How to build a book nook bench

May 09, 2011

I’m finally back with the how-to on the book nook closet. Sorry it took me awhile, but I wanted to make sure I got to all the details and plenty of pictures!

First of all – I was totally flying by the seat of my pants throughout this whole thing. If something didn’t work quite right I just figured out a way to fix it. It’s SO not perfect.

I started with the base, and this part was all scrap mdf from this staircase project.

I’ll show you pics and then explain:


I did my measurements and laid everything out to make sure it would work. Then I started securing everything to the walls with long screws.

I did not take the baseboards off. Our baseboards are practically soldered onto our walls, so they stayed. And they gave me a good strong base to secure the mdf to.

I added the center support and screwed in in from the front (it split the mdf a bit, which is OK.) On the back part I just screwed it in from an angle.

Then I covered it with slats of scrap mdf:

how to build a bench in closet

I used a bead of wood glue first, then my nail gun to secure it along the frame.

You can see that I didn’t use one big piece of mdf – I was trying to use what I had, so I just cut them to the right length and made them work.

Then it was on to the bench! I used more scrap mdf for this one too:

how to build a bench seat

I did this one very similar to the bottom base. The main difference was finding the studs – as many as possible! And our closet only had three – one on each wall.

I was a bit concerned that three wouldn’t hold up my booty, so I added screws in the corners (where I knew the closet was framed) to get some more support. I held up the center braces with brackets I had in my stash.

Then I took wood from our old DIY sofa table (I took it down a while ago) to make the seat. I installed them in that direction (coming out from the back of the closet) because five of those boards just happened to fit perfect that way.

If you don’t have scrap wood for a project like this, just have a piece of wood or plywood cut to the exact size of your bench. (Hardware stores will do this for you!)

Because I installed the wood that direction, and I was working around the door frame inside the closet, the wood didn’t match up just right at the front. I used a piece of scrap wood from our powder room across the front:

closet bench

But there were still gaps. I thought I could cover that with the seat cushion, so I just cut the foam with a little bump out so it would cover all the gaps.

I made the cushion like I make headboards, like I showed you here.

I even used scrap foam (I scored a big roll at Goodwill a couple of years ago) for the seat cushion!


Because I didn’t have a ton of studs to work with, I was a bit nervous about the stability of the bench. I sat on it over and over and it was fine, but wanted to add a little somethin’ to make it even more sturdy.

Dad suggested a couple more supports against the door frame:

support for bench

And it did the trick! I have no doubt this will hold up to many sits for many years. :)

(And no, I didn’t fill the holes under there.)

The bench was DONE – so it was onto the shelves. I used a 1” x 2” piece of wood to build a bracket:

DIY book shelves

Then I used more scrap wood from the sofa table (hence the brown!) and nailed it into the “bracket.” I finished it off with a piece of mdf on the front, and then just painted it underneath so it melted in with the wall.

**If I was really good (and patient) I would have covered the bottom with another piece of wood…but I’m not. :)

There’s a few issues I hit as I went through the process, and I figured them out along the way. The first was covering where the hinges and the strike on the door frame were.

I got a couple of pieces of the thin lattice boards (like I used for the Bub’s “board and batten”) and nailed them over the frame:


The top piece was another scrap, so it’s a tiny bit thicker. I caulked the hinge part (picture on the left) and still need to do that a bit more up in the corners.

My cushion idea (cutting the foam to hang over a bit) worked pretty well, but then my (not good) cutting job on the foam was showing through and it was driving me crayyyyzay. (It was ragged and you could tell.)

I found more scrap wood, cut it to the exact right size, and then wedged it into the door frame right in front of the cushion:

pirate pillows I didn’t even nail it in. It stays put!

Usually I miter the corners of the mdf at 45 degree angles, but this time I just butt them up against each other and it worked great!:

You can see how they meet up from underneath:

I still need to caulk a few spots, but this gives you an idea.

I didn’t continue the mdf around the back of the bookshelves:

I knew it would take up valuable book space. And you can’t see back there with the books anyway. :)

Now…for the goodies – the sources for the cute stuff!

The light was from Menards for $12, but I was at Lowe’s today and found this cutie for about $18:

The basket was from TJ Maxx (already had it) and the “book” label was a cheap chalkboard from Joann’s that’s been in the basement:

The “NOOK” letters are cardboard, also from Joann’s, and spray painted in Pistachio spray paint (from Valspar I believe?)

The fabric is from Joann’s as well – I only need a bit so it was less than $10!

Oh, and the cutie pirate pillows were a HomeGoods find a few weeks ago, $10 each. I love how all of the colors came together!!

