Turn a Coffee Table Into a Bench Seat

An old coffee table, ready to be repurposed.
What You'll Need
Foam batting
Staple gun with staples
Paint tray
Small paint roller
Medium paint brush
Utility knife
Small L-brackets (optional)
Glue (optional)

Bench seating looks elegant, saves space...and costs a lot. Instead of buying a brand-new bench seat or attempting to make one from scratch, give an old coffee table a second life and DIY a great new design element. I got mine done for about 30 dollars.

The entire project took about 4 hours with a few breaks in-between, and it’s simple enough for one person to do alone. Before you start, do yourself a favor and assemble all your materials. My project was sidelined for a little while for an emergency paint roller run.

Step 1 - Tighten Up Your Table

Turn it up on its side and use a screwdriver to tighten every screw. This can feel a little grueling, but it’s necessary. Above all, you want to create a safe seating area, so this step is key. After you tighten, test for sturdiness. Sit on the table across all available spots and feel for wobbles. If necessary, add small L-brackets to the corners and any supports to strengthen the piece.

Step 2 - Paint the Table

The paint I used costs about 20 dollars a gallon, but I had some left over from a recent DIY project in the same room. Paint is the biggest expense in this DIY project. (Get some money saving painting tips here.) Use a small roller to put a quick base coat on the table. If it’s a wood coffee table, you may need to apply a coat of primer first. Allow the first coat to dry before you come back in and paint with a brush to get a more precise look.

DIY Tip: You don’t need to paint the top of the table, because it will be covered up!

Step 3: Cut the Foam to Size

Use a utility knife to cut the foam. Double-check multiple times against the coffee table to be certain you’re cutting accurately. I left an inch overhang on every side to soften up the corners a little bit. If needed, you can glue the foam directly to the table to hold it in place while you finish. Foam will run you around 20 dollars as well if you don’t get something too fancy, though it can cost considerably more.

DIY Tip: Use a long sheet of foam, rather than individual squares, to get a smoother finish across the bench seat.

Step 4: Cover the Foam with Fabric

Pull the fabric very tightly all the way around and staple it in place with your staple gun. Shoot staples directly into the underside of the table, pulling tight all the way. I saved money by buying a curtain instead of raw fabric from the bolt; it cost me 6 dollars.

DIY Tip: Cut the excess fabric away after you staple instead of trying to size and cut it before.

Simple Storage Solutions

My re-purposed bench seat came with its own storage due to the design of the coffee table, but you can always add your own to a table that provides little to no storage. The extra materials won't cost much, and they'll add a lot to your DIY bench.

Add Baskets - It's probably easiest to get some baskets of the right size and slide them right beneath the bench. Big baskets make great storage containers, and they'll look pretty besides. Wrap ribbon around the top edge of the baskets to add color.

Slide In a Shelf - If you're feeling slightly more adventurous, it only takes a little more time to add a shelf beneath the bench seat. You'll need a sheet of wood, at least 1/2-inch thick, or a shelf cut to size. Attach it with L-brackets along the edges. Reinforce the shelf with a 1x2 (place it end to end, across the length of the shelf) if needed. If you're going to add a shelf, do it before you paint.

DIYer's Touch - Create a unique storage solution with an old suitcase or trunk. It will look artsy and decorative, yet still provide a usable function. Look for an affordable trunk or suitcase at secondhand stores and flea markets.

Give new life to an old coffee table with a little DIY spirit. It's such an easy project, you can get it all done in a single afternoon.