Mark Kujawski is a Force Load Manager with AT&T by day and a DIY furniture builder by night. He’s a veteran homeowner who lives in Pewaukee, WI with his beautiful wife, Michelle, and their two lovely children.
Mark is a busy man with many personal and professional responsibilities, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves, and that’s to build furniture. Woodworking has become one if his beloved hobbies over the years, and he’s here to share his knowledge with homeowners everywhere. See how Mark builds his own furniture and what tips he has for any DIYer.
It typically takes Mark about an hour to make a plan of attack for each piece of furniture he builds. As you’ll see, Mark and his wife are both big fans of the Restoration Hardware style. The kitchen table you see is a take on another piece of furniture he and his wife saw in an online catalogue. Eighteen hours and $150 later, Mark was on his way to applying the finishing touches to his new table.
He builds each and every piece custom to the space it’s going to be displayed. The kitchen table is 54" in diameter instead of your standard 48." The reason is that it made the table large enough to sit eight people, without having to use a leaf. He said there’s also still plenty of room to move around the perimeter of the table comfortably.
Stand Alone Cabinet
Building his own furniture is a hobby that Mark really enjoys. He uses woodworking as a creative outlet, “It’s the exact opposite of my full-time job as a manager and data analyst where I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer.” You can obviously see by the work he’s produced that he’s quite talented.
Mark spent $150 and 12 hours building this beautiful cabinet. It’s covered in milk paint with a wax top coat. We love the choice of white paint for the interior shelving. The rustic décor placed inside and on top of the cabinet are perfect compliments to this piece.
Mark has two different vanity pieces to share with us. The singular vanity took him about 12 hours of work and cost him roughly $285. All of his lumber, besides the double vanity and built in cabinets, is construction grade pine that he purchases at The Home Depot or Menards. The single vanity is draped in milk paint and has a wax top coat.
The double vanity, as I’m sure you can guess, took him more time and money to build. Mark spent 18 hours and expended nearly $1,550 to make this project a reality.
The double vanity is made of oak and coated in Minwax Poly Shades (a stain and polyurethane all in one).
The sinks for the double vanity were purchased at HOBO and the granite at a store called, Tile and Stone, in Delafield, WI. The rest of the hardware faucets where purchased on Amazon or eBay, which were some of the few places he was able to find the vintage style he was looking for.
Coffee Table & Console
This coffee table took Mark about 10 hours and $85 to construct. It’s finished with a wood stain and white wash (white paint and water based polyurethane). The coffee table is another piece Mark built custom for their home. It’s taller and longer than you might normally find in-store, because they knew it was going in front of an oversized couch and love seat. Good thinking on Mark’s part!
The console is the perfect piece in this living room. This delightful sofa table was inspired by furniture Mark and his wife spotted at Pottery Barn. The console is built out of pine purchased at The Home Depot. The finish is a stain and white wash. It cost Mark about $70 to create this beauty.
Built In Cabinets
The built in cabinets were one of the more challenging projects Mark tackled. He was working with a fireplace and fireplace surround that were already in place. It’s a tougher job because he had to match the style and scale of what already existed. Mark purposely made the built in cabinets taller than you might normally see, so that the top of the cabinet would line up with the bottom of the mantel casing.
These custom cabinets are made of oak and ash wood and are also finished with a white wash (white paint and water based polyurethane). Mark spent roughly $350 and 20 hours building and painting these cabinets.
Mark isn’t shy about sharing what obstacles he faced and lessons he learned while building his own furniture. He advises DIYers to remember that, “When you’re designing furniture, keep in mind that as the seasons change, wood will swell in the summer and shrink in the winter. This is especially true for soft wood like pine.” Mark experiences this shift with his coffee and kitchen tables. When he first built the kitchen table he glued and screwed a support piece to the bottom of the table. As the wood shrank during the first winter, the top of the table split because he didn’t account for this detail. Whoops!
If you plan to assemble your own vanities, Mark says to make sure there’s no upward bow in the top piece of wood where the vanity meets the countertop. His piece had about a one-sixteenth of an inch bow to it. When the slab of granite was placed on top, it caused the bottom drawer cutouts to be out of square by a one-sixteenth of an inch. Hopefully Mark’s advice will save a few of you some headaches down the road!
Tips For Furniture DIYers
- If you’re just getting started and don’t want spend a ton of money on tools, check out Harbor Freight. You can find really inexpensive tools that will do the trick. If you really take to furniture building, you’ll probably upgrade your tools eventually, but this is a great place to get you started at a low cost. Even if you make one piece of furniture, the tools will have paid for themselves.
- YouTube is your friend. If there is anything that you want to build, you’ll find a video of someone out there building it.
- Don’t hesitate to go to a nice furniture store and take some measurements of a piece of furniture you like. Take a look at the bottom of a table or the back of dresser. This will give you insight into how the furniture piece was put together.
- Use graph paper or Excel to draw up your plans. This way you can better approximate the scale of your projects. In Excel, change the cell size so that they’re all square. Then you can use a scale where one inch is equal to one square.
- Always think about scale. Don’t put skinny legs on a large table top. Guests may not know why a piece of furniture doesn’t look right, but they’ll definitely notice something’s off.
- When building doors and draws make sure that you leave space around them to allow for proper opening and closing. Paint and finishes do add a little more thickness than you might think. And as stated above, remember that the wood will expand in the summer and shrink in the winter.
Mark and his wife know they have expensive taste in furniture, so they figure why pay for it if Mark can just build it himself. Building your own furniture takes planning, creativity and patience, but it can be done. If you’re a DIYer, we hope you feel inspired to take a shot at it yourself!
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