Brooke Bowman
Brooke Bowman
  • Hometalker
  • High Point, NC

Upfitting Our Dining Room Pew

3 Materials
$250
1 Month
Medium

One of the things that I knew I wanted in our renovated cottage was an old-fashioned church pew to serve as seating for our dining room table. Though this look is quite trendy these days and can be found on just about every home decor television show and magazine, this was 10 years ago, and telling our friends and family about the idea meant we were often met with puzzled looks!

Still, when we found one at
upfitting our dining room pew
First, we managed to move the pew back to our home thanks to a few strong helpers and my husband’s sturdy truck. From there, we gave it a thorough wipe-down in our driveway. It had belonged to a church congregation in Lenoir, North Carolina and had been sitting in storage for a few years at the home of the former minister. It was in sturdy condition and did not require any functional repairs. However, the wood was covered with a slick grease stain in some spots and there were cobwebs in just about every corner. It was nothing a little cleanser, water and sunshine could not handle.
upfitting our dining room pew
After that, we began the process of having the cushion reupholstered. I wish I would have snapped a better “before” picture of the cushion before we started this journey. It was covered in a threadbare, teal material that was likely original to the pew. Not only was it fraying and coming apart in places, but it was also stained and just showed general wear and tear as can be expected after decades of use. I believe it may have been a form of velvet when it was originally installed, as it was very soft in places. Yet, in others it was nearly non-existent. Either way, it definitely needed to be replaced if we wanted to use this cushion for another few decades, as we intended to.

Thankfully, we knew exactly who to take the cushion to. In a nearby town called Jamestown, there is a fantastic little antiques store called Wallace’s Antiques. The owner, as you would expect, is named Wallace. He is an older man who always wears the same pair of denim overalls with a red and black plaid shirt underneath. He knows everything there is to know about antiques, rustic treasures and farmhouse finds.

He also knows how to restore them and get them back into working condition. In the back of his shop, Wallace runs a little upholstery business. He took one look at our long pew cushion and let out a laugh. It was certainly bigger and more involved than the simple throw pillows and chairs he was used to dealing with!
upfitting our dining room pew
A former co-worker of mine was also instrumental in helping us turn our pew vision into reality. Her name is Barbara and she owns a little online fabric store, where she sells fabric to wholesalers. She was able to find me this gorgeous, light gray tweedy material that fits my neutral aesthetic perfectly! I paid for an extra long piece of fabric to accommodate the length of this pew. Wallace worked with that and had the cushion back to me in about two weeks. It was everything we had in mind and so much more!

Once the cushion was back in place, we took the time to double check every screw and nail to make sure the pew was intact and would not be at risk of falling apart when our entire family sat down on it. We have a boisterous Italian crew who loves to get together for every little occasion, so I wanted to make sure the pew could handle the weight and the constant use. It took a little bit of adjusting, but we were finally able to make sure that even if all the men in my family sat on the same side at the same time, it would not buckle or even slightly creak under the pressure.
upfitting our dining room pew
As you can see in that first picture, we actually bought this pew before we moved into our tiny cottage. That is us in my grandparents’ living room. We lived in their home as our house was being remodeled. Thus, when it came time to figure out the dimensions for our new dining room, we were able to design it exactly to fit this pew and the homemade wooden table my husband built, which is also visible in the first picture. Now, as you can see, the room is just big enough to comfortably hold the table and allow my family to walk around with plenty of room.

One of my favorite things about this pew is that we decided to leave the wood natural. As someone who cannot turn down a DIY project, I wanted to initially paint the wood white and keep the cushion gray. I thought that would be such a minimalist and clean touch. However, we have two small children and I could just envision them drawing all over the wood while they were eating, or wiping their dirty hands all over it!

I also thought that over time, the white paint might chip or need resealing and while that is certainly a project we can tackle, it was just easier to leave the wood bare. We did put a little sealant on it, however, to make sure it never splinters or otherwise breaks off.
upfitting our dining room pew
On each of the two sides, there is a panel of white painted wood that we did decide to leave, just giving it one extra coat to make it appear as shiny and new as possible. We did not realize until we went to the hardware store and began the process that there are so many different shades of white paint! In this case, the one that most closely matched the original paint on the panels was Benjamin Moore’s “Simply White.” We took an afternoon and recoated the panels on both sides, but that is the extent of the changes we made to the look or color of the wood and the bench itself.
upfitting our dining room pew
I love the charm and the character it adds to our home. We knew that this cottage would be our forever spot, so we really wanted to take the time to add special custom touches throughout. From the quartz countertops we spent tons of time researching and designing for our open-layout kitchen to the paint colors and even the trim work detail, we poured so much of ourselves into this home.

By the way, if you’d like, you can read more about why we decided on our gorgeous quartz countertops, even when everyone, including our contractor was encouraging us to go the granite route. We have found this solution to be more cost-effective, longer lasting and more aligned with our aesthetic than anything else. Plus, the quartz is simple and streamlined, while the granite was a little too busy for our taste. Even the white options we browsed through failed to give us that clean look that we knew we wanted for this home.

Our dining room actually sits right off to the left of this kitchen and as you can see by this photo, we wanted the look to be as simple and clean as possible. Thus, we decorated on the other side of the dining room table with simple white farmhouse-inspired chairs that we found online. They help the two rooms flow together without taking away too much from either space.

The pew is against a wall now, with a gallery wall of eight framed floral prints hanging in a symmetrical layout above it. If you do this project in your home, I have always thought an oversized framed mirror would look fantastic on a wall above this pew. It would look especially pretty if placed beside a window, where the natural light could bounce off the mirror and give the illusion that the room is larger than it is. If we change up this space at all in the future, that is one step that we will definitely be taking. I love the floral prints, but mirrors really do open up a space, and plus, it would be high enough on the wall that no one would be looking at himself or herself while eating!

In the end, we stuck to what we knew we wanted. And that has been the theme for this remodel all along. Some ideas might sound crazy but if you can see them in your mind and you know they will work for your family, I urge anyone to see the project through to completion. I know people were not entirely sure of our farmhouse table and pew vision when we first described it but now we could not be more in love with it!
upfitting our dining room pew
Our dining room actually sits right off to the left of this kitchen and as you can see by this photo, which was taken at my grandparents’ house, we wanted the look to be as simple and clean as possible. Thus, we decorated on the other side of the dining room table with simple white farmhouse-inspired chairs that we found online.

They help the two rooms flow together without taking away too much from either space. The pew is against a wall now, with a gallery wall of eight framed floral prints hanging in a symmetrical layout above it. If you do this project in your home, I have always thought an oversized framed mirror would look fantastic on a wall above this pew. It would look especially pretty if placed beside a window, where the natural light could bounce off the mirror and give the illusion that the room is larger than it is. If we change up this space at all in the future, that is one step that we will definitely be taking. I love the floral prints, but mirrors really do open up a space, and plus, it would be high enough on the wall that no one would be looking at himself or herself while eating!

In the end, we stuck to what we knew we wanted. And that has been the theme for this remodel all along. Some ideas might sound crazy but if you can see them in your mind and you know they will work for your family, I urge anyone to see the project through to completion. I know people were not entirely sure of our farmhouse table and pew vision when we first described it but now we could not be more in love with it!

Suggested materials:

  • White Paint  (Hardware Store)
  • Wood Sealent  (Hardware Store)
  • Upholstery Fabric  (Fabric Store)
Brooke Bowman

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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