DIY: Custom Side Tables

If you were ever young and broke, you probably have a piece of furniture like this side table.


Reliable. Won’t break. Was really [really] cheap. But ugly as all get out.


But you just don’t get rid of it. Because it works! And [yikes] all the “grown-up” versions are expensive! This one cost $10! And it still works! That gorgeous new one costs $100/$200/$300!


That’s the story of our little cheap side table. We bought him from Bed, Bath and Beyond for $9.99 when we got back from our honeymoon. And every single time we moved, I tried to get rid of him. Honey, let’s get a real coffee table! Deaf ears.

Until this weekend.

A big issue with replacing this side table was that it’s a really nice low height. Like the perfect height to saddle up next to your couch and set your glass of…grape juice. Yes it was too small, and more than once I knocked something off of it. But oh the height. Can’t beat it.

Until this weekend.

Remember our custom bathroom vanity? Where we took a slab of live edge wood and cut it in half? Well, we didn’t toss the other half [it wasn’t cheap!]. Our plan all along was to turn it into two custom side tables. (this is the original slab of wood we bought).

Andy cut the wood into two pieces and finished it with the same Waterlox he used on the bathroom vanity. It looks exactly the same. Then we ordered…you guessed it…hairpin legs [we are mildly obsessed] to finish it off. They came in the same shipment as our master bed legs.

It took about 15 minutes to screw them on and suddenly 4.75 years of an ugly side table were washed away.


Hey there good-looking.



We set one table in between our two chairs under the picture window [the cute Target table I got will either go in our office or bedroom once we move things around.]



And we put the other by the couch. Compared to the old table, it is HUGE.



Honestly, they weren’t cheap. Each leg cost like $20ish I think. Plus 1/4 of the wood was probably around $50. So in total, each side table cost somewhere in the ballpark of $130. Not cheap. BUT it is completely custom, solid wood and should last us forever. If the top ever gets damaged [we are being extra careful, see the coasters?] we can sand it down and refinish.

I am really happy with how our living room has come together over the past year. We still have ideas about how to improve it, but we enjoy the space and hope our guests do too.

I think that is about the end of the wood-related updates here. This weekend we are taking our collective powers to a new frontier…the backyard. Pray for us.

Follow Up: DIY Behind the Couch Shelf Directions

One of our most popular posts to date is the infamous DIY Shelf Behind the Couch. We love this thing and apparently many of you do too. Here’s the original post.

overhead of shelf

We originally decided on the shelf because our room is not well-shaped for a coffee table but we still needed somewhere for lamps, beverage glasses, etc. Now that we have had it for more than eight months I love it. It’s the perfect height to use to display things, but also hide things like books, my laptop, etc. Unlike a coffee or side table I can’t knock it over and spill everything [not that that ever happens to me]. As an added bonus, it’s one less thing to move whilst vacuuming. So all in all, we love this.

I thought it might be worthwhile to go back and explain a little better about how Andy did it. I wasn’t even home when he did it so truly, I had nothing to do with this project.


Ready to make one for yourself? Let’s go! If you have any questions we don’t answer, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll try to remember 😉

Directions for your behind the couch shelf:

Measure your couch and determine how long you need your behind the couch shelf to be. Ours is a sectional, so we obviously needed an L shape. But you could do this for any shape or size.

Andy bought two 1x10x12 ft pieces of wood from Lowes. One board will meet the corner and the other will then bump up to the other board.  I’m sure you could do it so both boards meet in the middle but that seems unnecessary. Measure first and cut.

He ended up using two different stains for the wood. He used a darker one first, then decided it was too dark. He sanded it down and then stained it with a lighter stain. We used Minwax stains, one of which was Ebony. But you can use anything you want and might want to adjust based upon your floor color, couch color, etc. He did three coats and then finished it off with a dose of Minwax Satin Poly, the wipe on kind. Let it dry according to instructions.

The coolest part of our shelf is the distressing. Basically you need to beat up your boards. Watch a gangster film or Quentin Tarantino movie first. Take different size hammers and hit the board in different places. Hit it with screws sideways to get cool line marks and/or take a screw driver and hit it sideways. Andy also used a punch to put  holes in it. Really there is no wrong way to do this, and you can skip it totally if you aren’t into the distressed look. For us the distressing is really key to the whole look.

behind_couch_shelf_3See the scrapes and scratches? 

Once you are done with that you are ready to affix it to the wall.

Buy L brackets to affix to the wall. Andy used about five on each side of the shelf. It’s important to attach it to the studs. Check it with a level as you go, and measure from the floor up.

You’re done! This took Andy about a weekend due to the dry time between coats.

One more thing…our shelf has outlets in it. That’s totally optional, but if you want to do that, here is how:

Before installing the shelf, Andy used a jig saw to cut out room for the electrical housing. He bought an electrical whip that has a plug on one end and then electrical cable on the other. Then he bought a housing box and electrical outlet cover just like you’d use for a wall outlet. Once your boards are installed, just connect everything and put the outlet cover one. Done! Let there be light! Or power. Or…whatever.


There’s a lot of room for personalizing and making this project your own. I’ve enjoyed decorating the shelf and find it extremely convenient to magazines, papers or whatever I want off the couch now!


Thanks for reading!