If you have a craft or hobby that you work on regularly, then you know how helpful it is to have a designated space where you can create. At our house, we’re passionate about using homegrown herbs to make natural body care products, primarily soaps and steam-distilled floral waters. Both projects can get messy, and we got sick of the materials infringing on our living space.
We needed a designated room where we could store our materials and work on projects in peace. After assessing our basement and our spare bedroom, we ultimately decided to convert our tiny, one-car garage into a hobby space that we now call our “herb shed.” Our herb shed includes a built-in workbench, storage, windows that overlook our garden, and herb-drying racks. Because it’s outdoors, we can use our propane-powered camp stove for distilling and canning, and our garden hose provides water. We absolutely love working in our herb shed, and with a few simple steps, you can also convert an unused room into a creative space.
Define Your Needs
First, you need to be clear about what you want from your space. We needed a ventilated area where we could run our propane stove. For some creative pursuits, you may prioritize having a space indoors where you can work year-round. Either way, think outside the box, and look around your home for a space — even a portion of a room — that you could designate to your hobby.
Many people reserve their spare bedroom for guests. However, in our humble opinion, it’s more important to have a creative space you can use on a regular basis than it is to have a dedicated room for guests who may only visit a few times per year. If you find yourself in this situation, consider trading in your guest bed for a pullout couch, which will help carve out space for a dedicated work nook.
Many people who’ve visited our herb shed say they’d love to have a similar space, but their stuff takes up too much room. Remember that you’re in charge of the clutter, not the other way around. We were using our shed for storage before we converted it, and it took us three full weekends to declutter, clean, and organize. This may be the most important step of the process, because only when you clearly see your space — and the materials you want to fit inside it — can you imagine how to best fit them together.
Tools and Materials
Before purchasing lumber, determine the size of your worktable. Ours is 3 feet tall, 2 feet deep, and 16 feet long. Two feet is a nice depth, and it’s also convenient, because you can saw a 4×8 sheet of plywood in half lengthwise for a durable and inexpensive tabletop. (If you don’t have a table saw, ask the lumberyard to do this for you.) This list reflects what we used to build our table; you may need to adjust it according to your own project.
- Garden rake (optional)
- Filler dirt or gravel (optional)
- Measuring tape
- Miter saw
- 3-inch decking screws
- Nail gun
- Finishing nails
- Stain (color of choice)
- Paint (color of choice)
- Brushes for application
- 8-foot-long 4×4 for table legs (2)
- 8-foot-long 2×4 for frame (4)
- 4×8 sheet of 1-inch plywood for tabletop, cut in half lengthwise
- 8-foot-long 1×12 for backsplash (2)
- 16 feet of quarter round moulding for backsplash (optional)
- Beadboard (optional)
Build Your Workstation
With a dedicated space and a clean palette, you’ll be ready for the best part: making it functional. The two things you’ll need most are storage space and a work surface. If your workspace will be a finished room of your house, search your storage, thrift stores, and local swap sites to find used furniture on a budget, and keep your eyes open for wooden or metal crates and wicker baskets to store smaller items.
If your new hobby space is in an unfinished basement or shed with exposed walls, then you’ll have the opportunity to make a custom, built-in worktable. Our worktable is the heart of our herb shed, and you can follow this basic template to build one that best fits your space.
- If you’re building on a dirt or gravel floor, make sure the floor is level before you begin. A garden rake works fine for this. Use soil or gravel to fill in any holes.
- Decide how to attach your built-in table to the room’s existing infrastructure. Like most sheds, ours isn’t insulated, so the frame is exposed. With this in mind, we decided to use the shed’s vertical framing posts as the back supports for the table. This design left us more storage space underneath the table by eliminating the need for back legs, and it saved us money by cutting back on lumber.
- Mark the ground where the 4×4 legs will sit. Ours are about 4 feet apart, because we aligned them with our shed’s vertical framing posts. The front legs are roughly 2 feet away from the shed’s wall.
- Next, measure and cut the 2x4s that will connect the 4×4 legs to the wall’s framing posts. Each 4×4 leg will be sandwiched between a set of two horizontal 2x4s.
- After you’ve measured and cut the 2x4s, screw them to either side of your wall’s existing vertical posts at your desired height with 3-inch decking screws. (Ours are attached at a height of 3 feet.)
- Starting on one end of the workbench, use a level (and a second pair of hands) to hold up the loose end of each 2×4 set until they’re completely level. Slip a 4×4 between the horizontal 2x4s, into the position that you’ve marked on the floor for the leg’s placement. Mark the 4×4 where it needs to be trimmed so the table lays flat, and then cut it with a miter saw. (If you choose to bury the legs, take that into account when measuring the height.) Place the trimmed 4×4 back into the marked space so it’s sandwiched between the set of horizontal 2x4s. Attach the loose end of each 2×4 to the 4×4 leg with screws.
- Repeat this process until each of the 4×4 posts are securely fastened between a set of horizontal 2x4s.
- Complete the frame by connecting the 4×4 posts with long, horizontal 2x4s. Measure the distance between each post, mark a 2×4 to fit inside the space, and then use a miter saw to trim it to the correct length. Attach the 2x4s to the posts with screws. Continue this process until all the 4x4s are connected to each other.
- Lay half of the plywood sheet on top of the frame, and then use a nail gun with finishing nails to attach it securely, or screw it in place with decking screws. Repeat with the other half of the plywood sheet to complete the tabletop.
- To prevent small items from falling behind your workbench, nail or screw 1×12 boards to the room’s frame posts, stretching the length of the tabletop, to create a backsplash.
- For a more finished look, use a nail gun and finishing nails to add wooden quarter round in the crease between the backsplash and tabletop.
- Stain the tabletop, backsplash, and quarter round, if desired, and then apply 2 to 3 coats of polyurethane. Paint the table legs to give the whole project a finished look.
- We wanted our herb shed to feel like a finished room, so we used leftover beadboard from another project to close in the exposed wall above and below the worktable, and painted it white to match the table legs.
You’ll have endless possibilities when designing your built-in worktable; you may choose to add a work sink, a pegboard for tools, or any other number of useful add-ons. Using this template as your guide, enjoy building a bench that fits your space requirements and creative pursuits.