An IKEA Hack for Creating a Breakfast Nook, Even in the Smallest of Spaces

updated Apr 30, 2019
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small living room with white chairs and camel painting
(Image credit: Allison Richter)

If you’re a renter, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that you get what you get and you don’t get upset — meaning, there’s not much you can do to customize or amend the design of your unit. Well, if you’re Heather Knight-Willcock, you get creative and hack your way to a “built-in” dining nook.

Heather, who shares the Newport Beach, California, townhome with her husband and dog, found herself with a bounty of space after moving from London to Orange County (they went from a 400-square-foot flat to this 900-square-foot suburban abode). Says Heather in the House Tour, which she shared with Apartment Therapy: “Nine-hundred square feet might seem small to a lot of people, but for us it seemed lavish when we first moved in!”

Grateful for some elbow room, although still working with a limited floor plan, Heather thought to jazz up the dining area that leads into their kitchen by squeezing out every inch of the cozy 8×8-foot space. “When you move into any space — especially a rental — not everything is going to be laid out in a floor plan you would have chosen but, as an interior designer, I love to imagine and create unique pieces of furniture to solve troublesome spaces in the house,” she said. “The dining room table, the breakfast nook benches, and the shelving in the lounge were all made by my own hands to ensure they fit and kept the natural flow of the space that is best for our family.”

(Image credit: Heather Knight-Willcock)

By now, you’re likely itching to know what she did and how she did it. Like many of our favorite projects around here, the story starts with a trip to IKEA. Using five RAST side tables — two along the short wall and three along the longer side — she created an L-shaped “banquette” ideal for a rectangular table. (Unfortunately, this specific side table is no longer available, although we all know IKEA has oh-so-many-hackable pieces.)

“We used wood screws in the discreet areas to keep the different side tables together, and because the pieces came untreated (i.e. no lacquer or paint), we painted them with a black Valspar stain and sealed them with polyurethane.”

(Image credit: Heather Knight-Willcock)

For the actual seat part, they had MDF cut to size at Home Depot to use as the tops that were then upholstered and attached to the side tables. “I ended up re-upholstering them again a few months later, as I changed my mind on the coloring in this space and am so pleased with how it turned out!”

And because a dining nook isn’t complete without a surface to dine on, they also got crafty instead of going the traditional retail route. “The table is a piece of plywood cut to the size we needed; and I lacquered that with thick layers of polyurethane to get this high gloss finish. We then attached it to vintage legs we found on eBay.”

(Image credit: Allison Richter)

Being that Heather (an avid thrifter and antique shopper) had already veered away from the same old same old, we’d expect nothing less for the decor to top off the space. “I’m constantly rotating the tabletop decor in the dining room … so I was so excited to find the vintage bow and arrows that now serve as the table ‘florals.’ They were a vintage find at the Long Beach Antique Fair — one of the best in Southern California!”

Tour the rest of the space: A Cool California Condo Has Over 40 Plants Inside at Apartment Therapy