Why You Should Always Listen to Pottery Barn (a bench story)

In my last post I told you about how I bought the galvanized metal chairs I have been lusting after for years. Today we’re talking about the other side of the table…the farmhouse benches.

farmhouse table and metal chairs

These are the complete opposite of my metal chairs… their homemade, cheap, and NOT sturdy. And even though I spent ridiculous amounts of time stalking my metal chair prey….these were way more of a pain. What I’m trying to say is that this is not a tutorial. More like a story of failure, failure…and then semi-success.

Lets begin…

A couple years ago Adam built this farmhouse table and bench


We’d never had a bench at a table before, and I loved it. It was crazy cheap to make, could hold a ton of people, and is great for the kids. Then this summer Adam decided he wanted to sell that table and build one out of better wood. He built the top out of pecan and when he asked me what kind of base I wanted I showed him this picture from Pottery Barn.

Pottery Barn Toscana Dining Table

I loved the casual X base, plus it looked easy to clean around (the first farmhouse table was kind of a pain to clean under).

Then it came time to build the benches, so I went back to Pottery Barn to show Adam a picture of the matching X base benches. Except, there weren’t any. The Toscana table has X legs…but the Toscana bench doesn’t. Intriguing.

Toscana bench

This should have been a clue that X base benches were a bad idea…but it wasn’t.

Since we obviously know better than Pottery Barn Adam went ahead and build cute little X’s for our bench legs (using the Kreg Jig).

X bench legs

We wanted to put some rustic looking pecan on top to match the table, so we dug out a few extra planks that we had leftover and assembled the benches.


But…they looked weird. The pecan pieces were too small and thin, and they just looked wrong to me. Tell me I’m not crazy. (He even had to cut the corners of the X’s off to make the tops fit.)

The top looks weird

Adam agreed and we built new beefy farmhouse style tops. (There was one big chunky piece of pecan left, that went on the bench in the hallway).

farmhouse bench tops

Now the X base table is solid as a rock, but for some reason the X’s on the benches are not at all sturdy. They were crazy wobbly and sitting on them was like taking your life in your hands. Perhaps it’s because the table X’s are thicker? I don’t know, but Adam added a cross beam to the angled beams and called it a day. This part doesn’t look amazing, but whatever….remember the motto. “Farmhouse, baby!”…you can get away with stuff like that if you just call it “farmhouse”.


AND THEN, a few days later, this happened…

Then this happened...

Good grief, really? Luckily Adam had been sitting on it and not one of the kids. Glue, screws, and lots of farmhouse-y things happened…and we’re done. Unless they break again…then we’re just going to build regular legged benches like Pottery Barn told us too. It’s kinda like they’ve done this before.

farmhouse table and metal chairs

So that’s my cautionary tale about X base benches. I’ve also been fighting the urge to put a rug under the table…Visually, a rug would look amazing and break up my awful (but a bit better now!) beige tiles. Practically, putting a rug under the table would be the most disgusting thing to happen to my house since mixing kids and a microfiber couch. So no rug it is.

If you’re wondering why we made two benches this time instead of one, it’s so that each kid can have his own. The single one was really long and heavy and hard to the kids to move. At mealtimes they each sit (well, stand) on one end. What tended to happen was one kid would be eating, and the other would come up to his side and pull out the bench…which really just pivots it, pushing the occupied side under the table and knocking the other kid off. So…two benches.

Also, while we’re talking about kids and benches I just have to share. My kids cannot for the life if them say the words “bench”. They THINK they’re saying bench, but what they are really saying is a word that sounds similar and is but is usually preceded by “son of a …”. I have sat down with them and practiced “say BEN…now say CH.” Nope, doesn’t help…they just end up cursing at me. I’ve decided just to let it go a fully enjoy the hilariousness of it before they grow out of it. It’s especially awesome when I am having a rough day and I hear Elijah pulling out his bench and saying “Oh man this bench is heavy!” Totally makes my day, every time. Kids are awesome.

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  1. jamie lynn says:

    Stories about your little guys crack me up! My friend’s son had trouble with “fork” when he was around 2, and you can imagine what that came out as.

    Love that table, your hubs is muy talented! And for what it’s worth, I like the tile you have in the kitchen. I know you hate it but I’d rather have tile than the fugly roll-of-linoleum-that-is-supposed-to-look-like-high-end-tile-with-stone-insets-but-looks-like-…well…fugly linoleum that I have in mine.

