Kitchen and Dining

Kitchen + Dining

Kitchen + Dining

Breakfast Nook

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 188 Projects

Diners are traditional morning and late-night gathering spots, well-loved for being bright, friendly, and upbeat. They have been graciously kicking off our days for generations with hot food, great coffee, and warm company. At home, breakfast nooks emulating diner booth designs and ambiance are traditional gathering spots for morning coffee, preparing for the day ahead, or quiet evening conversations with the family. But at-home breakfast nooks have traditionally been interpreted as dark-stained, hard-edged plywood and somewhat monolithic designs. They lack the spunk, pop, and zip of the local diner and can overpower a small space. The breakfast nook combines the feel of the small-town diner with a modern flare that keeps up with your family. While we’ve used plywood for the bench supports, we wrapped it in warmer white pine that can be left clear, painted, or pickled. The seatboards and tabletop are made from edge-glued pine, but you can choose other materials if you prefer. The tongue-and-groove pine paneling wrapping the benches adds contour and shadow lines while the bench’s back grows right out of the seat. The ascending modern line delivers a sleek shape while the wide bench cap provides a nice capital along with a flat surface. The modern surface looks like it might once have supported white ceramic coffee cups and short-stacks back when diners looked like train cars, yet it’s modern and tough enough to stand up to busy families that will use the breakfast nook for a lot more than breakfast.

Country Diner Diagram

Country Diner Cutting List

How to Build a Breakfast Nook

  1. HI0523_12C

    Cut ten 3½" by 5-ft.-long struts from 1 × 4 pine. Then, to make the legs, cut ¾" plywood into six identical 18 × 18" blanks. Taper one of the blanks 1" at each side, so the top edge is 16" long.

  2. HI0523_12D

    Lay out the ¾ × 3½" notches for the struts according to the diagram located above. Cut the notches with a jigsaw. Clean up cut edges on the first bench support with a sander, then use the first support as a pattern for laying out the taper lines and notches on the rest of the workpieces.

  3. HI0523_12E

    Starting with the top strut, attach the struts to the bench supports, spacing the middle bench support exactly midway in each bench frame. Use glue and wood screws driven in countersunk pilot holes to attach the struts to the bench supports.

  4. HI0523_12F

    Use a miter saw to cleanly cut the angled seat upright prior to installation. As shown, they are sized to be rip-cut to finished size (1½ × 5½") from 2 × 8 stock. Make sure to take stock from each side so you remove the slight bullnose edges that are cut at the lumber mill. Set your power miter saw to make 12 degree cuts. Trim the ends in parallel cuts to cut the uprights to length. Attach the uprights to the inside faces of the outer bench supports, according to the diagram.

  5. HI0523_12G

    The backs of the benches are made by installing a plywood back board between the uprights and then cladding the backboard on both faces with tongue-and-groove paneling. Start by cutting the cleat that you’ll use to anchor the back board from 1× stock. Cut eight cleats (4 for each bench) to 18" and cut four to 2¼". Install a short cleat and a long cleat in an l-shape on the inside face of each upright.

    The top of the long cleat should be flush with the top of the upright.

  6. HI0523_12H

    Using a table saw or a circular saw and shooting board, cut the back panels to size. Apply a bead of wood glue or adhesive and lay the panels into the l-shaped brackets created by the two cleats. Drive countersunk 1¼" screws through the back panel and into the long cleat. Install the remaining trim pieces around the plywood seat backer.

  7. HI0523_12I

    The bases and backs of the benches are clad with pine tongue-and-groove paneling. Because the paneling on the ends of the benches that face the room conceals their edges, install the paneling that’s attached to the bench along its length first.

    Cut the first paneling board to length so the bottom end is slightly above the floor and the top ends are flush with the tops of the bench supports (the top ends will be concealed by the seatboard overhang). Then, trim off the groove to create a solid wood edge at the end of the bench. If you own a pneumatic nailer, use it to drive nails through the tongue of the first paneling board. Otherwise, hand-nail with 4d or 6d finish nails and set the heads with a nail set. Drive at least one nail into each strut that the paneling board is positioned over.

  8. HI0523_12J

    Apply paneling to the front and back of the bench base. To clad the bench ends (you only need to clad the end that will face the room), hold a paneling board up against the end and trace the angled edge onto the back side of the paneling. Cut along this line. Install this piece flush to the bench end. Fasten and complete paneling installation for the bench base. Also install tongue-and-groove paneling boards on the front and back sides of each back panel. The boards should be flush with the top and bottom of the plywood back panel.

