Upcycle broken furniture by making a classic European style bench from old chairs that’s perfect for your entry, dining room or foot of your bed!
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As promised, here is a tutorial on how to make a high-arm bench from old chairs in a classic French/European style. With a few basic tools you can create a high-end looking bench from a pair of broken chairs and pine or scrap wood. It’s a great upcycle project!
The chairs we used were 50-ish year old knockoff Duncan-Phyfe style chairs (meaning, thin wood, cheaply made) that were falling apart. We’re calling this a “French-style” bench because I saw a similar bench from Ballard Designs (for $300+!) based on a French antique, but I’ve also seen this style simply called a “window bench” as well.
What I really tried to emphasize in the title, though, is that this isn’t one of those benches I’ve seen where they line two or more chairs up side-by-side and add a plywood seat to make a bench. Personally, I think those look kinda odd (sorry!) and this is a more classic style to me.
This how-to isn’t super thorough, meaning I don’t have pictures of every single step, because Brian did it himself without my help (how dare he?). We’ve tried to provide enough detail to at least be a starting point if you’d like to make a bench from old chairs, too.
Also, we are not woodworkers, carpenters, or craftsmen – just DIY-er’s figuring things out as we go along. There might be other (better?) ways to do this, but hopefully, you will be inspired and use this as a springboard to think about what you can do with old, broken chairs!
Last May I wrote about how we started this DIY bench with a set of these these fake Duncan-Phyfe dining chairs that, being all fake and poorly made, began to fall apart on us – literally. After I made over our new, sturdy ($5!) Craigslist dining chairs, these were sent to a shed, waiting for…what? I don’t know, we just couldn’t get rid of them.
Then one fine day, Brian just decided to make a bench from the chair backs, with no help or prodding from me. This is odd, because usually our DIY projects go like this:
Me: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did (fill in the blank with crazy, time-intensive diy or remodeling project)?”
Me: “But we could (fill in way to do it cheap or easy) and all you’d need to do would be .”
So paint me surprised with this project – and happily, since it’s turned out to be one of my favorite projects ever!
How to Make a Bench From Old Chairs
Step One: Find Two Chairs
- Look for chairs that look good from the side. Chairs that have a slight curve to them are best. The backs need to be one piece from the top down to the back legs. Also think about the height of the chair backs (ours are 16″ from the top of the bench seat) and if they have a cross-piece spanning the back legs where the wood for the seat can easily be attached.
- Remove the front legs and seats. These knock-off Duncan Phyfe chair seats were held on by four screws. The legs were falling off and just pulled apart – the glue no longer held the dowels tightly.
Step Two: Create The Bench Seat
- Make a rectangle box the length you’d like the bench to be and secure the ends with two wood screws each, as pictured above (ours was 36″ x 12″). Use a sturdy hardwood and long 3.5-inch screws on each corner to make the box as immovable as you can. We salvaged the wood for our box from a portion of an Ikea oak countertop we didn’t need when we remodeled our bathroom. Brian cut the sides into 1″x 2-1/4″ pieces (oak boards like these are similar).
- Attached the box to each chair back by screwing from the chair into the short ends of the box. It’s hard to see in the above picture, but the dark slat of wood is the part of the chair back that the original seat was attached to. Brian drilled holes and then used three screws spaced evenly across this slat to securely hold the ends of the box to the backs. He also drilled through the legs of the chair to be able to insert two 3-inch screws into the box from the back of each leg– for a total of seven screws on each end. Whew- you can probably guess why I’m emphasizing secure at this point- our whole goal was to actually be able to sit on the bench!