As I alluded to in my previous post about our small dining room area, the clear solution to creating a defined, purposeful space that feels separate from the living room area (despite them being fully open to each other as one large room) was to build a floating banquette in the corner. I wanted the banquette to also serve as a way to at least distract from the baseboard radiators beneath it, while not interfering with their functionality and purpose.
Having discovered that Lowe’s carries a ~16″ industrial shelving bracket with a rear flange that’s just able to slip behind the baseboard radiators, I figured out how many I’d need to buy to support both sides of the banquette. Each pair of brackets is rated to support 1000 pounds, and 36″ of 3/4″ plywood can support 50 pounds, and…you know what? That is TOO MUCH MATH for me to deal with, so I decided that the safest route to take was one of possible overkill: Attach a bracket to every stud.
Then began the always-tedious process of figuring out where the studs are, which involved a Studpop magnetic stud finder, a tape measure, a drill, and perseverance. In older houses with walls made from materials that aren’t drywall, there’s just no easy trick to finding studs.
Ten brackets turned out to be the magic number. Naturally, Lowe’s only had three in stock, so I had to order them. This was a fortunate delay, because it occurred to me while waiting that I was probably going to want to put seat cushions on the banquette, and that it was probably going to be expensive to have them custom made to fit.
Cushions first, plans second?
My brain did the thing where it comes up with an idea, and I decided it might be better to work backwards from the cushions when figuring out the exact measurements of the banquette. In other words, look for pre-made bench cushions, and take it from there.
I found these 18″ deep outdoor bench cushions on Hayneedle (they’re sold out now), and they came in both 45″ and 55″ lengths. This was miracle #2 in the Anna Builds a Banquette story (the first being the Miracle of the Bracket)—by using two of the shorter cushions and one of the longer, I could build the banquette at just about the EXACT size I was envisioning. Truly amazing.
Plans! Measurements! Materials!
Why yes, I did just draw this five minutes ago because I can’t find the version I drew when I was actually planning the banquette, which is probably crumpled up in a tool bin somewhere.
I had Lowe’s cut the 3/4″ plywood into two 18×96″ planks (plus the scrap) because my car isn’t big enough to hold a full sheet. Besides, why not? I don’t have a table saw, and doing a long cut like that is no fun without one. I also picked up a couple of 1×4″ boards to use to trim out the sides of the banquette to give it a bulkier/thicker look.
Installing the brackets
I had marked out where the studs were a few weeks prior when figuring out how many brackets to buy, so this part of the project actually went up pretty quickly. I drew a level line at the right height along both walls before I started, so it was just a matter of drilling into the stud, and driving in a 3″ lag screw in the top position, getting the bracket level on the vertical, and then driving in two more screws (except for the brackets above the radiators—those only got two screws, but because they’re all attached to studs, I have no concerns about the strength). As I worked my way around the room, I double-checked the horizontal leveling between each pair of brackets with a scrap 2×4. All ten brackets were up in about an hour, give or take.
When I reached the corner, I added a cleat (also screwed into the studs) for extra support. Possibly unnecessary, but given that it’s the end of the far board and also where the two sides meet, it felt like the smart thing to do.
Before cutting the plywood boards in length, I did a dry-fitting. This was in part to test out the stability of the whole thing, but also so I could get the cushions in place and then mark off the cut lines based on the actual cushion and not the measurements on the website. I mean, it’s a cushion. It’s not like it’s going to be EXACTLY 55″ or whatever, and I didn’t want to wind up with any overhang—or any exposed plywood, for that matter.
It was so satisfying to sit down on the plywood and not feel any movement. Super solid!
How about that?? Plywood cut to fit and screwed down to the brackets, cushions in place and looking swell. Trim boards mitered and attached (I nailed them to the edges of the plywood, then added L-brackets underneath for extra strength and stability) and painted white.
All that’s left is to get the rest of the room looking cute! That’s coming in the next (and final) installment of this series. I swear I’m not intentionally dragging this out, but I’m trying to be conscious of not posting TOO much all at once for the sake of attention spans (mine and yours), and also to be sure I’m actually taking the time to convey the entire process in detail.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! This whole project was really easy once I figured out the specifics, and it’s definitely something you can handle yourself if you have a spot in your house for your very own floating banquette.