Building a sofa: pros, cons, vague instructions, and valuable lessons

March 8 | Guest post by Rachel Buse

We needed a new couch. Wanting to build my own, I found this how-to instructional scanned from a vintage home maintenance encyclopedia. It took (a lot of) time, but the results are good!

Here is a pro/con list detailing the fruits of my labor — it'll help prepare you, should you decide to build your own couch.

Pros:

  • Bragging rights. Building your own couch is badass.
  • Fully customizable. You choose your materials, where they come from, and what they look like. It's all up to you.
  • Following this vintage pattern sorta means you are making vintage. You definitely get vintage style.
  • I don't care if my cat scratches and snags this couch. But I would if it were real vintage.
  • As far as custom furniture goes, CHEAP! Approximately $300 — my biggest expense being fabric.
  • Replaceable parts. No need to throw out the frame out when the springs in the mattress go bad.
    Click here for big instructions!
  • Couch is made from a bed, which will be awesome for overnight guests who may sleep there.
  • Fewer crevices, less dust.
  • Challenging! Will build construction and sewing skills you never knew you had.

Cons:

  • Time consuming. This is a multiple-weekend, many-late-nights, multi-phase project.
  • Compared to "could have just gotten a cheap gaudy couch from craigslist", this was EXPENSIVE. I did not know I'd spend close to $300 in materials.
  • It may just always look like a bed.
  • Because it is a bed, it's possible you will fall asleep during movies, missing all the good parts.
  • I don't know how to tell you how to make this couch. The original instructions included are FAR from detailed. You will have to wing the upholstery completely.

Other features:

  • My dad has offered comments complimenting its structure and firmness.
  • Child-jumping safe (so far).

The back is fashioned after Thai triangle floor pillows.They provide a comfortable angle and height without being too bulky. Panels were constructed for the front of the panels to mimic a mid-century modern Danish daybed.

We like our new couch. If you've got an itch to build, just make sure you've got enough patience and extra cash. It's worth it.

  1. Tell me more about this mattress.
    The thing that is more interest-piquing to me is that you could (if you chose) make multiple bolsters. I'm continually uncomfortable on couches. Having some made for laptopping and others for being lazy would be awesomesauce.

    2 agree
    • Mattress is a twin bed leftover from an old roommate and the bolsters are removable in two sections. The padded fronts are tied on and removable. You can flip to plaid with no buttons on the other side.

      GOOD IDEA thinking about slouchin' versatility regarding bolsters. These thai-inspired triangle pillows have proved good for spending life on the couch. Maybe a little low for sleeping sitting up tho.

      2 agree
  2. Excellent sofa!

    If you like arms on couches, it is possible to build a simple open square or rectangle that goes on each end. I think the version that knocked around my family when I was a tot had a big open square that acted as the end legs, and then there were additional legs (from stair railing parts or from hardware-store furniture legs) in the middle for support. This looked a lot sleeker than it's sounding in my description…

    1 agrees
      • My thoughts exactly! I'm sold on the couch project now… if only to achieve that level of chillin'.

        1 agrees
  3. Dude. Totally not the subject of this post, but I LOVE the Keith Haring print on the fireplace.

    3 agree
  4. You did a fantastic job, it looks like a real vintage couch — but without being creaky and faded. And that looks like my dog sleeping on it! BTW I love what you did with the fireplace, I would love to do that.

    1 agrees
  5. Wow, Way to go! That book was so inspiring and I'm so glad it inspired you… Now you will inspire others! Hard core crafty!!

    2 agree
  6. We had something very similar to this growing up, only it actually WAS vintage, and was covered in a lime green plaid. It looked exactly like this, so great job truly capturing the vintage look and feel.

    1 agrees
  7. Hi! This is awesome! I have some wood just laying around big enough to be a base, so I think i'm going to try this. But one thing I notice is no one talks about how they get the pillows on the back to stand up. Do you have a rod or long piece of wood as the back of the seat and the cushions are resting on that?

    2 agree

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