So at the end of January, when I had to stop working full time and take an ‘extended medical leave of absence’ from my business, my transition activity was to design and build us a couch. From scratch. I mean really from scratch. From the frame, to the cushions, to the upholstery. I built our couch. And it was surprisingly pretty easy. And we now have a couch that I love. And when I’m having a crappy stuck on the couch pain couple of days, I can lie there and think, “Yea, but I built this couch. And it’s awesome, so ok, I’ll lie here cuz my body demands, but I built this couch damn it!”
In case any of you would ever want to build your own couch, here are some instructions. The nice thing about building your own couch is you can design it to fit your space and needs precisely.
For us, I had a couple of wants and needs for our couch. I wanted a couch that I could store stuff in, I wanted a super comfy couch (for those said ‘stuck on the couch in pain for days’ times), I wanted it to have some kind of attached ottoman or chaise for easy leg elevation and lounging (see again the ‘days stuck on the couch…’ bit) and I wanted a blue corduroy couch. The reason, I decided to make our couch (besides so I could have something visible and concrete to remind me that I can accomplish cool stuff even if I’m not actively running my business at this time), is because no place makes a couch that met that criteria standard, and if I had one made by someone else custom it would have cost thousands of dollars. Instead, I built the couch for less than $500 in about 3 weeks (you could make it for much less, using different fabric or skipping the seat webbing to just make solid seats, or using cheaper wood for the frame to then cover in fabric instead of leaving exposed). And I get a lot more self satisfaction from it. And my sister and I still laugh hysterically when we think about the debacle it took getting the thing in the house. Oi. Laughing so hard neither of us had the strength to lift it.
Our couch frame is made with a large amount of exposed wood. As I like the look and texture of natural wood, so did not want to cover it all up with fabric. For our couch this meant, using 2×12″ boards, sanding them well and then using Danish Oil to seal and enhance their look. (I could have used a stain or other varnish, but I like the natural look that Danish Oil provides).
As shown in the above picture diagram, materials for the frame called for:
- 3 lengths of 2″ x 12″ x 84″
- 4 lengths of 2″ x 12″ x 32″
- 1 length of 2″ x 6″ x 84″
- 2 lengths of 2″ x 6″ x 18″
- 1 length of 2″ x 4″ x 84″
- 1 length of 2″ x 4″ x 18″
- plus appropriate length screws
Because comfort was a top priority, rather than a solid plywood back and seat, I designed the couch seat and backs using upholstery webbing. I also needed the couch design to allow it to be moved from my basement ‘workshop’ to our living room upstairs. Which meant the back had to be detachable from the seat frame.
For the back I used 2x4s to form a frame, then 1/2″ staples and staple gun to attach the upholstery webbing in a crisscross pattern. The back was also designed to install on a slight angle back, since don’t know about you all but sitting straight up isn’t very comfy.
For the seat panels, which are attached to the base frame with hinges, I used 1×4″ boards again with upholstery webbing stapled on. Our couch has 2 separate seat panels that can hinge up to gain access to items stored in the couch base.
The lounge ottoman I built slides in to fit on either the left or right front of the couch. This also has a hinging top (Zora and Tom love the ottoman as they know their spare dog toys and treats are stored in it!)
Now once all of the frame, back, seat and ottoman frames were built and treated with Danish Oil, I had to design and build the various cushions.
Because I was building this on a budget, but I really, really wanted a blue corduroy couch, I scoured the net. And found an on-line fabric store selling upholstery corduroy so much cheaper than I found anywhere else. So I ordered a couple of fabric swatches, and we chose a lovely shade of Indigo for our couch. Then I went to scouring the net for upholstery cushion options. I found a couple that I almost used, but in the end Joanne Fabric was having a flash sale on boxes of 16′ of upholstery foam, so I bought 2 of those and through the magic of spray adhesive and sharp scissors, I pieced together foam to make the cushion sizes we needed. On top of the foam I covered the seat cushion in 4″ of fluffy batting. All told the seat cushion is about 7-8″ thick. The back pillows have no foam but are just stuffed with lots of batting (which I am currently lamenting and think I might invest in some more foam to give the back pillows some more structure).
Before making the actual sitting cushions, I covered the seat and ottoman hinge panels in a couple of inches of batting to increase comfort then covered them in fabric. Because I was using corduroy, the challenge was remembering to have the fabric piles so they all went the same direction. I did the same on the back panel.
As I wasn’t going to make detachable arm cushions, I put 4″ of upholstery foam against the inside wood of each arm panel, then covered it in a couple of inches of batting. On top of which I again covered with fabric. A trick I learned about online was to cut strips of cardboard to staple into when attaching the fabric. This helps prevent the fabric from ripping or pulling when the couch is getting lots of use. To help hide the staples, fabric edges and cardboard once the couch was completed I trimmed the arms with some nice 1×2″ wood strips and a cool filial I found at Lowes.
Then came the sewing machine fun of making box seat style cushions for the seat. For our couch I decided to make 1 long cushion for the seat cushion. As I find it annoying when seat cushions move and sink and slide out of place. Not gonna happen on my couch! (and it doesn’t). But I did make 3 separate pillows for the back, as they are more poofy and sink yourself into than the seat cushion.
All told, it was a very fun and self satisfying project. I enjoyed all of it from design and research phase to putting it all together. For anyone considering building their own couch, I would highly recommended it.