I love a good sofa table. Not only are they a great functional piece in a living space but they are a perfect starter DIY project.
We recently completed another task for Project Jenjamin, which included the skinniest little sofa table, with a surprise extra function! Check out our DIY Project Key here.
In designing this table, we had a few necessary parameters:
- place to hold cups and glasses (our ottoman/table is awesome, but it literally rocks, so when the pups are around that area, drinks have been known to go flying)
- Incorporate outlets in some way (we both work from the sofa a lot, and we’d love to not have power cords running all over the living room). BUT, we didn’t want exposed outlets. I don’t love the look of it, and they just didn’t feel like a good idea for a place that will also hold beverages.
- SKINNY (because our living room is the access point to the bedrooms/bathrooms/office, it’s very high-traffic. We wanted to keep the walkway feeling as open as possible, so by keeping the table super-slim, we wouldn’t encroach on that open space too much)
- Closed ends. There are a bunch of great DIYs that use pre-made banisters as legs, but we felt like with this application (between the sofa and the wall) it would end up looking too cluttered with an open view to that cramped space.
- Dark wood. We’ve built several different custom shelves for our open living area, and painted them all white. This felt like a great place to add a nice dark detail, and to play up the beautiful wood floors.
So while there are many great ideas for sofa tables, nothing we saw quite fit the bill. We made the personal goal to keep it simple (Ben is a mechanical genius, so sometimes our ideas can get a little complex and carried away), inexpensive, and super functional. So here’s our plan!
Starting off with measurements: we decided to use 1×4’s because they’re a pretty perfect width for cups, but it would mean minimal encroachment in the walkable space of the room. We wanted the length to match the back of our sectional, so we measured end-to-end (of the frame, not where the cushions extend past it). For the height, we wanted to make sure the table, especially the power access panel, wouldn’t hit the window frame, so we kept the table just short of that. *Note: because our table is so long (10 feet!), we split it into two even pieces for construction. Or else we wouldn’t be able to fit it through the door from our workspace! We used a special sash lock to connect those two pieces once they were in place.
1×4 common board is pretty lightweight. On one hand, that’s great! You don’t end up with something big and bulky. On the other hand, it means you should generally add more reinforcement, because this lighter wood is just not as strong. It also means you have to be very careful with certain joinery (like pocket holes), and make sure those joints are very well placed, because it’s easy to split something this light, even when you’re using pilot holes.
- If you’re doing pocket-holes, it’s best to use a jig that allows you to dictate the exact placement of your pockets. While some jigs work perfectly with 2×4 boards, they end up placing the hole too close to the edge on a shallower board. If you’re buying a Kreg jig, check for this ability- it’s a great option to have.
- If you don’t mind the extra work in the finishing steps, attaching these boards from the outside with counter-sunk screws is also a great option. This creates a space for the head of the screw that isn’t on the surface of the board, but you will have to fill these holes and take extra care in sanding them well so they aren’t obvious.
- If you have the space, go for bulkier and stronger boards
It all started with the special boxes we created for the power strips. Everything we did in building the tables stemmed from accommodating these boxes.
The boxes needed to:
A. Accommodate the schmancy power strips
we Ben picked out (plus some room for the cord)
B. Allow for thin ledges for the access panel to rest on
From there, we knew how much we needed to cut out of each top board to create our access panels. These were designed to use a simple hinge on the back side, and to have keyhole to allow for cords to come through while the panel could lay flat. We tailored our construction process to fit these goals, and it was relatively simple:
- Build our three-sided power box
- Attach our bottom support to the legs, so we knew we had them spaced correctly
- Attach our middle support, where our box would rest
- Attach our top pieces (where the tables would meet in the middle, we brought those legs in a few inches, to allow for us to access the sash lock that would hold them together)
- Attach our power boxes
- Drill a keyhole in our access panel, and attach it to the box with hinges/ have an adorable assistant
*all joints shown here created with pocket holes
Once the tables were assembled, we sanded, stained, and polyurethaned (with a few extra coats, since we felt like this piece might get a little banged-up). And then we brought them in! With each side was in the right place, we connected them with the sash lock.
A few things to note here:
- Generally, if I’m doing something that will be “built-in”, I’d like to cut the piece to fit around the floor molding. However, because this piece is so slim, I wasn’t comfortable cutting any width out of the legs.
- Because the table is behind the sofa, there’s a big chance that when large dogs/overexcited Game of Thrones-watchers are on the sofa, the table will get knocked around a bit. By using L-brackets, but leaving space between the table and the wall, this keeps the table steady while accommodating space for the floor molding.
After making these little adjustments, the fit was just perfect. The tables are solidly in place, and the size is just right.
We’re putting the tables to use RIGHT now with a little Netlix-and-working, so we’ll call this one a big success!