Mid-century modern furniture represents an era of American history where simple and minimal designs were both elegant and incredibly provocative. Now, close to a century later, niche collectors have cornered the market on all things Mid-century. Unfortunately, this means that vintage items from the era can run up to several thousand dollars in price.
But with a little ingenuity and some elbow grease, you can get that same feel in your home-away-from-home for far less than an original. Comprising of thin hardwood boards sanded, stained, and placed in a slatted design atop four tapered legs, this Mid-century inspired bench pulls triple-duty in your vacation rental as seating, a side table and the ever-needed luggage rack. With all the look of furniture from the 1950s but without the price tag, this project is must for all fans of Mid-century design.
Build A Bench For Your Vacation Rental Home!
To get started, here’s what you’ll need:
- (3) 1” x 2” x 8’ oak wood board
- (1) 1” x 3” x 4’ oak wood board
- (4) 20” round tapered legs and hardware
- Miter/circular Saw
- Orbital sander
- Coarse and fine-grit sanding sheets
- Wood stain and sealer
- Wood glue
- Pneumatic nail gun
- 1-1/2” pneumatic nails
- Speed square
Safety First: When using a power saw or any other power tools, make sure that you always use proper safety equipment and operate the tool following the manufacturer’s specifications.
Now you are ready to get started. These three easy steps will have your bench ready for use in no time!
1. Source Materials
When it comes to creating a beautifully handcrafted piece of furniture, the raw materials you start with make all the difference. While the inspiration for this DIY project is manufactured with sturdy walnut wood, it can tend to be on the pricey side.
I opted to go with oak, another hardwood that was plentiful at my local hardware store. You can save yourself a little bit of money by buying the wood boards at the longest length available and cutting them down to size for this project.
For the slats, you’ll need to take the three long oak boards and cut them into 30-inch pieces. Eight of these slats, placed a half of an inch apart, will be used to make up the bench top. You’ll also need to cut the other oak board into two 14-in. pieces. These will act as a mounting place for the legs and add much needed support as the wood base for the frame. If you don’t have a miter or circular saw at your disposal, most hardware stores will cut the wood for you.
The round tapered legs iconic of Mid-century furniture can be complicated to make, even with a jig or a wood turning setup. Buying the legs already tapered and threaded makes for a quick install and only sets you back a few bucks each.
2. Prep Wood
Mid-century furniture is all about the finish. This is where your sander makes quick work transforming raw wood into finished furniture parts. To get the polished look, you’ll want to start with coarse grit sandpaper and work your way up to a fine grit sandpaper. Slow and steady is key here! After you have thoroughly sanded all the pieces, it’s time to apply your stain.
A classic walnut stain is the traditional choice, but you really have a limitless amount of options when it comes to the overall look. When staining, avoid overloading your brush, or you may risk drips and bubbles ruining the sanding job. Take breaks between coats to allow the wood to fully absorb the pigment and dry. Protect the stain with a polyurethane sealer for a durable and long-lasting appearance.
There are a couple of ways you can go about piecing together the bench top, but I found it easiest to lay out the slatted pattern onto a scrap piece of wood that can then be used as a guide. This handy tool will help you to keep equal spacing of a half-inch gap between the boards and square board alignment.
Once you are confident on the layout, use a pneumatic nail gun and wood glue to secure the slats to the wood base with a few nails. After the bench top has been built, flip it over and attach the leg hardware to the wood base. Screw the legs into the attached hardware and flip the bench over to admire your handiwork.
This Mid-century inspired slatted wood bench makes a fantastic addition to your bedroom and bathroom because it provides endless usability and a chic, refined form. Top your bench with a vase of flowers, some fresh towels or a few books to bring some charming vintage character into your living area.
Keep in mind that an inexpensive weekend project like this can bring you so much more ROI than buying new or shelling out for an original. Don’t forgot to maintain the high shine by sanding and re-applying the sealer when the finish starts to dull. With a little love, this wood bench is sure to remain a permanent fixture in your vacation rental home for years to come.
Mateo Londono is a longtime contributor to the Krrb blog, focusing on the construction principles of clothing, furniture and architecture. He also writes about projects like this one for The Home Depot. If you are inspired to do a similar project, Home Depot has a wide selection of sanders and other tools and materials.