How to Build a Modern Built-In Storage Bench

Monday, April 17, 2017 -
How to build a modern built-in bench with hidden toy storage.

*This post is sponsored by PureBond®  and contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own and are uninfluenced. 

You know that one friend of yours who has everything together? The one who always looks flawless and everything she touches is perfection. That's my friend Alex from AVE Styles. Her style is the perfect mix of modern and traditional with a healthy does of boho mixed in.

Not long ago, we were chatting and Alex told me she was wanting to come up with a better solution for the space between her kitchen and family room. Its a large transition space that her kiddos use. She wanted something architectural that could ground the space and hide the kid stuff. I went to her beautiful home and we sketched up an idea for a modern, built-in storage bench that would give them a massive amount of toy-stashing space. 

After teaming up with PureBond® a few months ago while building my Modern Bunk Beds, I knew exactly what material Alex's bench should be made of. We chose 3/4" maple plywood because she wanted a modern look, and we chose PureBond® because she wanted something durable, safe, and formaldehyde free. 

I'm sharing the materials and step-by-step instruction how to build a 172-1/2" long bench below. You can follow the same steps, modifying the width of the components to fit your individual space. 

To see Alex's full reveal, click here.

*This post is sponsored by Columbia Forest Products and contains affiliate links. 

Materials List:

Cut List:
  • (8) 3/4" plywood @ 21-1/2" x 18" (*leave two panels long)
  • (8) 3/4" plywood @ 21-1/2" x 14-3/8" (*leave two panels long)
  • (8) 3/4" plywood @ 21-1/2" x 3-1/2" (*leave two panels long)
  • (2) 2 x 4 @ 96"
  • (2) 2 x 4 @ 76-1/2"
  • (15) 2 x 4 @ 11" - drill  two, 1-1/2" pocket holes on each end 
  • (15) 2 x 4 @ 14-1/4" 
  • (8) 2 x 2 @ 19-1/2"

1. Cut all boards and panels to size, but leave two of each size plywood panel a little long (about 1/2"). I'll explain why later. If you don't have a truck or you're just like me and hate trying to rip down massive sheets of plywood, a great option is to order project panels from You can even order them cut to a custom size.

2.Apply edge banding to all raw plywood edges, trim and sand smooth. If you are going to stain or paint your bench, do so before assembly. 

3. I recommend building the frame separately, in your shop or garage. Join 2 x 4 x 76-1/2" boards with 2 x 4 x 96" boards to create two, 172-1/2" long rails. 

4. Connect long rails together with a 14-1/4" cross piece on each end. Secure using glue and 2-1/2" screws.

5. You will create two, ladder-looking grids. One for the top of the bench frame, and one for the bottom. For the top, Space cross supports 41-1/2" apart. Pre-drill through the side rails and into the end of the cross supports. Attach using glue and 2-1/2" screws. Make sure the head of each screw are sunk below the surface of the wood. 

6. For the bottom grid, space cross supports 20" apart. Attach using glue and 2-1/2" screws driven from the ends.

7. Place the bottom grid on the floor. Align corner studs with the corners of the bottom grid. Attach using glue and 2-1/2" screws through pocket holes. 

8. Place remaining 11" studs, centered over each cross support. Space front studs 18" apart and space back 39-1/2" apart. Attach using glue and 2-1/2" screws through pocket holes. 

9. Place top grid onto the frame. Align corners and attach using glue and 2-1/2" screws through pocket holes.

10. Align 2 x 2  supports between dividers, flush to the top of the back rail. Attach using glue and 2-1/2" screws, driven horizontally.

11. At this point the inner frame is built and ready to be moved into place. Likely, you will need to remove baseboards so the frame can sit tightly against the wall. 

Use shims to ensure the frame sits level, front to back and side to side. 

12. Locate the studs in the wall behind the bench (and on the ends if applicable). Typically, studs in an interior wall are 24" center to center and 16" center to center in an exterior wall. 

Pre-drill and drive 4" screws through frame and into each stud, one through the top and one through the bottom rail. Do a wiggle test to make sure the frame is secure. 

13. Apply construction adhesive to the back of the face boards. Stick them to the frame, making sure the top edges are flush and level. Either recruit a helper or use a few clamps to hold the panel in place. 

 If you don't have a brad nailer, don't worry! You could pre-drill and use 2" screws instead. Actually, screws would work even better. The threads of the screw will pull the face panel "in" more effectively. Brad nailing saves time and money but won't be quite as strong. 

Normally, you would want to drive nails in the direction you want the wood to be pulled (into the frame vs. away). I recommend driving the brads from the back on this application only because we don't want to mess up the beautiful surface on the pre-finished panels. 

Remember when I told you to leave two of each panel long? Measure the exact width from the wall to the next panel, then cut to length exactly. Wall's aren't perfect and waiting to cut the last panels will give you a cleaner fit.  

Secure using 2" brads through the backside of the frame. 

14. Align 3-1/2" wide top boards, flush against the back wall. Attach to 2 x 2 below by driving 2" screws from the bottom.

15. Attach piano hinges using 5/8" #6 screws. Mount doors, allowing a 1/8" gap between each for movement.

If you cannot find 21" piano, or continuous hinges, you can easily cut longer hinges down to size. I found a website where you can order piano hinges in any length

16. To make opening the doors easier, you will want to drill a finger hole. Adding a hole is also extremely recommend if you have children in the house, so suffocation isn't even a remote possibility.

Decide on where you would like the hole placed and place a strip of tape on both sides of the door. Gently, use a 3/4" forstner bit to drill a hole. You may want to drill half way, then flip the door and drill from the other direction to help avoid plywood blowout. 

17. Since four little hands will be opening and closing the doors of this bench regularly, adding *soft-closing lid stays was a priority. We followed the directions included with the lid-stays and installed one on each door. 

18. Apply caulk at the seams where the bench meets to wall and floor. If you have a large gap at the floor seam, you may want to nail on a strip of 1/2", quarter round trim to create a nicer transition. 

The last step is to fill the bench compartments with toys and let Alex do her decorating magic!

diy modern plywood built-in storage bench tutorial

It took some trial and error to find soft-close supports that would work well. I'm super happy with the ones we finally chose. The doors are easy to open but close softly and smoothly. 

We just created almost 36 sq ft. of awesomely hidden storage. That's a lot of Tonka trucks. I'm pretty jealous.

The pre-finished maple was a dream to work with! The top coat is as smooth as butter and Alex's family can feel good knowing their new storage bench won't be off-gassing formaldehyde into their home.

Guys, I cannot believe how stunning Alex made this space. I need to recruit her help and her textile mix-and-match mojo. You HAVE to go see the whole reveal!

modern boho living room built in bench storage

Big thanks to PureBond for the gorgeous project panels and Rennai from @ten22studio for the extraordinary photos! 

Do you have an awkward space that needs some organization? Pin the image below to save the idea for later. Go check out Alex's blog and prepare to fall in love. 

diy modern built-in storage bench maple plywood tutorial

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  1. This is so fantastic! Great job. :)

  2. I love the look! Can you tell me more about where to find the coffee table, area rug, and throw pillows? thanks

  3. Thanks for your very detailed instructions! Prefer your website, unique content.

  4. Wow the bench turned out beautifully and so much great storage!


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