Before and After: An IKEA Hack Bench Is a Space and Budget Win in This Kitchen Redo

published Jun 15, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Corner of kitchen with table next to window

Dining nooks and banquettes with bench seating are great ways to seat lots of people in a small space and fit in extra storage, too. And more storage is exactly what DIYer Jacqueline Schowetsky was looking for in this somewhat large but empty-feeling corner of her kitchen — especially because having a new baby created lots more stuff to store.

“Moving with a 3-month-old to a space with no warmth or storage was a struggle,” Jacqueline says of the space before. “I wanted to make a big impact and create function, as we had no room for our growing collection of baby necessities.” And because having a baby is, well, incredibly expensive, she wanted those changes to be budget-friendly and renter-friendly. Jacqueline took on the redo as part of the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge.

For her project, Jacqueline gave her kitchen all sorts of renter-friendly upgrades. For example, she waxed the 1950s cabinets, to take out their harsh honey tones ,and added more modern hardware to them; she repainted a hutch that she already owned; and she added a new food prep station, too. But one area that’s practically bursting with DIYs is the front corner, in which an innovative bench, a floating shelf, and some paint and trim all came together to create a distinct dining zone.

“This project had a lot of firsts for me,” Jacqueline says. “I had never built a bench or a floating shelf before.” For the bench, Jacqueline and her husband, Brian, actually used lumber from an old IKEA LACK coffee table for the framework.

The couple used 2x4s to build out a sturdy “back” for the bench and to raise the somewhat low table to bench-height. Once they had a framework, Jacqueline and Brian mounted their newly-fashioned bench to the studs of the wall, attached extra plywood from another project to the surrounds, painted the sides the same color as the wall (Behr’s Gravelstone), and added trim to the bottom to make it look built-in. Jaqueline sanded the top and stained it with a dark walnut stain, which matches the trim at the bottom.

Jacqueline says the addition of the bench has made a big difference in her kitchen space overall. “It allows us to have an extra two feet of space by being able to move the table closer to the wall when not in use, and it seats six people instead of four,” she explains. 
Behind the bench, Jacqueline added some character with a scalloped accent wall and a floating shelf — also both budget-friendly DIYs. “I wanted to paint a scallop wall to add some femininity to all of the lines in my kitchen,” Jacqueline writes on her blog. “I had some textured projects, pictures, and plants, but I needed some curved lines to make a difference in the space.” She created her scallops by tracing half of a dog food bowl onto a pizza box cardboard template, which she then used as a guide on the wall. Then, she painted the accent using the same color used on the bench, Gravelstone. (The off-white background color is Behr’s Dove.)

For the floating shelf that rests above that, Jacqueline and Brian used lumber from a mantel they’d made for their old apartment. “We took it with us when we moved but had no use for it in our small living room,” Jacqueline explains on her blog. “So we flipped it over, secured it to the studs, and added plywood inserts that sat on 2x4s so I could style the shelf with decor.”

Her decor, by the way, is also somewhat DIYed: Jacqueline took frames she already owned, painted them black, and used antique prints for the art.

Jacqueline’s best advice for someone looking to make their home more functional through DIYs is to work with what you have, be creative, and think outside of the box. “You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a big impact,” she says. “And your first or second option may be unavailable due to being a renter, but home takes time and doing it yourself not only saves you money but also instills a sense of pride and love within the walls of your home.”

This project was completed for the Spring 2023 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.