Every decision we’ve made at our Tree House has been based around the space accommodating six adults. There are six Adirondack chairs around the fire pit. There are four seats on the sofa and two barstools at the kitchen peninsula that form a conversation area for six. There are two twin beds, a queen-size bed and a king size bed – you guessed it – sleeping space for six! When it came to our dismal dining situation, however, our flimsy folding table and four rusty chairs were coming up short in more ways than one. But now, that’s no longer true!
When we first toured Tree House, we always envisioned a custom banquette in the dining nook – yes, even though there was a non-functioning potbelly stove in the corner. Never having built one before, we were careful to research standards in seat height and toe kicks, cushion depth and the just right angle for the recline of the chair back. We drew a lot of inspiration from a favorite local taco spot (and even paid them a visit with an angle finder and tape measure in hand, as one does, with their permission!), and after endless sketches on notepads and napkins, we felt comfortable with the direction we were heading.
Finally, we were ready to head to our neighborhood Lowe’s with our build list in hand! We knew we could find everything we needed at Lowe’s, from beautiful oak boards to primed-and-ready shiplap, to wood screws and adhesives. A one-stop-shop. We then proceeded to fill our trusty Subaru up with everything we needed – and on a relatively small budget!
Here’s how our dining nook looked the morning we started the project. The tape lines represent the rough shape of the finished structure, and you can see we had our electrician add a sconce to the right of the window and an outlet for a television on the larger wall:
Tools + Supplies Used
- 2″ x 6″ x 8′ (for toe kick base)
- 2″ x 4″ x 8′ (for storage boxes)
- 4′ x 8′ oak plywood sheets, cut in half lengthwise
- PrimeLinx primed shiplap wall planks
- 1″ x 6″ red oak boards
- HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams Ultra White paint
- HeadLOK wood screws (for securing into wall studs)
- 2 1/2″ wood screws
- miter saw
- speed square
- construction adhesive + gun
- nail gun (optional)
- caulk + gun
- wood putty (optional)
- foam + outdoor fabric (1 yard per bench seat)
- tape measure
Building and Securing the Base
The first step was to frame out the two boxes that would form the recessed base of the seats. We determined the overall depth of the banquette and subtracted 3″ to allow for a recessed toe kick. Be sure to factor in the depth of your finish materials here – we subtracted about 1/2″ from our desired finished dimensions to allow for the shiplap.
Since our Banquette is L-Shaped, we built each box independently, then fastened them together to form the L. Our speed square came in really handy for this step – we were sure to keep our corners at a tight 90-degrees throughout the process!
Once the two base boxes were secured to one another, we identified studs with our stud finder. We then used 2 7/8″ HeadLOK screws to fasten the whole thing to a handful of wall studs for stability. These were quite possibly the most satisfying fasteners we’ve ever used. The box includes a proprietary bit and they drive soooo nicely!
Attaching the Plywood Top
After the base was fastened securely to the wall, we double-checked the overall depth in a few places and ended right at 18″. We added 3″ to that measurements to account for the toe kick, then ripped our oak plywood down to 21″ on the table saw. The plywood would act as the base of our storage unit.
Note: We can’t fit full 4’x8′ sheets of plywood into our car, so we had the folks at Lowe’s rip sheets in half on the panel saw. It’s free, saves us time and hassle, and it makes life so much easier!
Now that we had the right depth, we cut the lengths on our sliding miter saw.
The plywood was then fastened to the 2 x 6 base, and we were ready to move on to the actual seat boxes! We used high quality 3/4″ oak plywood since it would eventually serve as the visible ‘floor’ of the open storage boxes. It was incredibly nice to work with! There was virtually no splintering and it was very straight and solid.
Building the Seat Boxes
With the plywood now in place, we remeasured all of our dimensions to check for accuracy. Kim then stepped outside to make all of the cuts while I got to building the lower boxes. This process was essentially a repeat of the first 2×6 box, but made out of 2×4’s and repeated twice with the exact same dimensions. Once both boxes were complete, we measured for the proper overall height that would result in a 16 1/2″ seating surface before our foam was added to the bench seats. In our case, we used 10″ vertical supports, which were attached to one box frame, then flipped over and attached to the other.
