Now that you’ve seen the entire wall of storage in our entry and our finally finished front door, I’m here to fill you in on how to build this stuff yourself. Well, today I’m specifically starting with how to build an entry bench with cubbies and hooks.
Oh, did you catch that “Part One” in the pic? Turns out these instructions are
a little a lot long, so I’m breaking it down into two parts. This post will cover building the lower half of the unit – the bench and cubbies. I’ll do a second post for building the top portion (update: check out Part Two here). And heck, maybe you just want to do the bottom bench and skip the top, so this will give you that option. Topless is totally acceptable in the entry bench world (and also on the beaches of Spain, as I saw firsthand). Okay, onto building this:
Side note: get ready for some super amazing computer sketches below. I have no fancy skills with 3-D drawings, so feel free to mock my mock-ups.
Plan Your Bench Size
The first thing to do is figure out the size you want your bench and how many cubbies you want. The goal is to have this project look and actually be customized for your entry or mudroom, so you want to use the width dimensions to fill your space. My finished bench has three cubbies and measures about 56″ wide, 17″ deep, and nearly 20″ tall which works out great for us. My cubbies are big, but if you want smaller cubbies to fit more/smaller baskets, feel free to adjust these plans. Regardless of your final plan, think it through before committing to materials and cuts – you will be so glad you did. I planned mine all out on a sheet of paper, with dimensions, and this legwork made the rest of the project go so much faster.
This is the shopping list based on the dimensions I used for my bench unit. If your dimensions are different, I’d suggest drawing out a 4×8′ sheet of mdf on a piece of paper and then drawing in your anticipated cuts to show how many boards will fit per 4×8′ sheet of mdf.
- 2 sheets of 4’x8’ mdf ¾” width (I used two sheets for this entire unit, so save scraps from Part One for Part Two)
- 2 or 3 – 8′ lengths of 1×2” primed pine trim boards (depending on your propensity for error)
- 1 panel of laminated pine (like this) or individual boards you can join together to make the top of the bench seat – I used the laminated pine
- ¾” trim piece for edge of laminated pine
- Optional: smooth 1/4″ or so board to put on the back of your unit, unless you have nice smooth walls (our plaster walls are very rough)
- Optional: quarter round
- Lattice board – this is a trim piece that is about 1/4″ x 1 3/8″
- Wood glue
- Nail gun/compressor and various lengths of nails – just get a multi pack and that will be fine
- wood screws (1 1/2″ and 3″)
- Semi-gloss paint
- Wood fill
I intimidated a very young Home Depot helper dude to make a bunch of my cuts. I’m sure he thought I was crazy (he’s not the first one). And even though he helped me tons, I ended up doing a bunch of re-cuts at home to make sure I really fit the space perfectly. Even being off a 1/8″ can affect the custom look, so when in doubt, do the cut yourself.
3 – 56″x16″ boards cut from the 4’x8′ mdf (this is for the top and bottom of the bench, I doubled up the bottom for stability and height)
4 – 16″x19″ boards cut from the 4’x8′ mdf (these are for the vertical pieces that go on the sides and the two dividers in the middle – be sure to add an extra if you do an extra cubby)
- 2 – 53″ lengths of the 1×2 primed pine board
- 2 – 19″ lengths of the 1×2 primed pine board
- 2 = 16″ lengths of the 1×2 primed pine board
- 1 – 56″ x 16 3/4″ board cut from the laminated pine (or you can join boards together using a kreg jig to end up with these same dimensions)
- hemlock trim to fit around the laminated pine – I only needed two sides but you might need 3 if your unit isn’t in a corner
- 2 – 16 3/4″ lengths of lattice (cut two more if you have another exposed side)
- 2 – 16 1/4″ lengths of lattice (cut two more if you have another exposed side); shorter if you are accounting for quarter round
- quarter round to fit around the base of the bench
- Optional: sheet of smooth 1/4″ board cut to fit the back of your bench (you may choose to keep yours exposed to the wall)
Note: keep extra pieces from your cuts – you will use those for Part Two.
Building the Frame
You want this sucker to be sturdy. I went with a three-pronged approach: 1) wood glue; 2) wood screws; and 3) nails with a nail gun. Use your wood glue any time wood meets wood. Pre-drill all screw holes to avoid splitting. And make sure your nails go in straight!
Start by putting your bench together like this:
Then you will need to attach your second bottom piece, like this using a squiggle of wood glue and your nail gun (a glue squiggle helps air escape, as opposed to a circle which traps air):
Throughout this part, you must use a t-square or right-angle-thingy to make sure your bench unit is perfectly square. No one wants a wonky bench.
Trim out the front of the bench unit with the 1×2 primed pine boards to make your bench look bold and beefy. Your trim will overhang the width of your mdf on the top piece and vertical pieces, which is no prob. Because you’ve added a double base (those two horizontal pieces), your trim should perfectly algin with that and not create any lip. Attach the trim with glue and a nail gun like this (trim pieces shown in gray):
Then trim out your sides using your lattice pieces. Glue and then use your nail gun (with the short nails) to attach these pieces. If you plan on adding quarter round to the bottom (more on that below), take that into account when attaching your lattice – I put my lattice above my quarter round, not behind it.
Back It Up, Prime It, and Paint It
Next add the back to the bench if you are going that route, or leave it open if your walls are a-okay. I added the backer by gluing and nailing it into the bench unit. We just used the back of some leftover beadboard. Next prime and paint your entire box. It is easier to do this now rather than after attaching the stained portion.
Stain and Attach Your Bench Seat
Stain your piece of laminated pine and the little trim piece to your desired finish. I went with Varathane’s Kona which is very dark but I love it, especially with the white paint. And best of all, it only takes one coat. Then use a polyurethane finish. I went with Bona in gloss (even though it is for floors) just because I had it on hand and I like it. I applied both the stain and finish with foam brushes – no clean-up required! Two or three coats is plenty.
Finally, attach your finished bench seat to the base with a large squiggle of wood glue and then your nail gun.
Then cut and attach your stained and finished trim to the exposed edges of your stained top, again with wood glue and the nail gun.
Your cuts on the trim may leave a tiny area of unfished wood exposed, but a little stain pen can fix that quickly for you.
Make it a Built-In
Put your completed bench and cubby unit where you want it in the room and attach it to your wall and floor. We screwed and nailed it into the floor and the wall (okay, maybe some overkill there). People will sit on this, and your kids may even stand on it and use it as a fun jumping off point (not that I know anything about that – yeah right), so you want it to be really sturdy and have no wiggling whatsoever.
You can also add quarter round to the base to make it even more built-in. We added quarter round to match the existing quarter round on our baseboards.
Fill any screw/nail spots on the painted portion with wood fill and then paint over them.
That’s it! Now just add some baskets and call it a day. I used some old Pottery Barn XL Sabrina baskets I had on hand already (total luck that they fit perfectly).
We use the bench to store shoes, random kid toys, and things like baseball gloves. The bench is so useful, is easy to keep clean, and works great right next to our front door. And it works even better with the hooks and bins I added to the top. I’ll post on how to build that part, next.
I’m no expert and could not cover every detail on building this thing, but would be happy to answer questions for anyone else tackling this project! Love to hear from you…
Linked: Home Stories A to Z.