February 23, 2016  

How to Install a DIY Breakfast Counter Under A Window

If you have a small kitchen like I do, you’re probably constantly dreaming up ways to maximize every nook and cranny. In a small kitchen, every inch of counter space is precious real estate and you can’t afford to have any dead space. My kitchen isn’t super tiny, but it’s definitely on the small side. I’ve been busy organizing and decorating it lately, and last week you got the full tour of my kitchen makeover that I’m calling a “refreshing green and blue kitchen retreat.”

My absolute favorite part of this kitchen makeover is the cozy breakfast counter I added under our window, which looks out over our backyard. That corner of our kitchen gets so much sunlight, and it’s really nice to have a place to sit down and enjoy all the sunshine streaming in. I love that this new breakfast counter adds some counter space and a bit of seating to our small kitchen. It’s the perfect place to enjoy my bowl of cereal in the morning or to sit down and talk David’s ear off while I make him stir things on the stove (not that I ever do that or anything, wink wink). I think the counter has a cozy cafe or coffee shop vibe to it, don’t you?

Today, I’m sharing how I built this breakfast counter with about $20 in supplies from the hardware store. Seriously so easy to do. The only thing left to add is some stylin’ bar stools and pretty curtains.

When we moved into our house, the kitchen had this random, purposeless space by the windows. I knew there was an opportunity to maximize that dead space and make it into usable real estate. If budget was no limit, I’d probably extend the counter and cabinets all the way to the corner. But I really didn’t have money to spend on the kitchen, so I starting thinking up cheap ways to give the dead space some purpose with little expense.

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

I toyed with the idea of adding a “built-in” corner booth with a small table, but I thought it might be a lot to cram into that small corner. Plus, I’m really not that confident in my construction skills and lumber costs can add up pretty quickly, even for a small DIY seating area. So I vetoed that idea and put the kitchen corner on the back burner until I came up with a game plan.

One of the best decorating/home improvement lessons I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s best to wait on a project until inspiration strikes. My first instinct is to rush full force into new projects, but I always find that the end result is better when I step back and allow myself time to mull over ideas and wait for inspiration, which usually comes from unexpected places.

In this case, I was traveling and stopped in a little cafe one day, and they had a long counter with bar stools along the windows that faced out onto the sidewalk. My mind instantly pictured that cozy counter in my kitchen, and I was so excited to find an affordable way to make it happen. And that’s where my idea for adding a breakfast counter was born. Like I said, the best inspiration and ideas come from unexpected places.

After a quick trip to the hardware store, here’s how it turned out:

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

The good news is that this breakfast counter was so simple to install that anyone can do it. All you need is a drill and a few supplies from the hardware store.
What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

DIY Breakfast Counter Supplies

The best part about this project, in my opinion, is how few supplies you need. These are all things you can pick up at any hardware or home improvement store. This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. See my disclosure policy here. You will need:

  • 1 pre-finished laminate shelf board found at any hardware store or a plain board stained/painted (I used a shelf board like this one) – board size will be determined by your space, mine is 72”x14”
  • 2-3 shelf brackets that will support your counter top (I used these 5 x 6 inch grey metal brackets)
  • Screws and wall anchors to secure your brackets to the wall
  • Screws that are shorter than the thickness of your counter top board (used to attach the board to your brackets)
  • Cordless Drill (I have this one)
  • Tape Measure
  • Level

You will also need some bar stools for your new breakfast counter, of course. I measured the distance from the counter to the floor and then used this chart to determine what height stools I needed. I ended up with these gorgeous Carlisle Bar Stools from Target in the gun metal color. They come in a set of two, which was perfect for my project. I managed to find them on sale, but they were definitely a bit of a splurge for me. If you’re new around here, you should know I can be pretty cheap. Thrifted bar stools painted pretty colors would work super well for a project like this!

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

Install Your Very Own Breakfast Counter

You can easily add this fun cafe vibe to your kitchen, or it would even be fun in a study or den as a place to check your emails or for the kids to do their homework.

Install Your Shelf Brackets

I wanted to install this counter right along our kitchen window, which looks out over our backyard. Because of this, I had to factor in the existing windowsill. Putting the counter underneath the windowsill made the counter too short, so I decided to install it right on top of the windowsill. It’s a bit hard to explain, so take a look at the next couple pictures for close-ups.

To install your counter, you’ll need to measure out the distance between your brackets and mark the screw locations. Then drill in strong wall anchors. Our walls are plaster, so long screws and hefty anchors were a must. It’s obviously important that your counter is securely fastened to the wall.

Because the windowsill sticks out from the wall, I was only able to use two brackets. Ideally, I would have used a third bracket in the middle of the counter for added support. Sure, I could have cut out the windowsill to make room for an extra bracket, but I didn’t want to do any permanent damage to the room so I place my two brackets right alongside the edges of the windowsill.

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

Attach Counter Top

Now it’s time to secure the counter top onto the brackets. It was just a matter of centering the board under the window and then screwing from underneath the brackets into the board. You’ll just want to make sure your screws are shorter than the thickness of your board so they don’t poke all the way through.

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

Here’s a look at where the counter top meets the actual window. The counter sticks out just a bit from the window because of the trim, so it leaves a little crevice between the counter and the window but it’s not really noticeable.

The counter top is low enough that I can still easily open and close the window.

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

Add Your Finishing Touches

My final step was to paint the edges of the counter top board. I used a white laminate shelf that had a finished, rounded front edge but unfinished sides. I was able to disguise the unfinished edges with one really quick coat of white paint that I had on hand.

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

And that’s it! See how super simple this project was? And it makes such a big impact in our small kitchen. All that was left was to add some pretty curtains and decor. I sewed my own curtains so they are the perfect length to brush along the top of the counter.

What a great way to use dead space under that window! Super cute breakfast counter for her small kitchen.

Some Things To Consider

My counter turned out pretty sturdy, although I wouldn’t want to load it up with a bunch of heavy appliances or let small children hang from it. Like I mentioned, if I was doing this as more of a permanent project, I would have cut out the windowsill so I could use more brackets and the board could butt right up against the wall. That would make it more sturdy.

My board was 14 inches wide, but you could easily do this same project with a wider board. If I went much wider, I would want to add legs to stabilize the outer corners. You can purchase table legs from home improvement stores, or look into adjustable height table legs from Ikea. My counter is sturdy enough without legs, but adding two legs to the front corners would be a great option if you need more stability (like if you’ll have little kiddos doing chin-ups from the counter or something 😉 )

Thanks for stopping by today, my friends! If you want to take a look at the full tour of my refreshing blue and green kitchen retreat, you can see all the pretty pictures here.

This happy kitchen is full of whites, blues and greens. Shows even small kitchens can look pretty!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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