Here’s how it looked with our storage boxes / bench seating:
A quick note on the ‘floating’ side table: This was added after so many of you suggested that the abrupt stop under the window was confusing. We saw what you meant, and felt that it could use some balance, too. Hence, the floating side table was born! However, Kim was concerned that the overall thickness of the table would be too ‘hunky’ if we left the 2×4’s at full size. After much deliberation, we ripped one inch from them so they measured 2 1/2″ (vertically in this orientation) as opposed to 3 1/2″. As usual, she was right! The thinner depth of the ripped 2×4’s resulted in a finished thickness of 4″ (once the 3/4″ plywood and 3/4″ oak planks were added) which turned out perfect. More on this table in a moment. In the meantime…
Once the upper seat boxes were attached to each other in the same manner as the base, we laid down a bead of construction adhesive to affix it to the plywood. We clamped it into place, then used a few strategically placed screws to ensure that it wouldn’t budge. The top portion of the structure was then fastened to the studs using the HeadLOK screws. This thing isn’t going anywhere any time soon!
Tip: Drywall is rarely perfectly square. We shimmed a few low areas as we attached square framework to the not-square walls. Don’t stress here, since all of the structural framework will be concealed by finish materials later in the process. Also remember, caulk fixes everything!
After all of the framework was complete, we cut down and dry-fitted the plywood tops that would form the seating surface. This gave us the first idea of what the finished banquette would look like!
Installing the Shiplap
We decided that installing the PrimeLinx primed shiplap boards (which we were pleasantly surprised to find in stock at Lowe’s!) would be easiest if we knocked it out prior to the tops being fastened into place. Kim called out the cuts and nailed the boards into place while I handled the cuts on the miter saw and helped make sure everything fit together snugly.
When we reached the top of the structure, we were left with a 1 1/2″ gap between the top row of shiplap and the bottom of the plywood, so we took a few careful measurements, then ripped down a 1 1/2″ strip on the table saw for the perfect finishing touch.
Once the final slim piece was in place, we spackled and sanded all of the nail holes, caulked the seams and hit everything with two coats of Sherwin Williams Infinity paint. We chose untinted Ultra White in a semi-gloss finish for durability and wipability.
The mostly-complete base looked just like this at the end of day 1:
If a space (or preference) doesn’t call for a structural backrest, it would be very simple to stop here, upholster the tops and add some cozy throw pillows as a ‘backrest’. We considered it along the way, but we prefer the look of a full built-in backrest, so onward we go!
Building the Backrest
We started day two by installing ledger boards into studs at the determined height of the backrest. The top of the board measured exactly 12 1/4″ from the top of the seating surface so that our 3/4″ thick top cap resulted in a finished 13″ height.
We also needed to problem solve where our backrest would sit on the bench. Here’s how that went down: The overall depth of the plywood seating surface is 21,” and we wanted to achieve a 17″ seat cushion depth. To get this, we ripped the bench seat tops down on the table saw, which gave us a fixed 4″ deep strip where we could attach the bottom of the backrest supports. You can see that cut below. This will make much more sense in a moment!
Tip: To ensure that our gaps were consistent throughout construction, we used nickels! This particular dry fit ensured that our plywood remained the perfect depth after ripping it down on the table saw.
It was now time to fabricate the skeleton of the backrest. We started by ripping a leftover piece of plywood down to a height of 12 3/4″. We then set our compound miter saw for a 10 degree cut, which we determined to be a comfortable angle for the seat back. We marked our cuts for 1 3/4″ at the narrower top end, which resulted in a depth of around 3″ at the wider base.
A quick note: Our Kobalt 10″ sliding compound miter saw is capable of rip cuts up to 14″. This allowed us to make the 10 degree angled cuts in one pass. This was an absolutely invaluable asset to keep things quick, safe, and accurate!
The supports were then slathered with wood glue and nailed to the ledger board with 2″ finish nails.
At the bottom of the frame, we used scrap plywood to create blocking that would keep the vertical supports from shifting horizontally. Like the verticals, the blocks were also glued into place and fastened with the pop of one finish nail into each.
