DIY Coffee Table: Make a Simple Coffee Table at Home!

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The search for the perfect table…

We haven’t had a coffee table in over two years. Maybe even three years. We decided to donate our old coffee table a few years ago when it became clear that it was dangerous with our growing boys. (It was made of metal and stone.) We were also trying to sell our house, and decided to donate any furniture that would not be coming with us. Fast forward to 2022, and we still don’t have a coffee table in our new home. It hasn’t been a problem, because I like for my space to be empty so that I can visualize what I want to put there. If you read this blog post a few weeks ago, you will know that we have been slowly getting our living room decorated and finished.

I finally had a vision of what I wanted for our coffee table. Our living room layout is a little tricky, and I didn’t want something huge because we need to be able to use the space in front of where the table will go to walk back and forth. It is a high traffic area. I came up with a plan and shared it in my Instagram stories last week. If you missed it, here was the plan:

This configuration is perfect for our home. It gives us a coffee table area, but also saves space since it isn’t that big. And having two ottomans underneath is an added bonus because you get extra seating and it adds to the overall aesthetic. Unfortunately, a lot of these tables are in the thousands as far as price goes. Since that is out of the question, I asked my husband if he could make one for me.

I found a tutorial (here) for a basic bench on Instagram and he modified it to fit my ottomans. Since he built everything, I am going to share his step-by-step process with you, should you decide to make something similar.

Tim’s detailed instructions

Top is 44” x 18”

Sides are 22” x 18”

Face and back are 36”

Legs are 22”

Face and back are connected to the legs with L-brackets; make sure they are low enough to accommodate the L-brackets used for the top. (Obviously, assemble these upside down so the face, back, and legs are flush with the floor and make a smooth single surface for the top).

Sides are connected to the legs with L-brackets (2 brackets per leg, top and bottom; again, upside down).

Top is connected to the legs with L-brackets (face the L-brackets parallel to the sides instead of the face/back).

Cover the plywood edges with banding (using an iron).

Tips: it’s finish work, and the wood is expensive, so be precise with your cuts. Without a huge tool inventory, I managed all the cuts fairly straight with just a circular saw and triangle square, but would have felt better with a table or chop/miter saw, and t-square or chalk line. Make sure corners are square and flush before installing L-brackets.

The opening under the face (for two ottomans) is about 36” x 19”, and the width is 18”, a bit wider than the ottoman diameter. They slide under the face/back easily without too much room to spare. Obviously, the ottoman dimensions determined all of the table’s measurements. Adjust the measurements and lumber accordingly based on your storage needs.

If I could do it over again: I’d find an alternative to the L-brackets. They are passable for joining the wood, but are less stable than a couple two- or three-inch screws through the plywood into the leg (but then you have an ugly screw head to cover up). They also have some flex in the plane of the bracket, so a flush edge on one side doesn’t mean there won’t be a slight gap on the opposite side. Luckily, the banding was sufficient to cover the gaps and (most of) the plywood edge. Surprisingly (to me), the brackets have a lot more flexibility front-to-back than side to side, which is why the top attaches to the legs parallel to the sides; doing it this way reduced the side-to-side flexibility when I initially had the top bracket mounted parallel to the face/back. I would also take off enough of the edges of the top and sides so that the banding is flush. As it is, the banding sticks out a little. Banding is definitely preferable to exposed plywood layers, though. The legs appear to be three 1” boards glued or joined together, and thus the “seam” ends should attach to the face/back so they are less visible (and the opposite seam is covered by the sides).

None of this is to suggest that this is the “right” way to do it; it’s just the way I did it.

After he completed the build and we applied the banding, I decided to seal it with Polycrylic (available at Lowe’s) because I’ve worked with it on multiple projects. It does give the table more of a sheen as opposed to a wax, but I am okay with that.

I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe you are inspired to do something similar. If you have any questions about the build process, comment or send me a message and I’ll try and answer as best as I can. Thank you for reading! Also, sign up here for my weekly newsletter if you haven’t already. It’s the best way to stay updated with blog posts and other fun info.

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