How to Build a Entryway Bench with Hooks and Storage Post Preview: This article will show you how to easily make this hallway bench with hooks and storage, perfect for mudrooms or entryways.
This post is sponsored by Old Fashioned Milk Paint. All opinions are entirely my own.
Do you ever have a busy room that’s an absolute mess? A room where there’s absolutely no efficiency?
This was our previous mudroom (see before picture below).
It was a disaster.
Shoes and coats were always just tossed everywhere. Backpacks, diaper bags with no place to go.
When you have a room that drives you crazy like this, you have to rethink it. My wife came up with this great plan of installing a hall tree – with an L-shaped bench and locker-style cubby shelves.
Upper cubbies would be loaded with hooks for hanging things like coats and kids backpacks. Lower cubbies would hold shoes. We even planned to add drawers to parts of the lower cubby shelves for additional storage.
My wife’s favorite part of the plan, aside from the organization, was that we were using completely natural milk paint and Tung Oil, provided by Old Fashioned Milk Paint. Their milk paint is a gem – completely natural ingredients and it was a dream to work with.
In addition to the built-ins that we were making, my wife Eileen also planned to stencil the wall and add some shiplap.
With these grand visions, the mudroom had know idea what was coming. Check out the before and after mudroom pictures:
How to Build an Entryway Bench with Hooks and Storage
Below are the instructions, tools, and materials for how to build this decked out entryway hall tree yourself 🙂
Entryway Cubby Bench Design Ideas
So, Eileen came up with her vision and sketched it out. Before our kids could color over it, I put her vision into place using a 3d design on my computer.
The entire structure was to be made mostly out of ¾” birch plywood, cut into strips.
Several hidden areas were going to be reinforced with 2x4s.
Finally, since plywood was being used, I had to cover all the exposed edges with trim.
I planned to make my own trim by cutting thin ¾” strips of pine board.
To join all the pieces together, I was going to use a combination of construction adhesive, deck screws (1.5” and 3.5”), pocket hole screws and finishing nails.
The mudroom hall tree shelves consisted of three segments – two lower cubbies for drawers and shoes (and to also serve as a bench), and the upper cubbies – think locker-style – for hanging things in.
So logistically, this meant I could work on different parts of the cubbies as was convenient for me, and have them come together in the mudroom.
Building the Lower Cubbies for the Entryway Bench
I started with the two lower cubbies first. Here is what a finished cubby looked like (minus any drawers):
I used my table saw and miter saw to make the below wood cuts:
Each lower cubby consisted of three vertical (16.25” x 19”) and two horizontal (16.25” x 17”) pieces of plywood.
The horizontal pieces attached to the vertical ones.
The structure was further reinforced with some 2x4s in the rear, and some plywood in the front.
The rear 2x4s also would serve as anchor points to bolt the cubbies to wall studs in the mudroom.
Joining the Cubby Shelf Pieces
To join most of the pieces together, I drilled a number of pocket holes using my Kreg Pocket Hole Jig, as shown below:
The pocket holes were ideal for joining inside pieces of wood, like the piece in the center.
Here is what a pocket hole joined section looked like:
I used some deck screws to join the end pieces (with the help of a 3ft bar clamp to keep everything tight during the joining process):
Sneak Preview of the Entryway Cubby Shelves
When the two lower cubbies were done, I placed them inside the mudroom to get a feel for how they would look:
I also bolted some 2x4s to wall studs in the corner provide support for the entryway bench over there.
Not wanting to sacrifice some electrical outlets in the room, I also cut out some notches in the cubby shelves, so the outlets could still be accessed.
Painting the Lower Cubbies
After I was happy with the look of the cubbies inside the mudroom, I brought them back outside for painting:
We used Old-Fashioned Milk Paint, which we absolutely love. It’s completely natural and has zero VOCs. It’s made from just milk casein, lime, and earth pigments. There’s no smell and it goes on beautifully. To see how to use milk paint on raw wood, check out this post.
Building Drawers for the Entryway Cubby Bench
With the lower cubbies complete, I moved onto the drawers.
They were a simple box drawers made from 4 pieces of ¾” plywood for the sides, and a thin ¼” plywood sheet for the bottom. I attached the sides together with construction adhesive and screws to form a square.
Then, I used more glue and finishing nails to secure the plywood sheet to the bottom.
