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Hello, friends! Yes, I’m still alive!! I can’t believe that I somehow have gone almost the entire month without posting?!? If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen that we were on vacation for the first half of April visiting the in-laws and I tried very hard to stay off of my computer…hence the lack of blog posts this month. I’ve been trying to play catch up and now somehow April is almost over. But before the start of May, I want to give you guys a sneak peek at one of the projects that’s keeping me busy these days. It’s a really fun dining room that I’m designing for a lovely client (with two adorable kiddos under two) and I am super excited with how it’s coming together. It’s going to be good, you guys.

Amber Interiors ohhiojai dining

Okay, maybe not as good as that dining room from Amber Interiors because we will never have that much natural light in a row house dining room and she is amazing but it’s going to look pretty darn fabulous. Today I’m going to share some of our inspiration for the space and the plans that we have for the architectural components. Hopefully I can share the big reveal at the end of the summer. In the meantime, my hope is that this post will give you some ideas as you’re planning your spring / summer reno projects.

If you live in a row house – especially on the Hill – you probably have a dining room right in the center of your house. And you probably don’t have an eat-in kitchen. This means that in addition to actually having to use this room for eating, as the name implies, it’s also the “pass through” room, the office, the homework room…which means that it can quickly become the place where stuff accumulates. The little row house dining room wears many hats.

My clients need some serious storage and also wanted to update the furniture in their space to finally trade up their “placeholder” furniture. So we decided to go with built-in bench seating that lifts for storage and a built-in floor-to-ceiling cabinet. Below are some of the rooms that we used as a jumping off point for inspiration.


Not only will the bench seating add a ton of storage, but it will save some space and create a warm, cozy vibe to make the room more inviting and a place where both kids and adults want to hang out.

One of the concerns that my client had was that adding a built-in bench would be too “country kitchen” and I totally get it. My client’s style is relaxed and unfussy and they gravitate toward mid-century modern pieces but also have a great appreciation for vintage and maintaining the original details of their century-old home. So for the architectural components of the design, we’re going for a more classic look to keep with the age of the home, but the built-in components will be paired with a mix of mid-century modern pieces to create a laid-back and modern vibe in the space.

You can see from our inspiration photos that these are modern and inviting spaces. No Cracker Barrel dining rooms here! Man, I would do some serious lounging in these rooms…they are all SO good.


It’s hard to tell from the image above, but that bench has wheels on it and there is storage hidden in the island behind the bench. Very clever, Amber Lewis. Very clever.

The room below from Lauren Liess is not exactly a dining room per se, but I love how comfortable and calm this room feels. I really love that the kids are just chilling out in here on that big cozy window seat with their toys on their marble Saarinen table (#lifegoals) peacefully watching a classic black and white film on the tele…just a typical Saturday afternoon with two young kids, right?

Lauren Leiss Built-in Bench

Let’s talk a little bit about the plan and then I want to get into the cabinet design too, which is awesome. I’m collaborating with Blake Sloan of Forty Third Place on the both the bench and cabinet built-ins and it’s been so much fun to work with him.

The plan is to create a cabinet on the left side of the room that would abut an exposed brick chimney stack that runs vertically along the wall (no fireplace, just a chimney) then run the bench for the remaining length of the wall. For those of you dying for symmetry here (I hear ya) to the right of the bench on the perpendicular wall there is a large window, which means that we can’t flank the bench with cabinets on either side. Don’t worry, we plan to create some balance with art later on.

Blake’s drawing is below so you can get the visual:

Built-in Cabinet Design Dining Room
Cabinet Details Sketch

Bear with me while I share a few quick – but important (imho) – details about the bench in case you are considering doing something like this yourself:

  • The bench will lift for storage in 3 pieces so the “lids” aren’t too heavy or cumbersome to open.

  • We are going to add a custom 2″ cushion so we’re taking that into account when determining the height of the seat. Ideally your seat should be about 12″ below your table. So if your table is 30″ high, your bench seat (or dining chair) should be 18″ high. But if you are adding a cushion don’t forget to account for the thickness of the cushion!! The dining table we chose is 29″ high so the bench will be 15″ + 2″ cushion = 17″ high in total.

  • We also have a small notch and a toe kick along the bottom, which is a detail that adds a bit of comfort because when we sit we tend to tuck our feet behind us a bit and this gives a little room to do that.

  • Finally, and this is just for esthetics, we are including a strip of reclaimed wood along the edge of the bench seat (you can see it in Blake’s second sketch above) so that it will create a visible “stripe” of wood between the bench, which will be painted in BM White Dove, and the cushion, which will likely be a blue / denim color although we haven’t finalized that yet. It was too costly to do the entire top in reclaimed wood so we are just creating a part that will be visible since we are adding a cushion anyway. This wood stripe will tie in nicely with the cabinet…

Are you guys still with me?? Now, let’s get into that cabinet. We really wanted it to look like maybe it could be original to the house, but again, we wanted to keep the look unfussy and clean. I have been kind of obsessed with doing something like you see below for a while now and I thought that this project could be the perfect opportunity to do it. I LOVE how the wood cabinet with the glass doors is inset amongst the newer, dark cabinets. It looks like they built a new cabinet around an original piece and it’s gorgeous (as a side note, those pendant lights are from Rejuvenation and they are the exact ones that I have in my dining room).

Rejuvenation pendant lights

To my delight, my client and Blake were both into it, which literally gave me butterflies I was so excited. We initially thought about building a new piece out of reclaimed oak and then building the rest of the cabinet around it (which will be BM White Dove like the bench) so we would achieve the look of a vintage piece and get the mix of reclaimed wood and white. The downside to this is that it adds to the cost and it’s not as authentic. The pro is that it’s a time saver if you don’t have the time or the patience to wait to find the perfect vintage piece.

Just as we were about the abandon the idea because of the added cost, Blake saved the day when he scored this awesome vintage cabinet from Community Forklift for about $300. Thanks, Blake! That’s cheaper than he would have been able to build something new, the dimensions were spot on, AND this piece has wavy glass, you guys. My client has original wavy glass in the windows around their house and it is just such a cool bonus that this will tie in so nicely.

Vintage Cabinet

You can see in the sketch how the vintage piece will fit into the new build of the cabinet. There will be room to store wine just underneath the vintage part of the cabinet and the bottom with the solid doors will be toy storage for the kiddos (complete with have soft-close hinges).

Built-in Cabinet Dining Room

Incorporating that vintage piece makes the cabinet extra special AND we are re-using something AND it’s less expensive. Huge win all around.

I know that this was a long post but I’m so excited about this project that I wanted to share the juicy details so far. I will update you guys on the furniture and styling in a separate post as we get closer to finalizing. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think and what burning questions you have; leave them in the comments!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and kudos to you if you actually read this entire post;) I appreciate it!

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