There is a corner of our kitchen that I envisioned the ideal locale for a wrap-around built-in storage bench. The idea seemed logical and simple and kind of a no-brainer. It’s also another way to bring the Ikea cabinets up a notch, a prerequisite for all kitchen decisions.

Of course I hit up the internet for ideas and was overwhelmed by all the beautiful ways the kitchen bench has been done. I love, LOVE it when a homeowner is able to work with a true craftsman—custom molding, maybe a curved edge… yum. And out of my league. This project was going to be me on an island.

I sat on it for two years because of work and life and smaller reno projects, and every day I’d pass by that corner and sigh. Thora was actually the driver in inspiring me to get this going. Poor kid was the only one eating here! We had a little table, a little stool and her highchair. She ate perched there with Mommy or Daddy staring at her from the lowly stool. Of course she is such a picky eater! No pressure, you enjoy that pasta while I stare at you and cheer your every bite. Crazybusiness.

And so after eating and drinking and dreaming my bench design for a couple days, I opted not to build a corner bench but instead do a simple straight one, cabinet to wall. I hope someday to widen the opening from the kitchen to the addition and don’t want to have to rip out my hard work. Plus I have two vintage Windsor chairs that look perfect against the modern tulip table that will go here. They’ll bring the warmth of wood to our stark kitchen and this way I could use them both.

With the motivation to eat family dinners all together, I put pencil to paper. Then I put paper to InDesign and whipped up a cutlist:

The final size of the bench would be 57″ wide x 18″ tall x 18″ deep (standard height and depth for a seat), with a 48″ hinged lid centered on top. The bottom sheet shows all the pieces I need to construct the bench, color-coded for different parts. (Blue is the lid, light blue are perimeter supports, yellow are wall supports, hot pink is the bottom and light pink are the front and sides.) The top shows how they all fit inside of a single 4’x8′ sheet of 3/4″ MDF. If I were more skilled, I would have opted for 3/4″ birch plywood. But I am terribly intimated by real wood, like I don’t want to embarrass it or something. MDF is in my comfort-zone. I mainly followed this video on DIY Network, with a side order of winging it.

Materials needed:
1 4’x8′ 3/4″ sheet of MDF
1 48″ continuous hinge
3″ wood screws
1 1/2″ wood screws
1 1/2″ finish nails
wood glue (Titebond)
wood filler and caulk

nail gun/compressor (mine sucked! Get a nice one)
table saw

After picking up my materials, a trip to the Tool Lending Library was in store where I borrowed the table saw. Then I set up shop in the backyard.

All cutting was done during Thora’s nap. Her room is towards the front of the house which means I can get pretty loud back here. I will add, the table saw was a beast so Mike and I worked together until I got that huge 4×8 sheet down to a manageable size.

As I ripped and cut, I took care to label each piece for quick assembly later. Apologies, I forgot to take pics of construction—casualty of being in a rush. But it was incredibly simple.

I started by attaching the two sides and front to the bottom panel, with glue and 1 1/2″ wood screws, making sure to predrill holes so as not to split the board. Across the back, I ran a 4″ wide strip which will ultimately attach to the wall.

I lugged my basic box into the kitchen for a dry fit, it looked so good! In my excitement, I placed the perimeter support boards just to see if it truly was coming together, so those aren’t attached yet. Using shims and a level, I made sure it was nice and straight, both vertically and horizontally. I lucked out that this is the most level part of our kitchen floor. Very little shimming was needed and it will all be covered by molding in the end.

Once everything was level, I attached the box to studs in the wall using 3″ wood screws. No worries about cutting around this outlet and it’s still accessible if for some odd reason I need it.

Then the perimeter support strips were attached using a glue/nail gun combo. The front and sides are 2″ but I made the support that runs along the wall and sits under the hinge deeper than recommended, 3 1/2″. This way it fills just past the hinge, which is 3″ and sits on top. In my mind, that’s extra support for the weakest point of the lid. Probably not necessary but it helps me sleep at night.

And lastly the top. I attached the pieces that surround the lid, making sure everything fit just so, lined up nicely and would allow the lid to go up and down. Imagine that. Then I primed and painted the lid and back piece so that I wouldn’t have to work around the hinge later. I attached the hinge to the back piece first. Then slid the lid underneath, set it in place and finished the hinge. Easy!

Of course, nothing can help our wonky walls, except a little wood filler and caulk.


I added two strips on either side to fill the gap between the wall and the bench. Baseboard molding will eventually sandwich between. After filling and sanding and caulking I was left with this. Not bad! Kind of really proud of myself at this point.

And here it is with a nice coat of primer. I’ll go ahead and paint it but it will probably sit like this awhile, awaiting another break in my day job and a couple more bucks in my pocket for molding. At least at this point I’m happy to say all three of us can eat together! It’s made a huge difference in our general state of well-being to have family meals.

I still need to trim out the bottom of course, the baseboard will wrap around from the wall then connect to the toekick under the cabinets with 1/4 round. I’m dying to finish this up. I have plans to add a cushion, already have my fabric picked out which means I’ll need to repaint the walls. I’m over citrus and am all about beeswax…

Here I am pretending everything is complete and cozy and I have a girlfriend over for a nice chat and some coffee.

Although this is our reality for now, Thora is starting to grow out of her highchair. That highchair breaks down to a booster that attaches to a chair, then I can pull her up to the table. All in all, serious progress!

Now what to do about that awful window to nowhere.

12 thoughts on “BUILDING A KITCHEN BENCH » PART 1”

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