    • Haha, fork. I bet my kids would say the same thing if they didn’t just call everything a spoon.

      Thanks for the reminder to be content with what I have. I do hate my tile but it could be so much worse.! Also, thanks for the reminder about the word fugly…such a great word.
      Ashley recently posted..The Top Ten Posts of 2013My Profile

      • jamie lynn says:

        I’ve had to de-fuglify a lot of spaces in my house. Built in the 40’s and “updated” by my grandparents up until the 70’s when it was apparently decided that wood paneling and hideous dark brown linoleum would stand the test of time. It’s translated into lots of paint and still more (but at least newer, lighter) linoleum since I’ve taken it over. Lots more work to do but at least the scary metallic silver and black wallpaper (with the ugliest hot pink paint underneath that took 4 coats of primer to even begin to think about painting over!) in the bathroom is gone!

  2. My son could not say “truck”. But he loved pointing them out. He would point at a truck and say “f**k!” He did that a lot.
    Charlotte Wood recently posted..How to Make a BudgetMy Profile

  3. Great post Ashley! Adam has done a great job with those benches, glad they are safe now! I love your stories of your boys mishaps, this is so funny, love it! Hahaha! :)
    Cindy recently posted..It’s a New Year!! Welcome 2014!My Profile

  4. Thank you for your lovely funny post, you always brighten my day.
    I also have two tiny people under the age of 5 and I get a good giggle from hearing about Levi and Elija’s (mis)adventures. I could definately visualise them knocking each other flying off the bench (today we’ve had a collision complete with lumps on the foreheads and a bite (18 mth old randomly bit the 4 year old…because he could…?!)
    I definately agree about the rug, our new house has a carpet in the dining room, and I’m sick of having to heave the carpet cleaner over it, I’m so desperate to tear the carpet up!
    Have a great weekend
    Gerrie recently posted..New Boiler and Winter WooliesMy Profile

  5. Ana White has a great plan for an x bench that looks really sturdy. In the search option type in “Ashley’s x bench for x picnic table” and it should pop up.

  6. Love your posts love the table. Can you paint your tile

  7. Ashley, I just love your blog….it’s the perfect mix of real life DIY and family and kids. I love the bench story….imagine our surprise one evening when our 2-year old little girl came running into the room “quacking” like a duck and it comes out sounding like the f-bomb. Not going lie….after a long day, my husband and I could always get a giggle by asking her to quack like a duck for us. I’m happy we enjoyed it before it was gone.

    • Haha! That’s awesome. Last year Elijah was obsessed with animal documentaries and he called them “animal shows”….except that he actually called them a**holes. It bums me out now that he says it perfectly!

  8. Ellie a.k.a :) says:

    Ha ha! Aren’t kids just the greatest? My 3 yr. old grandson calls crazy drivers “A-hoggers” ! Better than it was before (douche bag!) Can I say that here??

  9. Hello,
    For future x-bases for benches, try using only 2 pieces instead of 3. You cand find it best described here http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21531/21531-h/21531-h.htm (figure 39, cross halving joint). It’s sturdier, albeit a bit more difficult to build.
    Thank you for this site, it’s awesome!

    • That would have been MUCH sturdier. We actually did something similar to that on the legs of our first farmhouse table and it worked (and looked) great.

  10. Oh just the laugh I needed today! “Bench”… Bwhahaha!!!

  11. Christy C says:

    I would have done my X legs with a notch out of the middle so they aren’t 3 piece legs but two that fit together like a puzzle.

  12. Christy C says:

    Oh and my 3-year asked. What does the fox say but came out more like “what the f*ck say?”

    • Good ‘ol 3 year olds…always good for a laugh! I had that song stuck in my head forever, and I asked my 3 year old …
      “what does the fox say?”
      “what do you mean?”
      “Like if a fox bumped into a friendly horse, what would he say”
      “he would say “Excuse me horse”

      So the answer to “what does the fox say” is “excuse me horse”. Haha!

  13. That my friend was funny. I needed a laugh today.
    Keep creating in the trenches of Motherhood.
    Good job !

  14. If it’s any consolation, I think that it’s fantastic that you guys can just whip these things up at the drop of a hat!

    Have you thought about an indoor/outdoor rug? Those will clean up nicely. You could even drag it into the yard in the summer and hose it off.