With the exception of each end of the banquette, the size of the blocking was not important since the entire framework would be concealed by these finish-grade oak boards, the same boards we used on our slim sofa console. On each end, we were careful that each block lined up perfectly with the ledger board above it. However, the spacing of the verticals is important, since this is where we would be nailing the boards that make up the backrest. Because the nails are slightly visible, we were careful to space the vertical supports evenly.
Once the vertical supports were in, we ripped an oak board down to the 2 1/2″ depth we needed for the top cap, which we popped into place with finish nails. You can see that ‘cap’ in this photo:
Since we were using 1″ x 6″ oak boards (which are actually 5 1/2″) to face the backrest, we knew we would have to rip at least one of them down on the table saw to reach our 13″ height. To allow for some visual symmetry we decided to leave the lowest board fully intact since it would lose 2″ of visual ‘height’ once the 2″ tall foam cushions were in place. The upper two boards were ripped down to 3 3/4″ and sanded smooth so our overall height would end up at 13″. Math is hard, but we got there! Custom-sourced nickel spacers came in handy for this step as well – ha!
Wrapping It Up
In order to achieve a perfect corner, we installed all of the oak boards on the long side of the backrest first. We then cut the short boards at a 10 degree angle on the right side. They were then slid into place, marked on the left side and cut at a simple 90 degree angle. No compound cuts were necessary and it turned out perfect!
When it came time to cap off the ends of each backrest, I cut a slightly larger scrap of oak board at a 10 degree angle, then took careful measurements and cut out the shape with a jigsaw. it was a labor of love, but I’m proud of it! Here’s how it looked, before and after:
While I finished up the oak on the backrest, Kim got to work upholstering the seating surfaces. We purchased 2″ thick furniture foam online and trimmed it to fit the plywood seats. The plywood and foam were then flipped upside-down onto this Sunbrella fabric and stapled it in place with a staple gun and 1/4″ staples.
The last step was to skin the floating table with leftover oak. The front and side panels were ripped down to 4″ and the top was covered with 4 1/4″ thick planks for visual continuity. They turned out exactly as we imagined and ended up mirroring the lines of the backrests and shiplap! While it’s not intended to support the weight of more than a few books and a drink or two, we tested the upper limits and stood on it to make sure it was solid. Much like the rest of the banquette, it’s not going anywhere!
Note: We used a nickel to keep the space between the boards the same as the banquette back and shiplap base.
We Have a Banquette!
Jack is obviously thrilled with our accomplishment.
We’re so happy with how this corner turned out! These corner cuts are one of those small details that can easily trip you up (guilty), but once we stepped back and thought about it, the cuts were simpler than we imagined:
We love the way the darker lines of the plaid outdoor fabric mimic the black window frames! It’s subtle, but it really unifies the space.
While our intent was to put the seating surfaces onto hinges with hydraulic lifters, we realized that the bench tops wouldn’t be very easy to flip up and access with those thick, cozy cushions. We ended up nixing the idea of hinges at the last minute, and instead, we opted to simply allow the tops to rest in place. With the fabric and cushions being so snug against one another, they stay put nicely! We have no concerns of them shifting any more than, say, a couch cushions might. Plus, look at all that glorious storage!
All the Numbers In One Place
For anyone wondering, below are the finished dimensions:
- 93″ overall length (long side)
- 54″ overall width (short side under the window)
- 22″ overall depth
- 30″ overall height
- 17″ seating surface depth
- 17″ seat height (before adding our cushion)
- 10 degree backrest angle
- 13″ overall backrest height
- 22″d x 16″w ‘floating’ side table
The final cost of this large corner banquette came to almost $500, which in a large part was due to choosing the beautiful oak boards. Our fabric and foam was an additional $150 for a grand total of $650!
All told, this project took about 50 total (wo)man-hours to complete. As usual, we think we could probably repeat the build in a little more than half that time since we’ve got all of the math and proportions figured out, but hopefully this will be easier for you now, ha! This is probably the woodworking project we’re most proud of to this point.
Now we just have to wait for our dining table to arrive, which is going to be tough. Truth be told, we pulled up our folding table to the banquette the morning after completion to have breakfast, and it really brought the total effect down a few notches. Ha! But we’re so close. Dining area for six plus, here we come!
Thank you to our sponsor, Lowe’s Home Improvement, for supporting our vision for this project! We were able to find all the building materials we needed, in-stock, at our local Lowe’s.