Bespoke or stacking an enormous cabinet?
April 16, 2018 8:26 PM   Subscribe

This does not appear to be a thing outside my fevered brain and bespoke interiors. Our living room will have one 9m/29ft wall where I want to run a single super long bench about 8m x 45cm high x 70cm deep so I can use it for extra bench seating, as a shelf for some large framed art, bookshelf, lamps etc. I'm wondering if buying 4x2m cabinets and placing them side by side would be enough (cheaper!), or if I need to bite the bullet and commission a proper 8m long bench cabinet to be built. The lack of other people doing this is freaking me out over what is a chunk of my furniture budget. Advice?

The bench needs to be sturdy and fixed to the wall (so it can't be off-the-shelf IKEA) and I want it to be visually of one piece, not a bunch of separate units. I'm fine having drawers either built in or rolling underneath for additional storage.

I can't find any blog DIY guides to putting 'em together outside of the usual window seat ideas which also stop at about that length.

We live in an area where you cannot just buy planks of wood at a local hardware shop to DIY. I would be ordering the units from China or through a contractor, ditto for the wood.
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Re: the lack of other people doing this, I think that sounds great. And, I would totally do it if I had one long continuous wall like that. I would contract to have a nice, but simple and sturdy one built to order. And, I know it isn't a cat or doggo, but pics please when whatever you do is done. I think it is going to be great.
posted by Gotanda at 8:43 PM on April 16, 2018

I would definitely use prebuilt cabinets for this project. In fact, I would probably use Ikea cabinets (I've used them for other projects—they're very sturdy), bolted together and resting on a slightly recessed base made of 2x4 lumber painted to match your woodwork—of course, you could also use an Ikea base. I would anchor the cabinets to the wall with Ikea hardware, which after all is strong enough to hold a cabinet full of dishes.

Doors or drawers would hide the white interior and Ikea makes end pieces for exposed cabinet sides.

You could do the whole project with just a power drill and necessary bits and screw driver options.
posted by she's not there at 9:38 PM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just occurred to me that the kitchen cabinets would be too tall for your project and cutting them down to size would be more trouble than it's worth. However, Ikea has bathroom cabinets that might fit (literally) your needs—and, of course, there are plenty of other sources for cabinets. Keep in mind that wood trim on facing edges can tie all of the pieces together, i.e., give you a built-in look.

I wouldn't blow serious money on custom built when this is a relatively easy DIY project.
posted by she's not there at 12:47 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can use the IKEA PS cabinets or you can use the KALLAX singles on their sides. I can tell you for sure the doubles on their side will be too tall; we use them sideways as the base of our beds because the storage is amazing but they make for a very tall bed.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 AM on April 17, 2018

i make benches as you describe all the time myself but it's for seating/storage for bars They're relatively simple to make, I use 2x4's for framing, good plywood stained for the fronts, and then I upholster the top. It's not exactly what you're looking for, but it's just and indication how easy something like this is to construct if you have access to the raw materials. It sounds like that might be an issue for you however.

It's also relatively easy to hack ikea or similar quality items to make it look like custom built ins by skipping the included legs or base and building your own, adding trim where the units join, etc...
If you google Ikea shelving or cabinet hacks it should give you plenty of ideas

Also, I think your idea as you describe it would look fantastic!
posted by newpotato at 3:43 AM on April 17, 2018

People don't do this in homes because it locks you into that arrangement forever and ever, or until you lose your mind from frustration and tear it out, and it's pretty impossible to move even if you can find someone who might want to take it away for free. These might not be barriers for you, but that is why.

For this reason alone I would opt for the modular approach unified into one bench using wall brackets and perhaps a bench seat across the top made from lumber.
posted by Miko at 5:41 AM on April 17, 2018

We have benches like these on three sides of our living room, each about 18 feet long. The top board is 2-inch thick oak (the oak came from a huge 42-inch diameter tree in our yard that died). Set maybe 3/4ths of an inch back is a 3/4 of an inch piece of trim to create a shadow line. About every three feet there are three inch verticals, also oak, to support it and they are also set back 3/4 of an inch to be flush with the aforementioned trim. The supports go the entire depth of the bench/shelf. These measurements may not be exactly right because the intervals are designed to turn out even. We have three rolling oak carts with solid sides that fit within the spaces and two double sets have been given cabinet doors so we can store beer inside them.

But I agree with Miko. These shelf/benches are beautiful but they are very constraining vis-a-vis furniture arrangements. However, having them on one wall, as you plan, instead of three as in our living room should help.
posted by carmicha at 6:31 AM on April 17, 2018

Ikea's KALLAX is pretty good, reasonably sturdy, and the price is okay. I use a 1x4 cube KALLAX at my art space, on its side on the floor, as a shelf and storage. People sometimes stand on it to reach higher pieces that are hung.

They are kinda lightweight so you'll have to use L-brackets to fix them to the wall. And for your use I'd probably set them on a couple of 2x4s, inset from the bottom (like rails under KALLAX "train cars"), one along the back wall and the other 3-4 inches in from the front, to raise them up to comfortable seating height and provide a bit of a toe-kick relief. Well supported and fixed they will handle people sitting on them just fine.

Bonus, of course, is that you're not in for thousands of dollars if you want to do something else with the space after a few years.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:48 AM on April 17, 2018

I have used my EXPEDIT (RIP, closest thing now is KALLAX) shelves in a similar fashion and have taken them apart/modulated them into different types of furniture many times over the 5 years I've had them--I would definitely go with cabinets over having something built (even if you're set on not going Ikea).

Here are some examples of how you can make a one-level cabinet into a bench/storage area
posted by assenav at 9:12 AM on April 17, 2018

I was in Ikea last week and they had a display where they put a BARKABODA countertop on top of some low drawer/cabinet to make a bench. It looked pretty nice.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:58 PM on April 17, 2018

This is a little off the wall, but what about a used church pew. They are often very long and very strong. Storage hassocks underneath for comfy seating.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:06 PM on April 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you all - I went back and forth and have ended up with 4 Kallax sets of 2x5 cubes in long horizontal configurations, for nearly 6m of cube rows, plus an extra 2x2 cube of Kallax as standby if I decide I need more space. I'm raising them all on Pretty Pegs 8" green legs so they look more unified and make them too tall to sit on as a bench, so the kids will be less motivated to clamber all over them and use the sofa instead. I'm lining them up in one long stretch against a pale sage green wall. The bottom cubes will have baskets in them and the top cubes will be clear to hold board games, books, cats, etc. I'm waiting a week or two to see if I like the configuration once they're put in and then I'll have them bolted to the wall for extra stability. Otherwise, I can break them up and move them around into smaller stretches.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:29 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I'm not doing a wooden length over it, much as I'd love to - the cost of plain wood to cover a 6m stretch would be close to $1K and the same for laminate. Plain wood is very expensive here! There's no Home Depot equivalent and lumber/carpentry is the biggest home renovation cost because all wood is imported and marked up hugely. It turned out cheaper for me to technically ship in antique wooden shelves from China than to buy it from IKEA, so I just gave up and went for custom-laminate which was only slightly more expensive.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:32 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

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