Here were the drawers so far:
If you want to learn more about making custom drawers, check out my post on building pull-out drawers. I give all the details on these DIY shaker-style drawers on that post.
Next, I mounted the drawers in the cubbies with some drawer hardware (at this point, the cubbies were back inside after being painted and bolted to wall studs):
I would later revisit the drawers to add a nice custom shaker-style drawer fronts and handles.
Building the Bench Top to the Cubbies
Now it was time to cut the wood for the bench tops that would attach to the lower cubbies. I used two pieces of ¾” plywood and cut them to size.
Attaching the Bench to the Cubbies
I secured the two plywood benches to the cubbies with construction adhesive, and inserted screws from underneath.
Here are the cubbies prepped with construction adhesive for one of the benches:
Here the benches have been secured in place with the constructive adhesive and screws:
Installing Trim Around the Benchtop
Once the benchtop was in place, I covered all the exposed plywood edges with some custom cut trim:
I used my miter saw to cut the corners of the trim at 45 degrees, so all the pieces would fit seamlessly together.
Then, I attached the trim to the plywood benchtop with construction adhesive and finishing nails (with the help of my finishing nailer to speed things up).
Afterwards, I gave the trim edges a light sanding by hand to bevel and smooth them.
Here’s another picture of the trim showing an inside corner:
Neat Trick: Making Colored Wood Putty
Here’s a neat little trick I did to fill in some gaps and holes after the benchtop trim was installed.
Normally I would use wood putty to fill in these spaces, but I had planned on staining the wood and did not want the putty to stand out very discolored (especially since I was planning on using a light, very transparent tung oil stain). So I made my own wood filler.
I took sawdust produced from cutting the trim and mixed it with Elmer’s glue. I mixed a little glue at a time, sometimes adding more sawdust, until the mixture was putty like.
Then I filled in any gaps and holes with my custom made wood putty.
After it dried, I sanded it down.
The end result was great. My custom made wood putty produced a near perfect color match filler.
I did originally make the mistake of mixing the sawdust with wood glue on my first attempt. It was a bad idea. The mixture dried so hard that it was nearly impossible to sand off. So make sure to use Elmer’s glue if you’re using the trick on one of your own projects.
Here’s a picture showing the custom made wood putty drying (looks messy now, but after a good sanding, it produces great results):
Staining the Benchtop with Tung Oil
Next I started the process of applying Tung Oil to the benchtop. I opted to use pure Tung Oil for this project.
It was going to be a little more work and time, but I didn’t want to use any chemical-based stains.
This meant also staying away from any Tung Oil marketed as “fast drying”. Those meant the Tung Oil was mixed with a chemical to hasten the drying period.
Pure Tung Oil takes several coats spread over a long period to achieve good results.
So I rubbed on some pure Tung Oil to the wood with some lint free rags, then gently rubbed off any excess oil sitting on the surface. I was pretty liberal with the amount of Tung Oil, as it was the first coat.
Then I let it dry for about 24 hours (or until the surface wasn’t so tacky anymore).
The room did have a fairly strong odor of Tung Oil, but at least it wasn’t a strong chemical odor. It was akin to the smell of cooking oil. I made sure the window was open during the day with a large fan. I kept the fan running all night too to help with the drying.
After the first coat was dry, I started the process of applying more coats, about 24 hours apart. I did about 4 more coats in total until I was happy with the color.
The more coats you do, the darker the stain gets.
On these subsequent coats, I did not use rags though. I wet sanded them.
This means I lightly rubbed on the Tung Oil stain with very high grit sandpaper specially made for wet sanding (the paper wouldn’t fall apart if sanding while wet). Using high grit sandpaper to apply the Tung Oil resulted in better penetration of the oil into the wood.
Here is the picture of the Tung Oil applied to the bench top:
Building the Upper Cubbies for the Entryway Bench
The lower cubbies were done for the time being. It was time to move onto the upper cubbies. I had to give the Tung Oil stain a few more days of drying anyway before I could work near to the benchtop.
Cutting the Pieces for the Cubbies
Here I am trimming the long 8 ft pieces of plywood for the upper cubbies (I’ve got an assembly line flow going on):
These strips of plywood were going to be the five vertical segments of the cubbies (10.5” x 69.5”), and the header piece (10.5” x 71.25”).
Also, I needed four smaller pieces (10.5” x 17.25”) for some shelves at the top of the cubbies.
