid-way:
To install the leg along the side of the wall we installed a 1×3 into the studs along our level line and secured the leg into that.
Then we added our braces like so:
Quick note: our back braces were notched out to go around the outlet below and we staggered our front brace on this side because it was the only way we could get our drill in to secure it in place.
Once all the legs were installed and secure – we placed the bench seat on top and secured it from the top into the braces along the back side of the wall.
At this point, all that was left to do was finish off all the rough edges and make it look pretty!
We added another 1×3 skirt around the front to hide where we attached the leg on the left side like so:
And we also used birch plywood vaneer edging to conceal the raw edge of the plywood top and legs.
Last thing we did was paint the entire bench and add a padded seat cushion to make family dinners around the table much more comfortable.
WHAT I WISH WE WOULD’VE DONE DIFFERENTLY
As with every DIY project, there’s always a learning curve especially if it’s a project you’ve never tackled before. Looking back there’s a few things I wish we would’ve taken the time to do so if you attempt this project, do as I say, not as I did.
Firstly, take off the baseboard along whatever walls you’re building the bench and then reinstall the baseboard around the legs. I lobbied that we should do this and my other half didn’t want to/think it was necessary so I didn’t push the issue but I really wish I had. You’ll notice in a few of the photos that our solution was to notch the legs out in the back to go around the baseboard and still to this day, I know this was the wrong approach. Removing the baseboard and reinstalling it back between the bench legs is absolutely the right way to go.
Secondly, prime and paint everything you possibly can before it gets installed. It’ll save hours of laying on the hard floor painting the underside of the bench in awkward positions.
That’s it! If you’re interested in seeing the finished product and how it looks today, head on over and check out this post here. And if you tackle this project in your own home, tag me so I can see!