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Bench seating is so incredibly functional, but how can you make it comfortable as well? In last week’s sunroom update, I shared a sneak peek of our custom bench seating and today, I’ve got the full process for you – from design to execution! Are you ready for this?

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner


First things first: Ken and I started at the drawing board with a billion different design ideas, and after a few hours, we settled on a long bench solution that would run the length of the windows, yet jut out at each corner to provide extra deep seating. The result creates an elongated “U” shape that is perfectly conducive to late-night conversations, napping and entertaining.

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

But because we didn’t want our guests to have to lean against a window every time they sat down, we came up with a brilliant solution – the bench’s lid would actually double as a seat-back (pictured below)! Here’s how we pulled it off:

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

1. We built the bench’s frame out of 2x4s (for our design, we used roughly 14 8-foot pieces). Word to the wise: It’s really hard to find perfectly straight 2x4s at the hardware store, but be patient and sort through for the good ones. It’ll be well worth it in the end when your angles line up and you’re headache-free.

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

2. To cover the bench’s frame, we faced the front with 1/2 inch birch veneer plywood by cutting it to size, glueing and finish-nailing it to the frame. Seamless and simple! (Note: We kept the frame and face 1/8 inches off the floor so that if someone happens to spill their drink (inevitable in a sunroom!), the liquid wouldn’t seep under the bench and soak into the plywood to create potential warping problems later).

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

3. We then added 2×4 edges to the interior of the bench, creating a lip that will house a second “lid” when the exterior lid is being used as the back of the bench. More on this later!

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

4. We cut a lid for the bench that was 1/8 inch smaller (on all sides) than the opening of the bench, connecting it to the back of the frame with two hinges. We then cut a finger hole in each lid for easy access to the storage below.

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

5. Next, we cut the second “lid” I mentioned above – this time, 1/4 inch smaller on each side. We drilled a finger hole in this piece, as well.

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

6. So here’s how it works (follow along in the photo below!): When we have friends or family visiting and want the bench to have a back for maximum comfort, we simply open the hinged lid and remove the “second lid” from the interior storage. That “second lid” becomes the new seat of the bench, while the former lid becomes the back! Smart, yes? The perfect mix of form and function.

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

Of course, I left out a pretty big portion of this project: the cushions! Luckily, we enlisted a very helpful mother-in-law to sew custom cushions for each bench, complete with tedious piping. She’s a trooper indeed (and we owe her a very big Mother’s Day gift – please send ideas!).

How To Build Modern Bench Seating - Erin Loechner

So what do you think, friends? We love how the bench feels modern and seamless, but is still entirely functional for both daily use and entertaining. When we finally finish decorating, I’m envisioning some serious back porch parties in our future!

Speaking of decorating, check back in just a few short weeks for a video of the final space – completely renovated, decorated and fully furnished with love. You won’t believe your eyes…

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55 Responses

  1. CplusE says:

    The bench is lovely! Will there be pillows or cushions for the back as well? It must be very long, so there will be plenty of seating. As for your hard-working mother-in-law, I think she deserves a spa day, preferably with a friend (or you!) — that sort of thing is much more fun with a good friend along!

    • erin loechner says:

      GREAT idea! And yep – aforementioned mother-in-law finished the remainder of the cushions and pillows today, so you'll see those in the final video tour at the end of the month. They look GREAT! :)

  2. Jessica says:

    Erin and Ken – this looks fabulous! I can't believe all of the progress you guys have made in that room in such a short amount of time! The bench looks fab and I know the decor will be equally wonderful! I foresee many lazy afternoons in your sunroom future!!

  3. [...] even got a genius solution for those of you that hate backless furniture (raising my hand here!).Check out our custom design and tutorial on HGTV.com, and don’t forget to tell me what you think in the comment section! SHARE: twitter, facebook, [...]

  4. Holly says:

    Another option instead of having the second lid would be to incoporate the second lid into the bottom of the cusions by upholstering the cushion fabric to a board (similar to upholstering the seat of a dining chair).

    • erin loechner says:

      Hi Holly:

      We definitely considered that, but knew we wanted big, cushy cushions rather than a flatter cushion. But I love the idea!!!

  5. [...] and today, I’ve got the full process for you – from design to execution! Are you ready for this?Custom window bench seating area [...]

  6. jenn says:

    Looks fantastic! Did you guys clear seal the birch plywood for the final look?

    • erin loechner says:

      We haven't yet, but plan to in the next few days. We're going to try to seal it as matte as possible so we can keep the rough, natural look!

  7. 4Grammy says:

    Erin and Ken, saw you on The Nate Show this morning and you two are so cute together. Your house is fantastic. Even though I have the traditional style in my home, I love the clean lines and lightness of your home renovations. Thank you for all the great information.

  8. Kelly says:

    Are you worried about the hinges breaking with several people leaning back against them? Looks great! Love the clean lines- the room is shaping up so beautifully!

    • erin loechner says:

      Great question, Kelly! The bench top actually rests on the woodwork behind it, so it's supported by the trim. No snapped hinges here! :)

  9. Drew says:

    How deep did you make the bench seating?

  10. [...] 5/23/2012our finished sunroom! 0CommentsABOVE // Bench seating and cushions: handmade (tutorial here), Mason jar lighting: Boots n Gus, Arm lighting: The Century HouseYou guys. I am crazy excited to [...]

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