How I ever got through life without a miter saw, I really don’t know. As soon as I purchased my little Kobalt 10-inch sliding compound beauty, I began to see visions of all the projects I could complete in my house. It was like sugarplums were dancing in my head, only instead of sugarplums, it was trim and 2 x 4’s. Now, it’s not the most flashy saw, but it’s got everything I need, even a laser (a freakin laser!), and I love that it’s pretty compact so I can move it around fairly easily. I immediately wanted to put it to work so I decided to tackle a project I’d always dreamed of completing, a corner storage banquette in the little eat-in kitchen in my first house.
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Let’s get started!
There really won’t be standard measurements for this project because it will all depend on your personal preferences. The first thing you want to determine is how tall and deep you want the seating area to be. I’m a little shorter so I didn’t want it to be too tall. To determine the height, I just sat in a couple different chairs and noted which one was the most comfortable. I then made a rough measurement using my tape measure and rounded to the nearest inch. You may also want to subtract 1/2 inch for the plywood that will sit on top. I noted the depth of the chair, but I also made some adjustments for the eventual overhang of the top piece of plywood (which again is your personal preference but I made my overhang 1/2 inch). I also thought about how much room I wanted the banquette to take up in my kitchen and determined I could limit the depth a little to save some space for my table. Once you determine your height and depth, jot those numbers on some scrap paper.
Now, as for the length of each side of the banquette, that will be determined by your walls and, again, your personal preference on how big of a banquette you want. I had a corner that had some obvious endpoints of a doorway and my refrigerator, and I determined that I wanted my corner bench to take up that entire space. I made some measurements of each wall (illustrated below as the long wall and the short wall) and recorded those as well.
Once you have your measurements, you’re ready to get this show on the road. Start by cutting two 1 x 4’s to attach to the walls. Cut each of them to measure the length of the wall, minus an inch to account for the overhang of the seat (if your bench doesn’t butt up against something like a refrigerator), and one 1 x 4 should also leave room for the width of the other 1 x 4 that will butt up against it in the corner. (Interesting note here: the width of a 1 x 4 is not 1 inch as you think it would be. It’s actually 3/4 of an inch. Also, 2 x 4’s are 1.5 inches wide. Go figure.) So basically, one board will have 1 inch subtracted while the other will have 1 3/4 inches subtracted.
Make sure to add the overhang measurement (and the width of a 1 x 4 for one of the wall braces) to your length measurements for the wall braces of the banquette.
Once you have the 1 x 4’s cut, measure from the floor and mark the height measurement you determined earlier on the wall. Position the board so that the top end is along your height measurement and use a level to make sure that your bench won’t turn into a slide. Once the board is level, screw it to the wall using structural wood screws. Full disclosure here: I’m one of those people who probably uses too many screws but I’m of the philosophy that no one is going to see it, and I will make darn sure that it’s securely attached to the wall so I won’t fall through the bench while I’m half awake eating cereal in the morning. Repeat this process with the other 1 x 4 on the other wall.
Frame it up
Now you can start building the framing for your bench with 2 x 4’s. You will basically be making a big rectangle that looks like a sideways ladder for the fronts of your bench (see diagram below), and then two squares for the ends of your bench. You will need to cut vertical supports first that will be placed approximately every 2 feet along the framed front area. These supports will also be used for the end squares. The supports should be cut to the height of your wall supports minus 3 inches (to account for the 2 x 4’s that will be placed above and below the supports).
When you cut vertical supports, make sure that you subtract 3 inches for the 1.5-inch sides of the 2 x 4’s that will go on the top and bottom of your frame.
You will also need horizontal pieces on top and below the vertical supports. You will need to measure the length of your wall support on one side and cut your horizontal pieces to match that BUT you will also have to subtract 3/4 inch for the other wall support and 3 1/2 inches for the end square. So basically, cut two boards to match the wall support measurement minus 4 1/4 inches. The other two horizontal pieces will need to have the depth of the bench subtracted because they will stop at the front of the other bench. Okay, I realize that might have been a bit confusing, but check out the picture below and notice how the front of one bench goes from the end support piece to the wall and the front of the other bench goes from the end support piece to the other front support. Hopefully, it’s making more sense now.
For the end pieces, you will cut two horizontal pieces that measure the desired depth of your bench minus 3/4 inch for the wall support. Use these two pieces with two vertical supports to create an end square.
To create the frames, I found it easier to lay them on the ground. The two horizontal pieces can be laid parallel to each other and then a vertical support can be positioned in between the horizontal pieces on each end, making a giant wooden rectangle. Use a speed square to make sure that all of the pieces are joining at 90 degrees. Drill through the horizontal support into the ends of the vertical supports, attaching them together. Use 2-3 screws for each end of the vertical support. Slide other vertical supports into the frame, about every two feet, and attach them in the same manner. Make sure that the screws sink into the wood so that you won’t have a wonky bench. The end squares are made with the same technique, but you don’t need to add additional supports.
