I have made several dresser benches over the years. My original old dresser into a bench was one of my very first projects when I started this journey on repurposed furniture. But there’s one project I’ve been wanting to do after seeing several versions online. It’s a dresser storage bench, but it’s more like an old time gossip bench. It takes a special dresser—an oversized or much longer than normal dresser.
My neighbor Rodney promised me a bunch of furniture last summer, but I never really had room for it. Recently, he needed the space, so I made the room to take on this dresser, a chest of drawers, headboard and a nightstand.
How to make a storage bench out of a dresser
I wish I could tell you how much I LOVE the final outcome, if you were here, you might even see me doing a happy dance! This is a long drawn out process, so feel free to grab your favorite drink and a snack—or just scroll through the pretty pictures. It’s your choice!
Begin by removing components you don’t need
The first thing I did was remove the fake louvered doors from the middle of the dresser. You’ll see these doors used on a project very soon!
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Next, I tackled removing the top of the dresser. If you do a project like this, resist the urge to start banging with a hammer and look for any screws or fasteners that may be holding the top in place. In this case there were screws along the side (underneath) and very long screws all across the back of the dresser. Be sure to keep all of the screws in a safe place because you will be using them later.
Start designing your dresser bench
Once the top was removed, I had to decide if I was going to keep the left drawer section or the right one. Because the dresser top was messed up on the right side, I chose to keep the left drawer section. I removed the partition that held the right drawer section in place as well as all the drawer guides. At this point the dresser is pretty much an empty shell.
Being careful to remove all screws and fasteners where I needed to cut the top, I measured a section to replace on the left side where the drawers would remain. I love this jaw stand to help hold oversized pieces of lumber. This saw stand is way too tall to use saw horses.
Using wood glue will make your cheap dresser bench more sturdy
To replace the original top on the left side, I reused the plastic dowels and screws in addition to using my favorite Gorilla Wood Glue.
Doesn’t it look great? It’s starting to come along, but still needs lots of TLC.
I measured the width of the open area to see how long I needed to cut the bench seat (out of the original dresser top)
Try to reuse many parts of the original dresser
This is the dry fit of the dresser bench seat. I use quick clamps to support the seat while I make adjustments. The seat is too deep—you can see it extends beyond the front.
The depth was trimmed by ripping it on the table saw.
Wood glue and wood screws add strength to your new dresser storage bench
In order to hold the seat in place I cut cleats out of some of the original pieces of the dresser, securing the cleats with Gorilla Wood Glue and wood screws.
The seat is quite wide, and not very sturdy, so it will need a support in the center.
Does YOUR work area look like this when you’re busy working on projects?
If you don’t have a pocket hole jig, you can use “L” brackets. However, if you do a lot of projects, I highly recommend you investing in one of these jigs. For more details see my post How To Use A Kreg Jig
Evaluate your progress
The pocket holes go up into the seat, and down into the bottom of the dresser. Truth in blogging here… I had the dresser laying on it’s back when I installed the center brace, and the seat was not resting on the cleats. Therefore I cut the brace a little too tall, and you can see a slight bow in the seat. On the next day that I worked on this project, I removed the center brace and trimmed it so that it fit better.
Here’s where I tell you that you could get the same results with the top left if you used a jigsaw or a circular saw to cut the top while it’s in place. BUT—look how nice that cut is that I got using the compound miter saw.
Scrap lumber helps support original cheap construction
The back of these cheap dressers are generally cardboard. It’s okay for looks, but it’s definitely not strong enough to attach a back for the bench. I used some scrap 1×2’s to support the back. More wood glue and pocket holes made a strong support.
You can see the 1×2’s in place (back) and 2×4’s added in order to have something to secure the side boards.
On the original dresser bench I made I used the drawer fronts for the back. On another I used bead board. I checked my scraps and I didn’t have anything big enough for this project.
Use hardwood floor scraps for bead board
Enter PLAN B ! Because I never throw anything away, including these small scrap pieces of hardwood flooring, I was in good shape. I think I originally cut them to use as a bench seat, but chose not to use them because they weren’t strong enough. I picked them all out of the milk crate and hoped for the best!
At the very end of the second work day, I laid them all out on a porch to see if I had enough pieces and decided I did. I set forth trying to decide which way I wanted to use the hardwood floor scraps. On the left, it looks a little plain, and since I had wanted bead board, I decided to go with the style on the right.
On the third work day I marked each board individually, cut it, then sanded it, then nailed it. After each board was in place I repeated the sequence on all remaining boards.
I did have to rip the last board on the back (far right), and the front and back board on the side. Look at how many pieces I had to spare when I was finished. THREE! (more on this later)
Be creative when filling in gaps
This photo may be difficult to figure out. The 2×4’s extended a slight bit beyond the original boards on the side of the bench. When I got to the front of the bench, I had to add a paint stick to match the distance with the 2×4’s. Oops! the floor board and the paint stick protrude a little . . .
