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A Renter-Friendly Dining Nook That You Can Take From House To House

LOOK!! Another fun peek at my apartment before it goes live!! Today I’m showing you one of my favorite corners of my 500 sqft apartment (unstyled, of course, you’ll have to come back for the full reveal for all of the pretty pretty photos…aside from the one above!!). It’s my almost no-effort, renter-friendly DIY dining nook!! I see so many incredible custom, built-in dining nooks on Instagram and in design magazines, but I wanted to create one that’s renter-friendly that we can take with us and repurpose as we go house to house (because we won’t be in this studio apartment forever). This DIY is the complete opposite of my bed wall (which took LOTS of effort and many o’ days) and it maximized my small space SO much I can’t even tell you. I spend the majority of my time sitting at this nook whether it be working from home or hosting a dinner party (we’ve fit up to 7 people at this table before lol). It’s custom, cool, and hopefully, it inspires you to try something similar if you have an empty corner that’s in need of maximizing!! 

Now I’d like to point out that this dining nook is on the splurgey side because I got to work with some INCREDIBLE brands that I wouldn’t have been able to work with if it wasn’t for this incredible job I’m so lucky to have. Because of this, I’m gonna link some more affordable options as well and some more budget DIY versions if you want to give this a stab in your own space for less cheddar. ALSO, note I have no space to cut wood/use a real saw/etc so this tutorial is a non-messy, fairly hands-off way to get a dining nook look in your apartment without custom-making a bench and whatnot. Plus it has storage. OKAY, ENOUGH SPOILERS LET’S JUST GET DOWN INTO THE NITTY GRITTY!!!!

First off, here’s the corner of my studio apartment I’m talking about today:

The Inspo

image via gracias madre

One of my fav spots in LA is Gracias Madre and when I first moved here we went for a bite to eat and immediately fell in love with the back cushions (peep them in the back of this photo above). The subtle grey pinstripe with the contrast of the cognac leather SPOKE to me. At the time we had no table to eat meals in our apartment, so we dreamt of bringing a version of this setup home. SPOILER: That’s exactly what we did and here’s how we did it!!!

Let’s get into the step-by-step on how I created this nook. It’s so easy you guys WATCH THIS!!! (just wait for the ad to play)

So the first thing I did was create a rendering (I love a Photoshop moment) so let me show you the vision:

Benches | Cushions | Fabric | Curtain rods | U-Brackets | Dining table | Pendant Light (similar)

Now let’s break down how it actually came to life:

Step One: Order The Base Benches (And Be Sure To Measure, Measure, Measure!!)

When shopping for base benches, I wanted to find something that A. Had storage B. Came in 2 different sizes (to be more square and not too long on one side) and C. Was sturdy enough to hold people and D. Looked cute, of course. The laundry list was long and the search took a while but once I found these Line benches from Design Within Reach I knew they were the PERFECT!!!!

I ordered one small and one large bench in black and the quality is insane. They have a ton of storage space (which is critical for my 500 sqft apartment that only has one closet) and a soft close (who doesn’t love a soft close). You may be thinking: wait, aren’t benches all different heights?? How did you know what height to get? Why yes Kathy, this is true. These benches are 15.5 inches high which is much lower than a dining chair should ideally be. That’s why I wanted to find cushions that were at least 3-4 inches thick and I knew I wanted them to have a comfy back cushion to match. I got LUCKY in finding the perfect company to create my cushions…which takes us to step two!!

Before we get there, here’s a more affordable storage bench option if you’re in need of another rec! It’s paintable which is awesome 🙂

Step Two: Order Cushions

After the benches arrived, I posted in our trusty Link Up asking for help on how to DIY custom cushions or where to find someone who could make them. The next day I received an incredible email from the lovely Taylor, who set me up with the company Stitchroom. Y’all this company is IT (just look at their work on their IG!!!) I was immediately blown away and was so lucky that they were able to create the perfect cushions with the leather straps already attached!! They sent me some incredible fabric choices and I ended up going with this Schumacher ticking stripe fabric (the one on the far left in the below photo):

And then for the leather straps, we went with the saddle color shown below. If you’re curious here were our options!

The next step was to figure out the size of the cushions. We wanted it to be comfortable and high enough where the bar wouldn’t hit you in the middle of your back, so we ended up going pretty high with the back cushions. I don’t regret it AT ALL because when you’re in this nook you really feel enveloped in it and it’s soooo cozy. If you’re curious about specific dimensions, I’ll attach the exact ones I sent to Stitchroom below!!

One thing I didn’t take into consideration beforehand was the seat depth – when you put the top cushions on it’s important to remember that you lose 4″ of your seat, so because of this we scooched our benches out from the wall a hair when we installed the cushions (which you don’t even notice) and it makes it a little easier to lean back and really get comfy. I also work from home in this spot and like to sit criss-cross-apple-sauce sometimes so having a deep seat here is really nice. It’s honestly been great having the freestanding benches so we have the flexibility to move everything around (just make sure if you’re a “build the bench into the wall type of person” that you remember that the cushions will make you lose seat depth!)

If you’re looking for some affordable cushion options, I love these (they come in like 25 colors and you could totally cut and resew them on one side if you needed to fit them perfectly to size) or these if you wanna go with the stripe moment like I did. Or if you wanna go the custom route, etsy has a bunch of great options like this one! Then if you’re looking to recreate the leather straps try this or DIY them with this! Lastly, if you wanna get crafty, here’s an easy DIY tutorial for you that doesn’t even require sewing!


Step Three: Velcro The Bottom Cushions To The Base + Hang The Top Cushions

This is the easiest part honestly!! To start, I took some velcro and secured it to the bench and then matched it on the bottom of the cushion. It’s held up fairly well and makes it so the cushions don’t slip!