Throw all that together, and you get the cutest book nook I ever did see:

book nook Whew!! :)

I am playing with the idea of a drape off to the side – hubby thinks it would be so cool. (For the Bub, of course.)

I hope that helps! It was NOT hard! I promise you. It just took time and patience. I’ve never built anything on my own, and this went so well for me.

And I had a blast doing it!

If you have any additional questions, please let me know and I’ll answer them in the comments!

Thanks again for all the love on this project!

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  1. I like how the wall art outside the nook totally coordinates too. Good job!

    Robin the Super Mom from Missouri

  2. Amazing amazing amazing!!! I absolutely LOVE how this turned out! And I always love your little solutions to everything. Genius!

  3. I cant tell you how inspirational you remind me so much of me! It doesnt need to be perfect....but can still turn out great. Youve added value to your home, and thats fantastic. Keep it coming!

  4. Sarah, it's so wonderful to read how you did this! I am wishing I had a spare closet somewhere to totally cheat cheater pumpkin eater copy this. My little boy is 3 1/2 and totally into nooks and books and such. And I spy a pirate pillow! They could be buddies.

    Congrats on another great project well done.

  5. Gah! Will you be my sister? You know, the kind of sister that calls and asks if she can come over and make your house all cute?

  6. I think a curtain would look perfect. Such an inviting spot.

  7. This is the cutest use of a "random" nook ever! I'm sure your son just LOVES it!!!


  9. LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! Great job!

  10. So creative! What a great job with so many random pieces! Just awesome!

  11. I love the dark paint color for the ceiling of the nook - it makes it even cosier. Love your blog too!

  12. cute! i'm dreaming RIGHT NOW where i can put this in my house...sadly i don't have an appropriate closet! which is a bummer. great job!

  13. This is SO adorable! My wheels are turning about where I could add one of these! Fantastic!!

    Great space AND encourages a love for reading...makes my teacher heart smile! :)

  14. Love how you served up a dish of Booyah to the sis. I like to do that every now and then too. You know, keep 'em in their places. ;) (By the way, my sis would never ever offer to help me clean out anything--you must have a one in a million)

    Great step by step here. Thanks for sharing your sources. :)

  15. This nook is the cutest thing I've ever seen, I'm walking around my house trying to figure out where to put one - love it!

  16. This looks fantastic... Makes me want kids! Or at least find some Wonderland elixer so I can chill out in my closets!

  17. What about the trim on the front of the bench and bottom shelf? Does it end at the door jamb? What kind of trim is it? Thank you! I love this:)

  18. So adorabale!! Your little guy is one lucky kiddo to have such a clever and crafty Mama!!


  19. Thanks for sharing the nook idea.

    One thing that has bothered me since you made the play area is the hooks on which the costume parts are hung. They are exposed, and should your son (or YOU) fall onto them from above, could poke out an eye, rip a cheek, etc. A simple way to avoid this problem is to install a shelf right above it. An ounce of prevention, you know!

  20. Cute as ever. I mean really cute as ever. How did you wire the light??

  21. first let me start off by saying i'm ADDICTED to your post now:) absolutely LURV IT!!! i love the nook!!! i wish i had an extra closet (or power tools...) to do that for my daughters!!! now sorry for being a worry wort, but is your bubbs big enough to climb from the nook onto the loft edge? maybe it just looks close in pics...

  22. That is just great !!
    I have been on my hubby to build a couple closets .. & built-ins in another.. Since he framed the rooms downstairs I Know he can do it. but he drags his feet !
    now you have convinced me I Can do it !! :-)
    beautiful work .. :-)

  23. White, Yes, that front trim just ends at the door frame! I got it at Lowes years ago -- this was scrap. :)

  24. Anon, no it's not close enough to do that. Even if it was, our kiddo isn't a climber.

  25. Love, love love! You are so inspirational! Thank you for sharing your ideas and projects. I now have a running list of all the things I want to do in my house. But I am so overloaded I don't know where to start! Keep up the good work!

  26. Super cute! And I am very intrigued by the wall art outside the door on the right. Is it another diy project?

  27. I love your website and your ideas! And because I'm an editor, I have to tell you (don't take offense) that you spell "peice" wrong.

  28. That is awesome! I would have loved to have had a little book nook like that when I was a kid. Although, my parents probably would have had a hard time getting me out of it! I was one of those kids that turned on the flashlight so I could read when I was supposed to be in bed sleeping.

    Fantastic job Sarah!

