Upcycling is a great way to reuse something old and breathe new life into it. One popular way of doing this is taking an old wooden bench and turning it into a classy new coffee table.
There are 8 steps to this do-it-yourself project. The basic steps are to upholster some cushions, stain the wood, and sand it down. Aside from those steps, you can customize your coffee table, however you want.
The following article is a detailed description of the steps it takes to complete this project. There are also a few benefits of using a coffee table turned bench listed.
Table of Contents
Can you use a bench as a coffee table?
While it will take some elbow grease to repurpose it, you can use a bench as a coffee table. It doesn’t have to be the oldest and cheapest bench in the world; you can use any bench that’s in solid condition as a coffee table. A few benefits to using an upholstered bench as a coffee table include:
- It’s more comfortable
- Extra seating
- Good for smaller spaces
- It’s safer for kids
Traditional coffee tables are made out of solid wood or have a glass top. While these materials aren’t inherently bad, they aren’t the most comfortable thing in the world.
But you also don’t want to put your coffee or feet up on something that isn’t solid. With a coffee table made from an upholstered wooden bench, you get the best of both worlds. You get something that’s soft and comfortable and somewhere safe to put your coffee.
The only downside to this is that the upholstery can get dirty easily, but a quick fix for this is putting a blanket over the bench or setting your coffee on a side table.
Furniture that has multiple uses can be as convenient as it is stylish. A coffee table made from an upholstered bench provides extra seating for company without the hassle of finding extra chairs or seating.
Good for Small Spaces
The typical size of a coffee table is about eighteen to twenty-four inches wide and thirty-six to forty eight inches long. They typically don’t fit into a small apartment or room, but that problem is solved by using a bench as a coffee table.
The narrow design of most benches makes them better for fitting into smaller spaces. A typical bench size is fifteen to twenty inches long and twenty inches wide. At nearly half the size of a coffee table, they take up much less space.
Safer for Kids
Coffee tables have hard wooden corners and feet that energetic kids can easily get injured on. If they’re running around and not paying attention, coffee tables can be very dangerous for children. A bench that’s been upholstered with soft fabric presents less of a risk for someone getting a scrape or a black eye.
Even though the top of the coffee table is now softer after being upholstered, the legs of the coffee table still present a breeding ground for stubbed toes. But thankfully, sanding down the wood a little bit on the legs should help with this issue.
Steps to Turning a Bench into a Coffee Table
Taking an old wooden bench and turning it into a stylish coffee table can be done in five simple steps.
- Gathering the Materials
- Taking the Measurements
- Doing the woodwork
- Sanding the Bench
- Painting the Bench
- Staining the Bench
- Completing the upholstery
- Final Touches
1. Gathering the Materials
The main thing that you will need is, of course, an old bench that was thrifted from any second hand store. It should be in pretty solid shape with all four legs and the seat still intact. It’s alright if the seat is splintered or damaged slightly since this will be fixed later.
Some other materials you will need include:
- Paint primer, actual paint, and a paintbrush
- Wood stain and a disposable rag
- Sandpaper or sand block
- Cordless drill
- A pair of thick work gloves
- Measuring tape
- Needle and thread
- Sewing pins
- Foam rectangle
- Fabric to use on upholstery
You can get the majority of these materials from any hardware store. The upholstery fabric can be purchased from any fabric store.
Taking the Measurements
Once you have all of your materials, it’s time to take the measurements.
- Using a tape measure, take the measurements of the bench seat and mark them on the tape measure with a marker.
- Lay the tape measure on the foam rectangle and mark the same spots on the tape measure onto the foam rectangle.
- Cut the foam rectangle with the scissors to the size indicated by the markings.
- After you’ve cut your foam rectangle to the right size, take the same tape measure, and measure the right size of the fabric for the upholstery. You will need the upholstery to be the same size as the foam rectangle, but it should be big enough so that the fabric can fold over the foam rectangle without tearing. It should sit comfortably but taught on the foam rectangle.
- The last thing you’ll need to measure is the size of the bench legs. The bench will more than likely be too high for you to set your feet and coffee comfortably on. Measure the bench legs with a tape measure to determine how many inches need to be cut off.
The legs of your coffee table should be no longer than twelve to fifteen inches, depending on how low you want it from your couch or chair. Mark the length that needs to be cut off on the legs with a marker. When you have all of your measurements, it’s time to start using some elbow grease.
Doing the Woodwork
Most of the woodwork for this do-it-yourself project includes cutting the bench’s legs and getting the wood ready to be painted.
- To cut the legs, lay the bench on its side so that the leg you want to cut is directly on the workbench or work space you are using.
- Next, use the saw to cut the desired length by cutting directly on the marking you made. You can use a manual handsaw or electric saw, whichever works better for you. Make sure to cut the legs as evenly as possible to avoid having an uneven coffee table.
- Sand the ends of the legs with the sandpaper or sand black so that everything is smooth and even.
Sanding the Bench
Once the legs are finished, the next step is getting the wood ready to be painted and then actually painting the wood. It’s recommended that you prepare the legs and the plank of the bench to be painted separately. This will ensure each part of the bench will be painted, and the final product will be much neater and cleaner.
The first step is to sand the entire bench. Using the sandpaper or the sand block, gently rub the entire bench in a circular motion. Pay extra attention to the areas that are especially splintered or rough. Sand the wood until everything is smooth to the touch. If you are worried about getting a splinter, wearing a pair of thick work gloves can help you avoid that problem.