Look at the bottom right of this picture. You can see the original boards where the drawer glides were attached. It needs a little bit of cosmetic work.
I was able to use yet another original piece of the dresser to cover up that gap on the bottom right.
It may be necessary to add an extra brace
This dresser had some water damage and the bottom brace was a mess. I removed it and used an old 2×4 secured with wood glue and wood screws (inserted from the side into the 2×4).
Adding trim will bring the look together
I ripped a 1×4 to use as trim for the back of the dresser bench, and a full sized 1×4 for the arm rest.
See the patched place on the left side toward the front? More on that later as well.
I patched all the nail holes and the holes that were left from removing original parts of the dresser. Because the trim around the bottom was in such bad shape, I replaced all of it with 1×6’s.
This thing is a monster! The only way I can move it is with small furniture dollies.
This is where things get a little long winded. You can learn from my mistakes by reading the details, or just skip all the text and look at the pictures.
It’s all in the color
After one light coat of the diy chalky paint primer.
This is after 2 light coats of the chalky paint primer, and two light coats of the Marquee paint straight from the can. (satin)
The WRONG color
Here’s where it went wrong. I didn’t want to wax this huge piece, so I tried to take the easy way out and use a spray sealer on it. It left it splotchy and overall a MESS!
I sanded it down all over with some brown craft paper so I could repaint it.
Don’t get discouraged
More DIY chalky paint primer. Note the new mesh paint strainer. I lost the old one and had to break out a new one. I used the plaster of paris with my favorite Polished Pearl (semi-gloss).
After the first light coat of the chalky paint primer. I did a very light sanding to make the surfaces more smooth. Remember earlier when I told you about that patched place? It’s so noticeable! I realized I should try to add more of the hardwood flooring (bead board) to cover that side as well.
It added more work, but I had to dig in a different stash of old hardwood flooring to find any pieces that matched. I found just enough to cover that left side. As I said, it was a lot of trouble and I did NOT want to do it, but I knew that blemish would haunt me if I didn’t.
I attached this side the same as I did the earlier hardwood bead board.
Because color can make or break a great project
It was time to finish off the project with more diy chalky paint primer, and three light coats of the Polished Pearl Semi-Gloss.
It’s getting there! Now it’s time to add new hardware!
Easy Hardware Installation
These kind of cup pulls can be difficult to line up just right.
See my post Apple Caddy for a great video on how to use this fabulous jig.
This Kreg hardware installation jig is a dream for installing any kind of hardware, but like I said there is no leeway on these cup pulls.
The best thing about this hardware jig, you drill your pilot hole right through the guides.
I used my self centering tape measure to find the center of the drawer areas. I matched it up with the center of the jig. Full Disclosure–I love, love, love the way these pulls look, but they accidentally have packaged the wrong screws with them. My drawers are pretty standard, but the screws were too long. I contacted D. Lawless and they sent me the right screws and they are taking action to make sure that going forward, the right screws are included with each order. Love those guys!
Great source for foam upholstery projects
This 3” foam is a great deal at Home Depot online. I ordered it and picked it up at my local store.
I won’t give you a tutorial on upholstery, or making cushion covers. After searching online, I found some tips and sort of combined them to make this boxy cover envelope style so the cover can be removed.
I got this greek key fabric on clearance at Hobby Lobby for $4 a yard. There were three yards left on the bolt, so I just bought it all. Initially I didn’t plan on making pillows, but since I had fabric left over, I thought it would really make the bench look better to have pillows. I made envelope covers and inserted thrift store pillows to keep costs down.
Because I don’t really enjoy sewing, I don’t sew a lot. The cushion cover was a struggle for me, but I knocked out four of these covers out in no time. I inserted the thrift store pillow backwards so that the braiding won’t show through. It wasn’t till I got the fabric home that I noticed the gray shadowing in the fabric. I LOVE it!
Storage Bench Seat made from a Dresser
Who would have thought that this would all come together and look so good—after that brown paint debacle? You probably know I go into most projects without a plan. I never intended to make a cushion and pillows.
. . . but I love, love, love the look of the storage bench with the cushion and pillows. The fourth pillow? It’s a small travel pillow. They are a really inexpensive option to buying pillow forms.
Wow! Are you tired just reading all of this? This project dragged on longer than most of my projects. I suppose a lot of that had to do with the weather. Because it was so cold, I had to bring the drawers in to work on the hardware installation.
I hope I’ve inspired you to look a junky furniture in a whole new way. Aren’t I lucky that I get to do what I love?
Another great storage seating option is this Mission Style Bed Bench with Storage