Then for the top, I found this $18 adjustable curtain rod from Target and hung up the top cushions with command strips (for a moment) to make sure the placement was all good to go. Once we were happy with the placement, I ordered these affordable U-shaped brackets to hang the curtain rods with. Now if you want to go custom and have someone cut down a black metal pole perfectly to size so it looks cleaner by all means be my guest!! I chose to go the easy and inexpensive route and I love the way it turned out. Note the pole is much skinnier than the hole for the bracket but literally no one notices and I don’t mind, but if you want to find one that fits perfectly that’s also great!! Just want to give you all the deets 🙂

And then finish it off with a fun gallery wall, a pendant light, a table, and a cool chair and this is what you’re left with!!

Benches | Cushions | Fabric | Curtain Rods | U-Brackets | Credenza | Candelabra | Rug

VOILA!!!! The best part about this is that I could copy and paste this into a lot of different apartments I move into throughout the years OR I could separate the benches and use one or two in an entryway, or at the base of a bed, etc. Then top cushions could be transformed into a headboard in the right space or I’m sure we could find another use for them. The main concept that I tried to stick to throughout this apartment is that everything is flexible and can move and grow with us (which is a concept everyone should take for big investment pieces!!)

I’m excited to share more on how this mission was accomplished in this space in the reveal (coming Monday!!) but for now, drop any questions you might have in the comments and I’ll be there to answer them!! Thanks for coming along on this journey, I can’t wait to show you the rest of the space!!!


Opening Image Credit: Design by Mallory Wackerman | Styled by Emily Bowser | Photo by Veronica Crawford

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7 months ago

thank you for giving me this fantastic Information

7 months ago

Stitchroom looks like it’s for the trade only. It seems like it’s really common for anything custom upholstery to be trade only, except for Etsy which is really hit or miss these days. In the future, it would be helpful to readers to instead use companies it’s possible for us to use too!

7 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Not the same style as these, but I’ve ordered chair cushions from My Chateau Store (Etsy), and was very impressed

7 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Hi! Stephanie with Stitchroom here! We do work with designers and architects primarily, but we loved working with Mallory so much (and we’d love to work with readers of EHD) – drop us a line if you have any projects we can help with!

CS in DC
7 months ago

I rarely comment but this looks really great! Love it.

7 months ago

Did I miss the more affordable link options she said she would include?
This is exactly what I have been wanting to do!!!

7 months ago

Thank you for that link Mallory to the affordable breakfast nook option on Amazon! Months ago I decided that what my kitchen needed was a nook rather than table with chairs (I want to be able to be closer to the window to look out more easily) so I have been casually looking in to different options, including using an antique or vintage love seat (with legs) with a bench. But the option shown in the link is a good one!

Your dining area turned out wonderfully and so perfect for your design aesthetic and studio apartment, really looking forward to your reveal on Monday!

7 months ago

I love the idea of creating pieces that are flexible and you can take from house to house. This is true of so many furniture pieces, too. We wait to buy anything “good” until we are in a “real” house when really, we should just invest in things that will last throughout our lives. When you sit on this bench 2 homes from now, you will LOVE thinking about the time/season when you built this nook and sat around it laughing with seven friends. Those memories come right along with our furniture and having pieces you can keep are so worthwhile! Not to mention, it ultimately saves you money because you move in and have a furnished home. (or at least partially)..

Can’t wait to see more of this cool space. 🙂

7 months ago

Great job, Mallory. You chose exactly the right fabric. As a designer, I should have known that when dealing with a pinstripe, it’s best to err on something a little larger. I had a chair made for my living room 15 years ago in a similar pinstripe. What I did wrong? The thin pinstripe I chose doesn’t really read as such until you are right on top of it. Scale is so important.

7 months ago

I am a chairaholic. I have a chair in waiting ready to go.

7 months ago

awesome job! love the flexibility and how high quality this looks!

7 months ago

Bravo! I love love love the idea of a banquette situation and continually plot one for our “dining room”. Except that we never eat in there and probably won’t because it lacks the natural light of our kitchen eating area, making it hard to justify investment. But someday I just know I’ll have the right house for this project. Love this one and especially that you can take it with you and repurpose. Those benches will work forever.

7 months ago

Looks soooo good!! Curious how the pendant was installed in a renter friendly way? Was the wiring already there, etc?

6 months ago
Reply to  Erin

It’s a plug-in pendant not hardwired.

7 months ago

How do you find it works opening the benches with the cushions on them? We have a similar set-up, but the 2″ height of the cushion means that the benches can’t open completely without squishing the back edge of the cushion — meaning that they can’t actually open more than halfway without either (a) pulling the bench out from the wall or (b) taking off the cushion. For regular use, it’s a bit annoying. We’ve actually been considering switching to drawers for this reason…

7 months ago

There appears to be two areas of the Southern Living Idea House that use a similar back cushion- One is a bedroom that creates a daybed feel with a rod system that you would hang pots and the second is a dining area that uses familiar hooks with a leather belt. See articles for pictures: and

7 months ago

These look really nice Mallory! Awesome job! How helpful that you can move them from place to place. I am always so impressed with the DIY abilities your team has.

Jennifer Baldwin
7 months ago

I’m blown away by your creativity. Congratulations on creating this beautiful space with great function for friends and so many other needs, like storage!

6 months ago

Love the creativity and am a big fan of banquettes. The cushion “drooping” between the leather straps shown in the first picture would probably bother me over time despite the potential appeal of a scalloped look. I imagine that could be addressed though in the construction of the cushions by adding a solid strip of backing or something similar for those of us who want a cleaner line.

6 months ago

This is so impressive! Well done!

6 months ago

The tulip table is also very cool where does that come from?

6 months ago
Reply to  Jan

It’s the Leilani from World Market. See the reveal: