Since re-arranging the furniture in my living room I’ve been meaning to build a bar table to put behind the couch to use as a general work and eating surface. I went with a very basic design using plywood and 2×4’s, opting strongly for functionality over style. Join me as I take you through the designing and building of my living room bar table.
Project Living Room Bar Table
Total Cost: $100 CAD
Timeline: 1 Day
What is Project Living Room Bar Table?
Project Living Room Bar Table is a little project I put together to build a bar-style table behind my couch in the living room. I was looking to build a large, sturdy work surface that I could use for bike work, eating on, and setting up a second desktop computer. I wasn’t looking to spend too much money, and to be honest, it didn’t have to be too fancy either. I came up with a simple design using a handful of 2×4’s and a single sheet of 4’x8′ maple veneered plywood.
Here’s the area before the project – I had put a shelf there temporarily, and I had purchased the bar stools a while ago on Kijiji in advance.
I put together a quick sketch on paper, and then transferred the design into Sketchup to get a better understanding of how I would piece it all together. If you haven’t used Sketchup before, it’s basically a simplified 3D modelling program. I find it very easy to use, and extraordinarily helpful when woodworking. If I have some time, I’ll try and put together a little article about how I’ve been using it, although, there are already plenty of tutorials available out there on YouTube if you’re interested.
After I settled on the design, I drove over to the local Home Depot and purchased my 2×4’s and sheet of plywood. While I was there, I had them cut the plywood on site so that it would fit in the back of my car. In total I needed 8 2×4’s, and I needed 3 cuts for the plywood – once lengthwise at 18″ (This would net a piece 8′ by 18″ for the main surface), once lengthwise at 24″, and then the long 24″ piece was cut in half at 4′ (This would net two pieces of 4′ by 24″, one of which would be used for the smaller surface, and the other, as extra). All in all, with a box of screws, it cost about $100 CAD.
Once home, I started putting things together. I made use of a Kreg R3 Jig (Which I review here)to make pocket holes to attach all the verticals, and I sawed everything by hand to avoid making too much of a mess in my living room. I also decided that it was unnecessary to create any additional vertical supports in the middle since it would be plenty strong without them.
I used Watco Danish oil applied with a sponge brush for the finish. After waiting about a half hour, I applied a second coat, waited 15 minutes, and then buffed the whole surface dry with a clean rag. Although there are more durable finishes available, I chose danish oil for its quick dry time, simple application, and low odour, since this was all done indoors in a main living space. I had used danish oil successfully before on projects like wood benches and chairs, and I had been quite happy with the strength and resistance to staining.
I took the bar table for a bit of a test drive and found that the wire-like foot rests on the bar stools I purchased were very uncomfortable if you were bare foot, or just in socks, so I also threw together a quick foot rest with some spare lumber I had from disassembling the shelf that the bar top replaced.
Overall I’m pretty happy with the way the living room bar table turned out. I was able to complete this project in a single afternoon, it is very sturdy, comfortable to sit at, and the danish oil brought out some nice grain patterns on the maple veneered plywood. It’s possible that in the future I will do a part 2 to this project to add trim around all of the exposed plywood edges, and to add 1/4″ panelling to cover up all of the open spaces.
Off the top of my head, I would need 3 sheets of 1/4″ plywood (Basically 18 feet at 42″ tall) to cover the exposed sides and back, and at the very minimum, 30 feet of trim to cover all of the exposed plywood and 2×4 edges. I would estimate cost to be in the range of $200 CAD, which is again twice the cost of the whole project up to now. You can see that the finishing details really add quite a bit of expense at no additional gain in functionality, making this a rather low priority.