Painting the Bench
When everything is sanded down, the next step is to prepare the bench to be painted. The first step is to use the paint brush to paint the primer all over the bench. Make sure the primer coat is fairly thin and even. This will help the paint to go on smoother and to last longer. The primer typically takes about a half hour to an hour to dry, but make sure it feels dry to the touch before painting.
Once the primer is dry, clean and dry the paint brush you used for the primer and paint the bench. Also, make sure to paint the bench and legs separately and with an even coat of paint. You can clean up any mistakes with one of the disposable rags you have.
If your bench has legs that screw into the main plank, make sure you don’t paint the screw in parts with the primer or paint. This can prevent the legs from screwing back in properly. Leave the bench and legs to dry separately for about twenty-four hours. When everything feels dry, put the legs and the bench back together and leave it alone for another few hours to make sure everything is solid.
Staining the Bench
If you are staining the bench rather than painting it, the steps are roughly the same. You should still use a wood staining primer before staining, but it’s recommended that you use a rag instead of a paintbrush. This is because wood staining primers are slightly thicker, and using a rag would be easier. The same goes for the actual wood stain, and the rag will let you get an even coat easier.
Same as the paint, don’t prime or stain the screw in parts of the legs. Leave the stained bench and bench legs to dry separately for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Once everything is completely dry, put everything back together and let it dry for another hour or so.
Completing the Upholstery
The other half of the coffee table is the upholstery. You already have a good chunk of it done since the foam rectangle and fabric were cut to size; now you just have to put them together.
- To start, lay the upholstery on your work space so that the print is facing downwards. Place the foam rectangle on top of it and make sure it’s centered.
- Wrap the upholstery around the foam block one section at a time, stapling each section multiple times to make sure it’s secure.
- Once each section has been securely stapled down, flip the foam rectangle over so that the upholstery print is facing upwards.
- Place a staple in each of the four corners of the upholstery and one more staple near the two straight edges of the upholstery in the center of those edges. These staples will be covered up by the buttons you will make later for the finishing touches.
If any remaining tufts of fabric are still visible once you place the upholstery onto the bench, tuck them up under the foam and staple them once more. To attach the upholstery to the bench itself, use the cordless drill to drill loose parts of the upholstery into the wood.
You can do this instead of tucking too much of the fabric under the foam. It makes the upholstery look neater and secures it to the bench, solving two problems at once.
The last step to making an old bench into a brand new coffee table is to add some finishing touches. These include creating buttons to cover the staples and, if you wish, personalizing it.
- To make the buttons, start with the scraps from the fabric you cut for the upholstery. For the base of the button, you can use any plastic buttons from a craft store. Depending on the size of the staple, your button should be big enough to completely cover them.
- Place the fabric scraps face down so that the print isn’t visible. Set the plastic buttons onto the fabric so that they are roughly centered on the fabric scraps. Fold the fabric scraps over the button and hold them in place with a sewing pin.
- Once the fabric is placed, use the needle and thread to sew the fabric to the buttons. Thread the needle in and out of the fabric and through the holes of the buttons, pulling it taught each time to secure it in place.
- When you have finished sewing the fabric to the button, cut the thread as short as possible so that it doesn’t stick out from underneath the buttons.
- To sew the buttons to the upholstery, fold a thread in half and insert it into the needle. Thread the needle through the button fabric and underneath the staple multiple times until the button is secured in place. Cut the thread as short as possible and tuck any remaining strands underneath the button.
The final step is to personalize the new coffee table however, you wish. You have already done this with the upholstery you chose, but you can add a few more details with paint or adding some extra wooden elements. It’s up to you how you finalize this do-it-yourself project to make it extra special.
Some Things To Remember
This project can take some time, but it’s worthwhile to make something new out of something old. But there are a few important things to remember while working on this project. Some of these include:
- Be as prepared as possible
- Use quality materials
- Search around for sales
- Have fun and get creative
First and foremost, you can never be too prepared. From deciding on which old bench to use to put the final personal touches on your new coffee table, it is far better to be over prepared than under prepared. Wiping down the bench with a wet wipe or a towel will give a clean piece of furniture to work with.
Giving the bench a quick wipe will prevent the materials from not working properly, such as a sticky stain messing with the paint primer or some dirt getting into your paintbrush. You should also make sure you have enough time to complete this project, especially if you need to make corrections or adjustments.
Use Quality Materials
Even though this project is meant to save you some money by making a coffee table instead of buying one, it’s a good idea to spend a few extra dollars on quality materials. Materials that are cheap are usually cheap in quality, and the result probably won’t be as aesthetically pleasing. Good materials are also much easier to work with and will make sure your project takes less time in the long run.
Finding the Bench
Finding an old bench at a thrift store or second hand shop can already save you some money, but you might be able to save even more if you search around before making a decision. If you find an old bench you like in a store, you might be able to find something similar or even better in places such as:
- On the side of the road
- A charity shop
- Websites that sell old furniture
- In an attic or basement
Doing some digging before deciding on a bench can save you even more money than this project already does.
Be Creative and Have Fun
Last but not least, allow your creativity to run wild with this do-it-yourself project. Even though turning a bench into a coffee table takes a lot of work, it should still be a fun project that you can do by yourself or with your friends and family.
This do-it-yourself project will take some time and effort, but it will be worth it. Not only will it save you money since you don’t have to purchase a new coffee table, but you’ll also have something that’s personalized and unique in your home.
It can also be a solution to not being able to find a coffee table that either won’t fit into your living room or that doesn’t fit your tastes.