Transform your Pockmarked IKEA Bench into a Thing of Beauty

Someday I’ll tell you all about my love/hate relationship with IKEA:  that I don’t understand how a business specializing in furnishing small, urban spaces – ridiculously small spaces – requires you to drive for half a day from your modest city apartment to the sprawling edge of the suburbs.  And how, by the time you get home, the veneer on your 600-pound particleboard bookshelf has already started to warp and bubble.


Glad to see IKEA finally responding to the needs of the color-blind urban Unicyclist.

But then I may also tell you how finding the IKEA catalog in the mailbox is a serious event in my home.  I lay in bed, browsing its colorful pages and drifting into white-washed Scandanavian dreams:  my blonde children quietly playing on their child-sized furniture, my husband and I sipping French-pressed coffee and reading the Stockholm newspaper, me on my second year of government-paid maternity leave, he on his eighth week of paid vacation.

But for now, let me show you how I transformed our structurally sound but cosmetically disastrous IKEA Sigurd bench into a thing of beauty.
IMG_2069It’s a solid bench, and never wobbled for a second. But after just a few months in our dining room, blemishes started to appear on the veneer surface.  Tiny holes in the finish would allow untold gallons of spilled milk to penetrate the vulnerable particleboard below, which would then swell and expand the surface blemishes even further:IMG_2060

IMG_2061Oh, and then there’s that can of polyeurethane I spilled a few months ago. And that bucket of white primer that I knocked over as well:IMG_2062Since it’s nearly impossible to sand and refinish particleboard, I decided to cover the thing in lovely fabric, using roughly the same process as my Floating Headboard.

One beat-up IKEA Sigurd bench
Oil-cloth or Laminate fabric
Foam padding (not entirely necessary)
Staple Gun

STEP ONE – DISMANTLE: Remove the seat from the base of the bench by unscrewing the brackets.  Store the screws and brackets in a closed Tupperware container or sealed bag, because, if you’re like me, you’ll get bored and unscrew the seat panel “just to see what happens” but not actually start the project for a couple of weeks. That is plenty of time to lose your screws.
IMG_2064IMG_2065STEP TWO – SELECT FABRIC & FOAM:  Choose a fabric designated as “oilcloth” or “laminated.” You could also get away with using an outdoor (plasticky) tablecloth or even an old shower curtain. Anything that is slick enough to easily wipe clean. Unless you don’t have small kids, then do whatever you want.  I chose a grey-and-white chevron pattern because I am mildly addicted to chevrons, but have limited myself to one chevron-patterned item in each room.

To get the correct amount of fabric and interface, measure your seat panel and add about ten inches extra on all sides (five inches if you’re not using a foam pad).

PRO-TIP!  It is not completely necessary to use padding on your bench. This is a very personal decision and you should consider the length of your meals, the size of your ass(es) and how comfortable you want to make dinner guests. I was leaning away from using foam padding, mostly because I am lazy (please don’t make me go to Jo-Anne fabrics again) and cheap. A bench-sized piece of High Density Urethane foam will set you back at least $50 (U.S).

Then, the night before I finished this project, I took the baby on a walk to the store.  It was a big moving weekend in Chicago and the alleys were bursting with treasure. Would you believe my luck? I found a perfectly good (mostly) roll of three-inch thick foam perched atop a trash can, charmingly tied up with twine. And it fit right on top of the stroller!
V__A6F1Especially if you acquire your foam from an, ahem, non-traditional source, you’ll need to cut it down to size (and lightly spray with vinegar to eliminate the smell). Simply trace the outline of the seat panel on your foam, then grab your scariest kitchen knife and stab away the excess.  IMG_2074


Neither of us can remember where this knife came from. To my knowledge, it has never been used on food.

STEP THREE — COVER:  Make a sandwich out of your interfacing, foam and seat panel, checking that there is a uniform amount of interfacing on all sides. IMG_2094 Pull the interfacing tightly over the foam and staple it to the bottom of the seat panel, far enough towards the middle that you will have room to attach your legs again. IMG_2095 Since you can see through the interfacing, mark the screw holes with a black marker so you don’t forget where to re-attach the brackets.
IMG_2100Now, do it again with the fabric, placing it right-side-down on your kitchen table, then pulling and stapling onto the seat board. Again, use a marker to note the location of the screw holes.IMG_2104STEP FOUR – REASSEMBLE:
Place the leg base back on top of your upside-down seat panel. Line up the screw holes on the leg base with the marks you’ve made on the seat.  IMG_2113Depending on the thickness of your fabric, you may need to create “pilot holes” through the fabric and interfacing with a sewing needle to give the screws easier access to their home holes.IMG_2121Screw your brackets back in and go to bed.
IMG_2125When you wake up the next morning, enthusiastically reveal the newly-transformed, cushier, fantastically more stylish bench to your children. Then try to ignore the four-year-old when she tell you that she doesn’t like it when things change.


11 thoughts on “Transform your Pockmarked IKEA Bench into a Thing of Beauty

    • Thanks for the tip! Our bread knife is really dull right now, so instead I went for the mysterious, very long serrated knife. I can’t tell what kind of knife it is, or what (or whom) it is meant to cut. My 12-year-old calls it the “Count Olaf” knife — anybody read “A Series of Unfortunate Events”?

      But since I was covering the foam in a layer of interfacing and then a layer of fabric, I could deal with slightly jagged edges. What did you use your foam for?

      Liked by 1 person

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