    Cut the seat back cap to length from 1 × 8 stock and attach it to the tops of the uprights and to the top of the bench back using glue and nails. The cap should overhang the front upright by about 1½" and be flush with the end of the bench that goes against the wall.

  9. HI0523_12K

    Both the seatboards and the tabletop are constructed by edge-gluing pine boards together. Make a nice, clean rip-cut along each edge with a sharp circular saw blade. For strength, it is not necessary to use splines, biscuits, or dowels to reinforce the edge-glued joints, but any of these devices will assist with alignment.

    We used a biscuit joiner to align the glue-ups for both benches and the tabletop. Use at least three or four pipe clamps with jaw padding to clamp each glue-up together.

    After the glue has dried overnight, remove the clamps and sand the glue-ups to remove any dried glue squeeze-out.

  10. HI0523_12L

    The seat board must be notched to fit around the uprights. Position the boards on the seat base, flush at the wall end and overhanging about 1½" on the room-side end. Mark the location of the uprights onto the seatboards, then remove them and make cutouts with a jigsaw.

  11. HI0523_12M

    Tip the bench so the end that goes against the wall is flat on the floor. Attach a pair of tabletop clips to the inside of the bench base near each end, and a couple more on each side. Attach the seatboard from underneath using the tabletop clips. Set the benches back down in their correct orientation. Cut filler strips of ¾"-thick pine and glue them into the gaps between the uprights and the backs of the benches.

    Make sure the wood grain on the filler strips has the same orientation as the seatboards.

  12. HI0523_12N

    As a last finishing detail for the benches (other than sanding, painting, or staining), attach some type of wood trim to conceal the gap between the tongue-and-groove boards and the floor.

    If you use very small molding, such as screen retainer or very narrow base shoe, you can probably get away with attaching the molding as is, using butt joints at the corners. But for larger moldings (and for a more professional appearance) you’ll need to bevel-rip the molding to allow for the taper of the bench base, as well as make compound miter joints at the corners.

  13. HI0523_12O

    The breakfast nook table is designed to be affixed to a wall, supported by a ledger board on the wall side while a leg runs to the floor on the entry side. The length and width of the table are adjustable to suit your particular set-up but the fabrication techniques are the same.

    The  dimensions specified in the drawing are 30" wide and 5 ft. long. The top of the table surface is 30" above the floor. Struts cut from 2 × 4 pine are added beneath the table for both looks and stability. We chose to glue up a rustic pine tabletop (which should get many coats of polyurethane varnish). You may prefer to have a tabletop fabricated from solid-surfacing, quartz, or natural stone. Lay out and cut the leg from 1 × 12 pine. The front half of the face-glued leg should run full height (29 ¼"), tapering from 4" at the top to the full width of the 1 × 12 (11 ¼") at the bottom.

    Make the back half of the laminated leg identical to the front, but then trim off the top 3" to create a ledge for the front tabletop strut.

  14. HI0523_12P

    Attach the ledger for the tabletop to the wall with heavy-duty fasteners, such as counterbored lag screws driven at stud locations.

    Rip 2 × 4 pine stock to 3" wide to make all four tabletop struts. Also rip-cut some 1 × 4 stock for the two aprons. Cut the front strut to 28" long and then clip the bottom corners to give the table both some “lift” and to create leg room as you enter the booth. Cut the ledger and the inner struts to 24" long. Also cut the aprons to 52¼" long from the 1 × 4 stock.

    Locate exactly where your table will be fastened to your wall by arranging the location of your benches and then centering the table between them. Using a cardboard cut-out to tailor exactly where you want the table and benches also will help you customize your diner. Once you find the center of the table location, find the center of the ledger board and mark it. When installing the ledger board, line up these two marks for a perfect fit. At the ledger board location, strike a level line 29¼" above the floor. Find and mark the wall stud locations—try to locate the ledger so it  spans two studs. Install the ledger on layout using glue and the proper fasteners.

  15. HI0523_12Q

    On a flat surface, assemble the table frame by capturing the short struts between the aprons. The front strut should be attached to the aprons with l-brackets on the inside joint. Attach the tabletop to the struts with one tabletop clip near each end of each strut.

  16. HI0523_12R

    Clamp the leg to the front strut and rest the other end of the tabletop on the wall ledger, which should fit between the free ends of the aprons. Adjust the height of the leg if necessary, and then attach it to the front strut with glue and screws. Drive screws through the aprons into the ends of the ledger.

  17. The breakfast nook is shown here with a light wood stain and high gloss polyurethane finish, for ease of cleaning. Let all adhesives, finish and paint dry thoroughly before sitting down at the breakfast nook for a slow home-cooked breakfast and time well-spent with family and friends.

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