A DIY Bench – Guest Post

Whew! So much for blogging Fridays the last few weeks. Things have been very busy with me this month. work has piled up, family members have moved (which translates to weekend hours spent helping), and I have been working on some massive (as in size…or scope too I suppose) projects around the house. That has left me with very little time to compose some blog posts. Don’t worry, I have some things in the works however so fun things to come hopefully soon.

That being said, this post was written by my older sister Libby, who is living in Oklahoma City, OK. She’s an amazing little gal (I am not demeaning her at all. She’s tiny in stature, though mighty in personality) who can turn her hand at anything sewing/engineering, calling it “soft engineering.” Libby does not have a blog so I offered to post her bench makeover here. The exact Ikea bench/table that she used is a mystery, but don’t worry, any similar table structure would work for this tutorial. Everything following is in her own words.

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My husband is in the Navy and, because of that, we’ve moved three times in the last three years. Before the first move, we decided to leave our nice TV console in Fort Wayne at our condo for sister Lesly to use while she lived there. Now that we are in a semi-permanent location (as semi-permanent as you can be in the military) we finally moved the cabinet to our current location, big thanks to dad for driving it out to us.

Now that we have our original cabinet back, we had an extra console, some table that I had purchased at Ikea to use in the interim. I don’t remember what the style name of the table is, but it is about 18” tall by 17” deep and 46” wide. Perfect for an upholstered bench, I thought. So I bought some fabric, foam, batting and got to work.

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I started by taking the bench apart and gluing all the joints together to help with stability. While that was drying I took my fabric outside and sprayed it with Scotchgaurd. You could skip this step, but the fabric that I chose to use is fairly light with a white background and since I have an almost 2 year old, I anticipate some spills, or snotty noses being rubbed on it. While the bench and the fabric dried I cut my foam to size. I was able to find a 3” thick piece of foam on Amazon that was 17” deep and 60” long, so I laid it on top of the bench top and marked the appropriate length. Then I drew the line all the around the foam, using my right triangle and rotary cutting ruler to make sure it was all nice and square.

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An electric carving knife is recommended for cutting foam at home, but I don’t have one of those so I just used my serrated bread knife and it worked quite well. Since I drew my line all the way around the foam, I as able to make sure that each slice of the knife lined up with the mark on both sides of the foam, so I ended up with a pretty square cut.

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Once I had the foam cut to size I took that and the bench top outside, sprayed both the top and one side of the foam with spray adhesive and secured the foam to the top of the bench.

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Next step was to cover the foam with batting. You could also nix the batting but it helps with the final appearance, making the upholstery nice and smooth and soft looking. I folded my batting in half lengthwise and it was the perfect length and width so I didn’t have to cut off any extra waste. Then I just tucked the batting in along the sides and at the corners I made one cut and folded the excess under, kind of like tucking a flat sheet when you make a bed. Ready for fabric!

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Once I cut my rectangle of fabric, I used a zig zag stitch and sewed twill tape along all the raw edges. You certainly wouldn’t have to do this, but I used cotton duck, which has a tendency to fray easily. The last thing I wanted was for the edges of my fabric to fray and pull away from the upholstery tacks.

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Then I laid my fabric on the floor, flipped the bench top over so it was foam side down and centered it on the fabric.

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For the next step I used upholstery tacks and my hammer. I’ve read a lot of other tutorials on upholstering benches and most of them use a staple gun and staples to secure the fabric. I don’t own a staple gun and after pricing them, I decided to save the $10-15 it would have cost me to buy a staple gun and just buy upholstery tacks and use the hammer I already owned. It was a little more difficult than using a staple gun, but I was able to push the tack into the wood to hold it long enough to grab my hammer and tap it all the way in. I started by placing two tacks at the center of each long side and one tack in the center of each short side.

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Then I simply moved down each side, pulling the fabric taught, placing a tack and tapping it in.

When I got to the corner, I brought the corner of the fabric in so it was at a 90 degree angle to the corner of the top and tacked that. Then I tuck the extra fabric in and folded up side and finished tacking the side. I place a couple extra tacks at the corners to keep the fabric laying flat.

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Here is the top with the fabric secured and ready to be reattached to the base.

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Once I had finished tacking the fabric to the top, I applied glue to the base and placed the top back on the bottom of the bench and retightened the cams that keep the bench together.

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Voila! A new, upholstered bench. Sometime in the near future I want to buy some baskets for the open shelves for storage.

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Thank you, Libby for a great step-by-step post! I have a table of my own that I am considering turning into a bench so seeing this is really helpful.