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A banquette is a built-in hinged-top storage bench often used in conjunction with a table to create a dining area. The first step to building your own banquette is to determine the dimensions. Measure the floor in the intended area to find the length. Then, use a comfortable dining chair as your guide to find the measurements for the proper height and seat depth. If it makes your work easier, sketch out a five-sided box (the top will remain open) and transfer your measurements to the illustration to use as a guide when cutting and assembling the box.
Transfer your measurements to the 4’ x 8’ sheets of 3/4” birch plywood that will be used to build the banquette’s box frame. Rip the plywood down according to your measurements using a table saw. This is much easier with a helper to support the weight of the wood while you guide it through the saw. Shorter cuts may be easier to make using a handheld circular saw. When you’re done, you should have five pieces of wood: front, back, bottom and both sides.
Assemble the box frame by first attaching the front panel to the bottom. Use wood glue and finish nails to hold the unit together during assembly. Add the back panel next and then the two side panels (Image 1). Once everything is assembled and fits together properly, reinforce the structure by screwing all the pieces together with 1-1/2” wood screws (Image 2). Do not worry about the screw heads being visible, as you’ll be decorating the exterior of the banquette with beadboard in Step 6.
NOTE: If you decide to paint or stain the bench instead of covering with beadboard, you will want to counter-sink the screws enough that you can cover over the heads with wood filler.
Frame the open (top) side of the bench using 1x4 poplar (Image 1). Use a miter saw or a circular saw to cut the wood to length and attach the poplar framing with wood glue and finish nails (Image 2). The purpose of the framing is to add strength to support the bench top and the weight of people sitting upon it.
Bring the bench into the house and set it in its permanent location. Use a 4-foot level to make sure the top surface is level. Use shims if necessary to achieve a level position. Then attach it to the wall studs from the inside of the bench using 3-inch wood screws.
Installing beadboard is a great way to decorate the face of the bench. Simply cut the beadboard to the appropriate height, apply construction adhesive to the back (Image 1), and install it to the face of the bench (Image 2). For added strength, add a few finish nails to the beadboard, but make sure the nails are short enough that they don’t pierce the open inside storage area of the bench (Image 3). This can be done using 4' x 8' sheets of beadboard, but it’s easier to install using the snap-together modular wainscotting material.
Alternatively, if beadboard doesn’t fit the look you’re hoping to achieve, you can also paint, stain or even tile the front of your benches.