    ~ Tracy

  29. Thanks Sherri -- you can find that project here!

  30. Hey Sarah - This is so cute I could die. Thank you for the great tutorial. I have cleaned out one of the closets in my son's room so I can try to recreate one of these for my little man. One question, what is the purpose of the bottom platform? Is it just for looks or does it provide a benefit?

  31. Very cute!
    A half curtain on a tension rod would let your Bub use this as a puppet theater too if he is into that sort of thing-my daughter loved hers when she was little; we used a tension rod in her closet for "showtime."

  32. Oh so cute! I wish we had a little spot in our house we could pull this off. Maybe we can a little somethin' like it in our son's closet. It's pretty big, and he's so into reading right now. Wouldn't that be cool?! Thanks for all your inspiration!

  33. Hi Sarah,

    I am your newest follower! Love your site! This nook bench would be perfect in a small space that I have about the same size! Thanks for the idea! Stop by and see us at

  34. This turned out absolutely incredible! I know I would have loved a reading nook when I was a kid. I can't wait to have children and do fun projects for them like this. You're awesome!

  35. This is beyond adorable! I love the added light.


  36. I'm at a loss for words...this is just adorable, perfect, etc. I can just imagine all the memories that will take place right there.

    YOU ARE AMAZING and such a thoughtful momma! I dream to do things you do someday....mmmm.

  37. That is such a great idea!!! Good job! Love it!

  38. I love the book nook! You just keep coming up with more and more really neat ideas. I always love to see what is next!

  39. SO totally cute. Love it! And love how you were green. (re-using old wood).

  40. You've out done yourself with this one! Fabulous! I didn't think it could get any better, but a curtain draped to the side would be awesome !

  41. It looks so cute and inviting!! I remember as a kid playing in the little closet at my grandmother's house and it was my favourite place to be. I'd love to crawl into your nook right about now... :)

  42. Love it! You have me thinking I should be asking for some tools for my birthday! I blogged about you and your terrific blog (I think it was last week or the week before) and all the inspiration I found for my son's room! Keep inspiring us all!

  43. WOW! I'm blown away, that looks absolutely fantastic! I'm not sure if I have the skills you do but I'd love to attempt something like this! Thanks for sharing!

    I just started a new blog, and I'd love for you to come check it out!

  44. LOVE! How did you plug in the light fixture?

  45. I love that nook. That turned out great.

  46. I love this! What a cute idea and keeps all the books contained. I never liked offices in closets, but a book nook is great!

  47. I have been in love with this idea since you shared it! You did a fabulous job!

    Perhaps I missed it, but what is the name of the paint color for the top of the closet? I just love the colors you chose.

  48. Coolio! Now I just have to adapt it for the corner of my daughter's bedroom. She wants a reading nook like nobody's business!!

  49. It looks so cozy, Sarah. Great job! When you mentioned the possibility of a curtain, it gave me an idea. You could give the space another use if you occasionally put up a tension rod with a curtain, halfway up from the cushion. Then your little Bub could do a puppet show from inside. Just an idea! Thanks for sharing all your great stuff!

  50. SO cute! What an awesome idea. Looks like somewhere anyone would love to go read!

  51. I love it! What was the paint color you used? I just love it and my guest bath is in desperate need of a change!

  52. This is AWESOME! Fantastic job!


  53. I LOVE this idea! So cute and perfect for my super-small closet. How did you figure out the electrical for the light?

  54. In regards to the light question -- we had an electrician hook up the light. He snaked it up from a plug in our guest room nearby. It took him no time at all and he didn't even have to cut into the drywall!

  55. The paint color above the white is from Lowe's and is called Pond. It's such a beautiful, deep blue green color!

  56. Love this!! Can you tell me what size wood that you used for the trim around the whole thing? Thanks!!!!

  57. Ya know? I'm pretty sure men invented the average closet. (Sorry) This is genius. I've been looking for something to do with my (average) frontroom closet and THIS IS IT! I can't wait to try this. I have so many scraps in my garage from bunkbeds and stuff. My books are driving me INSANE in the hallway shelves and we have a TON of books. I'm gonna post mine on my blog (Hope you don't mind) and I'll credit you for the idea. I LOVE this.

  58. Love the reading nook, my two year old loves books and this would be perfect for him. I plan on incorporating my dog's crate into it. It is so ugly and takes up a ton of room, so I plan to partially enclose it under the bench.

  59. Oh my goodness...I have a hall closet that collects clutter like you wouldn't believe! I am sooo doing this. What a great idea and a fun little thing to make a house a cozy home. My house does not have enough nooks and crannies.
    What is the size of this closet?

  60. My 13 year old daughter is in love with this idea and we're going to try to pull it off just the two of us! Thanks for the inspiration!


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!