Joining the Pieces for the Upper Cubbies
After the pieces were cut, I pre-drilled screw holes to attach the five vertical pieces to the header piece:
To attach the vertical pieces, I found it super convenient to use a 90 degree wood clamp.
After applying some construction adhesive, the clamp help hold the pieces in place while I inserted some screws from underneath (in the holes I pre-drilled earlier):
The upper cubbies are starting to come together now. Here they are with the five vertical pieces attached (note that the whole thing is upside down at the moment):
Reinforcing the Cubbies
To reinforce the vertical pieces and make the structure more rigid, I added some extra plywood in between each section at the header (fastened with pocket hole screws, as you can probably tell by the holes):
It was time to flip the vertical cubbies over (I had constructed them upside down for convenience):
Next, I added some more pieces in between the sections. These additional pieces served two purposes.
First, they reinforced the cubbies even more.
Second, they were going to hold hooks for the cubbies. I wanted strong mounting points for the hooks so they wouldn’t fall out, and attaching the hooks directly to the cubby structure made the most sense.
Here’s a picture showing the back of the vertical cubbies with the reinforcing pieces attached (I used a lot of pocket holes to attach them):
Painting the Cubbies with Milk Paint
I got some help from Eileen to paint the upper cubbies. She put on several layers of milk paint and was happy with the look:
BTW, check out Eileen’s awesome post on using achieving great results with milk paint and raw wood!
Installing the Locker-Style Cubbies in the Entryway
The cubbies were now painted and ready for the mudroom installation. I lifted them onto the benchtop and started securing it to wall studs (I used 3.5” deck screws for this task).
Here’s Eileen hard at work helping to attach the cubbies:
To secure the upper cubbies to the bench and prevent the vertical pieces from moving around, I used some pocket hole screws to lock them in place:
I would later fill these pocket holes (using special pocket hole plugs), sand and repaint to hide them.
Attaching Trim to the Cubbies
Next I spent some time installing trim to hide the unfinished plywood edges. Here’s a close-up of some of the trim (you can see some plugged pocket holes waiting to be painted):
Just a few remaining tasks for the entryway bench and cubbies
With both the lower and upper cubbies installed, the mudroom project was nearing completion:
I had already installed most of the shiplap (post coming soon), and Eileen did a wonderful job of stenciling the wall.
See Eileen’s great post about stenciling walls!
At some point in every project, you are left scratching your head trying to solve a problem. Here I am in one of those moments (I forget what my issue was at that time, but clearly I figured it out to complete the project!):
Making Custom Drawer Fronts
At this point in the project, I went back to the drawers to finish them. I custom made some shaker-style faceplates.
The result was some amazing looking drawers:
Make sure you read up on my post about making custom drawer fronts for full details.
Installing Shiplap Between the Cubbies
In this picture, I have already installed shiplap in between the upper cubbies for a uniform look in the room:
The structural pieces of the vertical cubbies were starting to blend into the shiplap.
They only stand out now because they are sanded and unpainted.
Notice how I also taped off the benchtop. The Tung Oil was still a bit tacky and I did not want sawdust, paint and other debris falling on it as I worked with the upper cubbies.
We ordered some simple hooks from Amazon – we used 8 of them on this built-in hall tree. I added them directly into the cubby structure – not into the shiplap.
The shiplap wouldn’t have been strong enough to hold the hooks, as the shiplap in between the cubby shelf was only secured to the wall with construction adhesive because of their size.
We also have been using 3M command hooks for extra spots on the sides of the locker cubbies.
That is an added bonus of putting dividers between each of the cubbies – you get more storage.
It’s perfect because it gives more space for coats and hats. And boy, you can pack a lot of stuff into this built-in entryway storage bench.
Entryway Storage is finished!
Shortly afterwards, the project was completed! The Tung Oil technically needed some more time to cure, so I put up “Wet” signs to let people know not to sit on the bench.
I gave the Tung Oil about two more weeks to cure before the bench was available for use.
Here are the finished mudroom cubbies:
Amazing isn’t it! Eileen and I love our new mudroom cubbies. Everything has its place. All the shoes are tucked away and coats and bags hung neatly on the abundant hooks.
Time and Cost of the Hallway Bench with Hooks and Storage
It took about 3 weekends (not full days) to build this decked out entryway storage bench with locker-style cubbies. I did also work a little bit during the week to apply Tung Oil here and there. The cost was $250. Not bad for a huge piece of furniture?