Thanks to the Internet, I found some transformations of coffee tables into benches. I found a coffee table on KSL.com that had pretty legs, and I talked the seller down from $30 to $15. At first I was going to paint it (that's always easier), but I had a serious paint mishap that meant I had to strip the whole thing anyway! After going through all that work, I decided to stain it the same as the tops of my dresser and chest of drawers. The fabric was a red-tag clearance from JoAnn's. The most expensive part was the green foam for the top!
A couple of months later, I found this coffee table for FREE on KSL.com. It was long and narrow, like the first one, and it had pretty details on the legs. I painted it white and distressed it. The handle is purely decorative. I painted it with ORB spray paint, followed by a light spray of silver--I think it gives an aged-pewter type look. I didn't splurge in as heavy of foam for this one, and the fabric came from a tablecloth I found at Savers.
Of course, the easiest benches to transform are the ones that start out as benches! This one I found for $5 at a garage sale. The legs needed to be tightened, but there was nothing much else wrong with it. I used a $2 can of "oops" paint on it, followed by a black glaze. Someday I would like to have benches at my table--it just seems simpler than trying to keep 3 chairs on each side neat. Unfortunately, I need something longer than 48". Maybe someday I will try to build my own!
Benches. Gotta love 'em!