    I know. That doesn’t sound like high end decor. But trust me, there are some gorgeous patterns in those durable rugs!
    Tara recently posted..Start Slicing Those Veggies! Win a Microplane Adjustable Slicer and Cut-Resistant Glove!My Profile

    • I have thought about an indoor/outdoor rug for sure, though I’m still not convinced it would be durable enough. I have to seriously scrub to get food off the TILE, so I’m feeling really leery of a rug. Do you have one under your table? Does it do okay?

      Oh, and we didn’t quite whip these up…we started them in October. Eek!
      Ashley recently posted..Simple Industrial Pipe Shelving, Bathroom EditionMy Profile

  15. I love this story! I will, many times, think I am much smarter than stores… But, it never fails, they were usually right in the way they made the product. But what fun is a project if you exactly copy it?! Gotta put your own spin on it. :) Happy New Year!

  16. Haha when my oldest daughter was about 2, she couldn’t say truck. I would get so embarrassed everytime she would point trucks out in public, because it sounded like my baby was dropping f bombs lol.

  17. The dining room set that came with our house has been breaking piece by piece and I have been on the lookout for a new table that we could build…LOVE yours! I picture a new set exactly like yours only my husband isn’t feeling those chairs that I too have loved for years…maybe with a “few” chairs and a bench I could talk him into it. ?:-) So sorry that the bench didn’t work out quite how you thought. Thanks for the great inspiration!

    Sarah @ An Inviting Home recently posted..The Child I Never Knew Made Me A MotherMy Profile

  18. All three of my kids were in french immersion (fairly common in Canada), and in grade two or three, each of them came home from school and asked me if I knew the french word for “seal” (it’s “phoque”). They all got a big charge out of that, saying, “It’s phoque, mummy, phoque!” as many times as they could before I would finally shut them down. By the third kid, it was so predictable it was even more funny, in an eye-rolling kind of way.
    Jan Elizabeth recently posted..A bowling ball with a history, and big plansMy Profile

    • I just googled “how to pronounce phoque”, haha. Yeah, that’s basically a straight up curse word, I can see why you kids taunted you with it!

  19. I love your table and benches (aka b$&@/&$) LOL! They are adorable. Regarding your rug issue, I just wanted to say or ask, have you seen the floor covering made out of paper bags? I saw it somewhere on this website and I absolutely loved it. That might be something you want to do for your flooring. Just an idea, hope this helps. Thanks for sharing!

  20. My oldest had trouble as a toddler with truck..he always said it with an f and ofcourse no r. My mom wouldn’t hang around us when he went to see Santa. She was so afraid he was going to ask for a fire truck. When the repairman came to the house he got all excited (after the man was standing in the house with us) and he kept repeating over and over the man had a _uck….:/

  21. I know this is several months late (I was creeping through your blog), but I remembered another blogger who wanted a rug in her dining room but also has small children, so instead of a rug, she painted linoleum to look like a rug. It’s something to consider anyway!

  22. I love the funny x-bench story. But really, I just had a funny child pronunciation story to share. My son couldn’t say ‘bus’- it came out butt, every time. However, he learned that something he was saying was making us laugh, so he wouldn’t say ‘bus’ anymore, unless we spiced it up. As long as we added something, he figured it was different- ‘dirty bus’, and ‘big bus’ were two of our favorites. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they? lol

  23. I was referred to this site when a friend saw that I had built this exact Toscana table set. I was pretty amused to see we had the same idea. Might I make a suggestion? A cross halving joint for the legs would be much sturdier than cutting one of your legs in half like was done for the benches and table. And although it’s not as fast as pocket screws, dowel joints will grant you much more strength and long term stability. Just some suggestions for future projects. Very nice work on the overall product, though!

  24. chelsea says:

    I think the reason why the benches aren’t sturdy is due to the angles created by the X’s. The table is wide enough for the X’s to have right angles while the benches are not. I remember my dad teaching me about angles a loooong time ago so I might be wrong though!

  25. This is a two year old post, but still relevant and very funny! Thanks for all the advice regarding the little ones, as I am mostly buying a trestle table and benches for 6 grandkids…ages 0,1,2,3,4,5,& 6 (of course the youngest will be in highchairs for awhile) and their parents!

  26. Lindsay says:

    I really enjoyed this blog post. I’ll never say “bench” again without thinking of it! I own the pottery barn version of the table and bench. I scored the table at one of their outlets for $100 because it had some damage. Yay! it sounds like you and your husband really know your stuff… I’m a bit jealous of your skill set! Speaking of, can you recommend any oils or waxes or conditioners for the table? Pottery barn doesn’t list any..


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