Before and After: A DIY Bench Adds 18 Feet of Hidden Storage to This Family Room

published Sep 28, 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
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

Almost every house or apartment (or RV or cabin or chalet — you name it!) has an awkward space that its residents just don’t know what to do with. For AllieDear (@dearityourself), that awkward space was an 18-foot-long empty area along the window in her family room.

It was a narrow but large space to fill, and Allie did so for just $740. Her solution? Seating-meets-storage with a built-in look. “I knew we needed additional storage on our main floor for additional kitchen supplies, decor, appliances, etc.,” Allie says. “I had purchased three store-bought storage benches, but they just weren’t cutting it.”

Credit: Allie Dear
Credit: Allie Dear

It started with a base (and a carefully measured plan). 

Instead of those store-bought benches, Allie decided to build a more custom bench with four compartments that open. Before even buying the wood or making any cuts, Allie says that planning out an 18-foot-bench “was a task in itself,” from determining how to waste the least amount of material to figuring out what cuts needed to be made. “I think drawing it out and laying out the steps was super helpful,” Allie says. “I could make sure to start the project off with the right materials and a rough idea of my budget.”

Once that was done, Allie removed the baseboards that were already attached to the wall and built a bench base out of 2x4s. “Then I painted that white so the inside would look nice,” she says. (She used Behr’s Bit of Sugar, left over from a previous project.)

One slight hiccup with the base was that there were two outlets sitting in the way. “I debated changing my whole design to try to avoid the outlets, but realized that would really change my vision, and I knew I needed to try to move them,” Allie says. Electrical work was a DIY first for her.  “I watched several YouTube videos and then followed closely along,” she says. “Honestly it went super smoothly and they look great.”

Patching up the drywall where the old outlets once were was also a first-time DIY project for Allie, and again, she relied on YouTube tutorials to figure it out.

Credit: Allie Dear

Shiplap and molding completed the bench.

After the base, Allie attached shiplap panels to the front of the bench with a brad nailer for a complete finish. “I actually left the MDF shiplap unpainted, as the white closely matches my kitchen cabinets which are right next to the bench,” Allie says. 

She used a bit of her same white paint here and there to mask any filled nail holes and caulking. Allie also added shoe molding for a finished look.

Credit: Allie Dear

Sewing projects took the back wall to the finish line.

Allie also saved money by making her own cushions for the bench top. “I was super intimidated because I don’t know how to sew, but ordering them custom was super expensive,” Allie says. “The cost of custom cushions online was more than the whole bench cost me!”

So she took a chance and made her own cushions by attaching foam and batting to her plywood with spray adhesive, then stapling on some fabric. “I didn’t want it to look DIYed, but I gave it a shot, and I think they turned out great!” Allie says.

If building the cushions was easier than Allie expected, attaching them to the bench with hinges was anything but. “The measurements needed to be super precise, and I ended up having to uninstall and reinstall them several times in slightly different places until the bench top looked exactly as it should,” she says.

Luckily, once the hard part was over, the process was nearly done. The last step was hemming the curtains to account for the bench height, and Allie did this using iron-on hemming tape. Now, she says, “The family room finally looks complete.” 

“We use the bench for additional seating when hosting, but most importantly, it’s 18 feet of storage that we didn’t have before,” Allie says. It’s amazing what some wherewithal (and the power of the YouTube algorithm) can do!

“I think hiring someone to build a custom 18-foot bench with custom cushions would have been at least triple the cost of my DIY,” she says. “Doing all the work myself saved me so much money.”