As a remodeling contractor and custom cabinet maker, I have had the good fortune to work with a lot of interesting clients over the last 30 years. I have come to realize that some of the most fun people to work for are pet owners and animal lovers. They are, by nature, good-hearted people. Some of the ideas they come up with to integrate their lives with the lives of animals, are really unique and fun to work on. This article details one such project you’ll definitely want to check out if you’re a pet lover too.
Last spring, I was approached by an interior designer that I work with a lot. She had some clients that wanted a breakfast nook built in the kitchen of their early 20th century bungalow. Despite their enthusiasm, they were afraid the new nook would upset their elderly dog who loved to sleep in her kennel in the corner under the window. I designed some bench seats for them that included a removable dog door, stamped radiator screens underneath to provide good ventilation, and a hinged lid to access and clean the dogs new “kennel.” We were concerned that the little dog wouldn’t take to it, but when the work was done, she headed in through the door without hesitation! Another satisfied customer…
Step One: The Raised Platform
In the case of this particular kitchen, I needed to raise the floor to make it comfortable for looking out the window into the backyard. Since the kitchen had nice, original 3” pine flooring, I went out to a salvage place run by the local Historical Society and picked up some used flooring of a similar era to match. I built the platform in the shop, to avoid having to do sanding and finishing in their house.
Step Two: The Banquettes
The built-in seats, or banquettes, as they are called, were designed by myself using Sketchup, the free 3D modeling software. If you like, you can download my sketchup file for the banquette (include banquette.skp file for download) and play around with it to fit your space. Every detail is not there, but it is enough to get you started, and you can even modify the parts to your own dimensions. You can also use a nifty plug-in called “Cut list” to help figure your materials list to match your own personal taste and budget.
Since this unit was to be painted, I built everything out of birch plywood and solid poplar. I used stamped metal radiator covers for the grill, but you could get creative and make your own grill from wood or metal. The seats lift on a piano hinge, and the removable dog door simply replaces one of the panels and locks into place with cabinet catches. The owners had a local upholsterer make the cushions. If you’re feeling adventurous though, and want to save some extra money, you can certainly make your own DIY cushions instead.
Step Three: The Table
We debated for quite a while about what to use to make the table. We searched around for a vintage top that could be adapted, but to no avail. We settled on a painted wood table with a single leg and edging, routed to match the original base and door casing in the room. The Sketchup file for the table is also available for your use, which you can download here.
So there you have it – a functional breakfast nook created for man’s best friend. It was pretty easy to complete once we selected the appropriate materials, and we even managed to keep costs under $500 for the whole project.