When you are done, you should have two long front frames and two end squares. To assemble these, you need to start with the bench that goes all the way to the wall. Place your end square approximately where it will be attached and measure from the wall to establish the depth of the bench. Make the same measurement on the other end of the bench and mark it on the wall support. Place the long front frame of the bench so that it lines up with the measurement and with the end piece. Use a speed square to make sure that the joints are 90 degrees and double check the front of your bench with a level. Drill the two pieces together where they meet, drilling through a vertical support on the front piece into a vertical support for the end piece. You will only be able to drill down one side of the board because of the way that the two line up (see picture below). Drill the ends of both pieces into the walls, making sure that they are level, square and securely fixed. Repeat this process on the other side of the bench. NOTE: You might need to use wood glue to attach the two front frames together (In the corner) because it may be difficult to make a good attachment in this area using only screws.
Once you have completed these steps, congratulate yourself for finishing the framing. Your bench should look something like the framing image below.
Next step, plywood!
So now that you’ve got a nice sturdy frame for your bench, you’ll need to attach some plywood to finish off the construction. Now, you can cut the plywood yourself if you have a table saw or a circular saw. You can also go the easy route of having someone at Home Depot or Lowes cut it for you. As I have heard from my cousin who works at Lowes though, they can’t really guarantee exact cuts. I did get my plywood cut at Lowes though and I was fairly happy with the result. The only issue was that some of the ends were pretty ragged and I had to do some sanding and patching.
Whatever route you go, you want to make sure to take very precise measurements. You can use 1/4 inch plywood for the front and sides of the bench and 1/2 inch plywood for the top. The quarter inch plywood needs to measure the height and length of your support pieces. Also, keep in mind that you may need to leave space for corners where one piece butts up against another. I also had to leave some room for a vent in the front of my bench because of a heating vent that I was covering up. For the top pieces, you want to make sure that you are adding the measurements for the overhang to the fronts and ends. Also, remember that one top piece of plywood will be shorter because it will not go all the way to the corner. That piece will also need to have the overhang measurement subtracted from the end to make up for the extra width of the other piece of plywood (see “Adding the Plywood” image above).
Once the pieces were cut, I went about attaching the sides. Fair warning: before completely attaching the sides please read about attaching the tops because it is much easier to make some needed measurements before the sides are attached. I attached the 1/4 inch plywood by countersinking screws through the plywood into the frame until each side was secure. I also cut a piece of decorative aluminum sheet metal with some holes and glued it into a space in the corner of my bench to act as a vent. As you can see from the picture below, this became a popular feature for the feline members of my household. When I was done, I spackled and sanded the holes left by the screws.
Piccadilly enjoying the vent built into the bench.
For the tops of the bench, I decided to keep it simple. I had thought about attaching the tops to the wall with piano hinges, but I didn’t like the idea of trying to hold up the bench when I was trying to store or remove stuff. Instead, I decided to make an inner lip for the tops that would let them just sit on top of the supports. This way, I could completely remove the tops, or I could swing them up as if they were hinged. For me, it was a win-win.
I actually measured for the inner lip before I attached the side walls. I just laid the two tops where I wanted them and then I reached underneath the plywood with a pencil and marked along the inside of the end supports, from the wall to the front of the bench. I did this on both ends on the bottom of each of the bench tops. I then cut four pieces of 1 x 4 that measured the same length and glued them to the bottom of the plywood (see diagram below). Use clamps or painters tape to hold the pieces in place until the glue has dried (follow the directions on your glue, but I waited 24 hours).
Glue your inner supports to the bottom of your plywood with wood glue. Also, glue half round trim the end edges of your plywood to create a finished look.
Okay, you are almost done with the construction part of this project. Now you just have to dress up the bench with a little trim. I decided to create a rounded edge on the tops of my bench by using 1/2 round molding (1/2 inch). The molding fits right along the edge of the plywood to look like a seamless piece of wood. You just have to make sure to cut it at 45-degree angles at all of the inner and outer corners (one more job for my trusty miter saw!). Once the trim was cut, I applied a thin strip of wood glue to the back and pressed it against the edge of the plywood, making sure to line up the ends perfectly. I taped it in place with some painters tape and let it dry for 24 hours.
Phew! That was a lot, huh? Well, now you can take a little break before you get ready to paint!
Finishing it all up
After you remove the painter’s tape, you need to fill in any cracks or blemishes in the wood with a little spackle. Just apply it with a putty knife and try to wipe off as much excess as you can. Once the spackle has dried, you can sand it smooth before applying the primer to the bench.
Before painting, mask off your wall and floors with some painter’s tape. Apply an even coat of primer with a weenie roller to get a nice even consistency. Use a paintbrush for those areas that are hard to get to with the roller. Let the primer dry and then apply a couple coats of semigloss paint in any color you would like. I myself am partial to Behr paints. It just seems like they coat more evenly and don’t stink as much as some brands (which will remain unnamed).
If you are a seamstress, which I am not, you could also sew up some bench cushions. With pets, I prefer not to use bench cushions because they are a magnet for fur. Instead, I just placed a couple throw pillows on the bench and called it a day.
So there you go! I’d say this was a fairly complex project to break in my miter saw, but I’m really happy with the outcome. Now I have a place to sit and more room to store my junk. Hooray! I also added some castors to the bottom of my table so it’s really easy for a lot of people to sit on the bench without having to climb over one another. I love how it defined and made the most of the space. I would definitely recommend building one if you have a small kitchen. If you do, make sure to share your results with us. Good luck!
Update: You can see more pictures of the finished bench and my spiffied-up kitchen, after we staged my house to get it ready to sell. Thanks in part to smart staging and a few savvy DIY projects like my bench, painted refrigerator, and urbanite walkway we sold the house in one day!