How to build a mid-century inspired bench for $50

Published: Friday, 09 March 2018

Mid-century design seems to be all the rage these days. From colour palettes, to architecture, to furniture pieces, and even in fashion, the 50's are back with a vengeance. Luckily for us, women, not everything is turning back a page to the world of 60 years ago, but when it comes to design trends, the inspiration is clear. And I must admit, I'm really loving the simplicity of the style and its clean, modern lines where form follows function, yet function gives form its beauty.

Of course the market is filled with gorgeous examples of mid-century inspired design, like these pieces from West Elm, but they come at a price much higher than I could afford.


1. Bench , 2. Shoe Rack , 3. Coffee Table


Even so, they act as the perfect muse for my overachieving mind. I should say this now, if it's not entirely obvious: I AM NOT A CARPENTER. I have built about 4 things in my whole life. So yeah, experience is limited. But that never seems to stop me... which should come as no surprise when I've considered Pippi Longstoking to be my main role model.

It all started when I decided to paint my kitchen table white. My kitchen is a rather dark room, and I'm a natural light junkie. The table was a very generic, box-store table that we bought when we moved into our second house 9 years ago. It was dark and looking worn out. But now, freshly painted, bright and white, and looking like new it didn't seem to fit with the rest of the furniture... or rather, the rest of the furniture wasn't fitting in. One thing led to another, and long story short, I found myself feeling that what was really needed was new seating. Typical.

So after a few days of thinking about it and doing a bit of research (and by 'a bit' I mean 'way more research than deemed necessary', because I'm slightly obsessive like that), I bought the wood and jumped right in. I wish I had proper plans to share with you, but, alas, the architect in me never follows her own advice (plans are the most important part of any building process, people. Trust me on this). However, I would argue that I did have a plan, it was just all in my head... and I may have sort of adapted it as I went. But it was a plan, nonetheless. Just not one I could easily translate to you via this blog. 

And I also my not have all the pictures of the process, because usually when I start working on something new I get right into it and forget to take pictures... and when I do remember to take them, I forget to put a memory card in the camera (just shoot me). Pictures are overrated anyways, right? 

Originally I had thought of buying pre-made legs for the bench, which would have made the whole project a piece of cake. I have a soft spot for hairpin legs, like these... 

But after pricing them out, and including shipping charges, it wasn't really fitting into my budget for this project... which was about $0 to be precise, because I had never intended to get this far. The snowball effect of house projects, amirite? 

So I decided to build my own legs instead, because why not?! If professional carpenters can do it, so can I (Pippi, you inspire me). And if I can, so can YOU! So lets dive right in.


Here's what you'll need...


- 1" x 16" x 8' premium pine, cut into 2- 40" L pieces (I got this board cut at Home Depot when I purchased it)

- 1" x 5" x 4' premium pine, cut into 3- 16" L pieces

- 2" x 2" x 4' fir (for legs): set your mitre saw at a 15 degree angle, and cut 4- 11 1/2" pieces

- 1" x 3" x 8' premium pine (for ties): cut 2- 9 1/4" straight pieces, then set mitre saw at a 15 degree angle and cut 2- 29 1/4" pieces (on longer edge, they will be trapeze shaped pieces)

- Stain of choice; I used a 3:1 ratio of Minwax Weathered Oak and Dark Walnut, which is one of my all time favourite combos

- Protective coat; I used Minwax Polycrylic in Satin finish

- Primer (this one is my favourite)

- Interior latex paint (I used leftover black paint from when I painted the accent wall in my living room)



- Mitre saw

- Drill

- Kreg Jig, I used the Mini and it worked perfect for this project

- #2 square 6" driver bit

2" Kreg pocket-hole screws

- 1 1/4" Kreg pocket-hole screws

- Gorilla wood glue

- a few wood screws (I used small construction screws because it's what I had on hand)

- Miscellaneous: 220 grit sandpaper, small clamps, screw driver, measuring tape, rags (for stain), 2" brushes (for primer and paint) , and 4" foam brush (for clear coat)


Step 1:

To start you'll build the seat of the bench, which is the quickest part. Take your 3- 1" x 5" x 16" pieces and, using your Kreg jig, create 3 pocket-holes on each of them (as shown). These will be for attaching the side and middle panels of the seat to the top. Then sand and stain these 3 pieces and the two 1" x 16" x 40" boards for the top and bottom of the seat (I like to stain all my pieces before I start building, it makes it easier in the end).


Step 2:

Once the stain has dried, attach the side and middle panels to the top of the bench using wood glue and 1 1/4" Kreg screws, making sure everything is nice and square. Then attach the bottom board of the seat using wood glue, and screw it to the side and middle panels from the underside of the bench using regular wood screws. I pre-drilled the wholes here to avoid splitting the wood.

Your bench seat is done. Let's move onto the legs now...

Step 3:

Take your 2- 1" x 3" x 29 1/4" pieces and create 2 pocket-holes at each end (as shown). Make sure the pocket-holes will be on the inside face of the boards when the legs are assembled. Using wood glue and 2" Kreg screws, attach the long ties to the legs (who else uses their living room floor and a cheap table cloth as their workshop? High fives!). Once both sets of legs are built, you can now create 4 more pocket holes on the upper side of each of the ties (as shown) which will be used to screw the legs onto the bench seat later. Again, make sure you're doing this on the inner face of the ties, so you won't see them when the bench is finished.


Step 4:

Take your 2 shorter ties (1" x 3" x 9 1/4" pieces) and create 2 pocket holes at each end of them, and 1 pocket whole right down the middle, towards the top (will be used for attaching the legs structure to the bench seat). Attach them to the legs using wood glue and 2" Kreg screws, as you did with the long ties. At this point you will have the full leg structure built. If you're going to be using this as a coffee table, you're probably good to go.

However, since I was planing on using it as a banquette for my kitchen table, I was concerned that it wouldn't be sufficiently strong to hold the weight of 2-3 adults, so I used some of the leftover 1" x 3" board that I had and cut 4 smaller angle pieces, which I then attached to the inside of each corner with pocket-holes, wood glue and screws... a sort of k-bracket to strengthen the legs structure.


Step 5:

Now that the legs are assembled, sand everything lightly to soften up around the edges, and you're ready for paint. I gave everything one coat of primer and 2 coats of paint. Once everything was fully dried, I gave the bench seat and the legs 3 coats of Polycrylic, lightly sanding in between coats with 220 grit sandpaper. 



Step 6:

Using the pocket wholes you created on the ties on Step 3 & 4, attach the leg structure to the bench seat with 1 1/4" Kreg screws and wood glue (sorry, no pictures of that). Then flip over the bench and take a seat!! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  


If you're going to be using it as a banquette or bench, you may choose to add a cushion, like I did. Making the cushion is quite easy, too. I will be sharing a tutorial for it in the (near?) future.

 (The throw pillows were also made by me... so who knows? I may do a tutorial for that, as well)


Would you use it as a bench? or a coffee table?



Happy building!!

Later Gator,

Julia (with an H)



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