August 9, 2018

The family table is such a special place in the home, I had some important priorities for designing our dining room. My main two goals were, first, to be comfortable. Our kitchen is not right next to our dining room, so it had to be a really good space that felt effortless for us to go and sit down each night. And comfort was also important because I wanted it to lend to long, lingering after dinner conversations. Second, we host often so I wanted to fit a lot of people! Our dining room is kind of square, so there were limitations.

But, I think we found the scenario that has the greatest ratio of comfort to seating. And my wish for what would work out all along was a big, wall to wall built in banquette.

It makes a visual statement and adds architectural details. LET’S NOT FORGET STORAGE. Since ripping out the messed up mudroom closets, but not yet replacing them with built in cabinets, girlfriend needs storage bad. It kind of got to the point where if we bought a couple tubs of dishwasher soap it’d be like, um where do we keep this? But the huge storage in the banquette was on its way to save us. (Also the kitchen island coming soon!!)

This project had A LOT of little measurement questions. I think getting proportions that look natural is the BIGGEST thing in diy-ed projects not looking amateur. So I had to think about so many details.

The big picture measurements of things are the depth is 21 inches, the height is 18.5 inches, and the lip of the lid that overhangs is .5 inches.


These are the steps of our process via David, the man who constructed it.

  1. I built a frame for the bench’s foundation with 2 x 4’s, using 2 and 1/2” screws to fasten the pieces together. First, I cut the piece that would touch the long wall and screwed the joist pieces into it. I spaced the joists about 20” apart. Using 2 and 1/2” screws again, I attached the long piece and the first and last joist pieces to the wall by screwing into studs. Then, I measured and cut another long piece to attach to the joists. Throughout this step, I checked to make sure everything was level. The front piece ended up having a few spots where it didn’t touch the floor, so I used cedar shims to get everything snug to the ground.
  2. Next I added 1/2” plywood to create the bottom of the storage area that would be created by the lidded bench. I cut three pieces of plywood so their seams would line up with the joists they would sit on. The plywood pieces meet up to the walls and were flush with the front of the 2 x 4 frame from step one. I attached these to the joists using 2 and 1/2” screws.
  3. After the platform was completed with the plywood pieces, I made some 2 x 4 support braces to bear some of the weight of the bench lids and add rigidity to the structure. These would meet up to the wall and be flush with the front of the bench frame. To make these, I used 5” screws to attach 2 x 4’s, screwing through the longer four inch part of the board. I then attached these to the plywood with 2 and 1/2” screws, covering the seams the three plywood pieces had made. For the braces that touched the side walls, I also screwed them into the wall studs. 
  4. Then I attached horizontal 2 x 4’s to the wall studs between the support braces and screwed them into the support braces when possible. In a few spots, I had to screw the braces and horizontal 2 x 4’s together at an angle, but it solidified everything.
  5. To give the inside of the bench a more finished look, we added some 5 mm underlayment plywood to the sides of the support braces so the sides of the 2 x 4’s wouldn’t be visible. I cut these to shape with a table saw and jigsaw then attached with a brad nailer. 
  6. Next I attached some 2 x 4’s to the faces of the horizontal 2 x 4’s in step 4. These would give more support to the bench lid when someone was sitting on it. I cut these pieces 4 inches shorter than their corresponding 2 x 4’s from step 4 and centered them so I would have room for any lid support hardware if I wanted to add that later.
  7. At this point, the main structure of the bench was complete so I could attach the front, fastening  3/4” plywood to the support braces using 2 and 1/2” screws. Since I couldn’t get a piece of plywood as long as our bench, I used two pieces and lined up the seam at one of the support braces. 
  8. We wanted to have a stationary border of wood around the bench lid, so we added some small strips of 3/4” plywood next to the walls by screwing them into the existing bench structure. These prevented the bench lid from scraping the wall when opening. 
  9. Finally, I added three bench lids using 3/4” plywood and attached them to the stationary border pieces with two butt hinges for each lid. I left a small gap, about 1/8”, between the lid pieces and anything adjacent to them (other lids or stationary border pieces). We plan on adding lid support hinges later so the lid will stay open instead of slamming. 
  10. To finish it off, we added base molding to the front to match the rest of the room, spackled all screw and nail holes, and caulked corners and seams. Rachel painted three coats of high gloss behr ultra pure white. Adding small white felt pads under the bench lids prevents the painted pieces from sticking together.

I think we spent about $260 on everything for the banquette including lumber, fasteners, paint, and hardware.

One more thing in (addition to proportions) that I think makes the biggest difference for a project not feeling bad diy is SANDING. Round those corners. During building when we got to this step it made a huge forward jump in how nice it felt! Plus the glossy paint, and it was so smooth.

The storage is a JOY. I was loading it up to hold stuff the minute it was constructed enough. It is easy to access too, so it’s not even restricted to seldom used items either.

Next up is building the table! Very excited to make something the exact size we need for maximum seats. And tonight I am closing in on making a purchase of a vintage rug for in here. I am about to go for it! I THINK.

My New Cookbook


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  • Rebecca

    Tell David it looks good, Rachel!! Wonderful place to have extra storage!

    • Rachel Schultz

      Will do! Thank you!!

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