Before & After: A Breakfast Nook Goes from Dated and Drab to Modern and Cozy
This DIYer turned open shelves and an empty corner into a sunny and modern farmhouse-style breakfast nook and storage area.
Who doesn’t love a cozy breakfast nook? I dreamt of having one in my home since my days of living in cramped New York City apartments, where each kitchen averaged about 10 square feet. After relocating to a home in the suburbs, I immediately started planning for it. A sunny corner featuring open shelves, a large window, and space for a kitchen table offered the perfect spot.
Our Vision for the Space
The empty corner was practically begging for a built-in seating area. We decided on a bench with storage to hide away craft materials and other necessities. The existing adjacent shelves provided space for storage, however, the open format left them impractical for food items and always looking messy. We began to think about solutions for hiding additional pantry goods and small appliances. Since the shelves were inset, it was important that the doors slide over them. Barn doors seemed like a great, and also stylish, option. We decided to finish the space by adding shiplap for a bit of wall texture and visual appeal.
To incorporate the sliding doors, we hung a wrought iron rail and attached two flat hollow core doors, which we added trim pieces to in order to achieve the barn look. For the bench, we made a frame of two-by-fours, adding hinged wood on top for access to inside storage and the same shiplap style exterior finish as the walls.
For the walls, we needed to remove the old wallpaper first, which luckily came off pretty easily. Then we used quarter-inch plywood, which was substantially less expensive than the actual shiplap and cut it down into the planks spaced ⅛ inch apart to achieve the paneled look.
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The biggest challenge of redesigning this area was the sloping floor. As with many old homes, our house is not perfectly level, varying in height from the floor to the ceiling, in some areas more than an inch. This made installing the barn doors especially tricky. We had to counterbalance the track and cut the doors at different lengths to make it work. To install the shiplap, we worked from the floor up and custom cut the top pieces to disguise the discrepancy. So far, I think we’ve pulled it off.
An affordable tulip table from Ikea and vintage chairs from Etsy fit perfectly into the spot. The most significant investment for the space was the custom bench cushions (available here). I chose a washable outdoor fabric since I knew, with three kids, we would need an easy option for cleaning up spills and other messes. Throw pillows add a pop of color in the otherwise neutral space.
This whole corner is actually my favorite part of the house, but if I had to pick a feature that stands out, it would be the built-in bench. It not only looks good, but adds functionality—providing a comfortable spot for my kids to do homework and crafts—while offering a bit of storage to hide away supplies. The added textiles make it extra inviting for cozying up with a cup of tea.
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