The first time I ever thought about making my own couch was when I was 17, living in New York on my own. I'd rented a furnished apartment with a friend, and there were three beds but no couches. I decided to turn one of the beds into a couch, with pillows, a bet skirt, etc... I must admit, it wasn't super successful, and it ended up being, pretty much, a bed with a bed skirt and pillows. Oh well.
The next time I tried making my own "couch" type thing was when I attempted to make a large "bean bag" type seat, only filled with clothes.
Another flop. Wasn't comfortable, wasn't the right shape, was super heavy, and just looked ugly. So that was that.
When we first moved into this apartment, we thought about paying a carpenter to build us a wooden storage box, which we'd top with cushions and make it into a semi comfortable seat since we had no room for a couch in our apartment. That never happened.
But after successfully building a loft bed for our kids from scratch, Mike and I realized that we were able to build our own furniture, and didn't have to pay someone else to build it for us.
Why build furniture instead of just buying it? If cost is the issue, why not just look for second hand furniture being sold cheaply or given away for free?
We have a tiny apartment. We live with our family of 6 in a 484 square foot apartment. There's a limit to how many things we can fit here.
For example, when we lived in our old apartment, twice the size of our current one, we had a couch. We got rid of it when we moved here, since we realized that if we put it in our home, it would take up so much of the floor space since it was so wide and long.
Dimensions are very relevant- not just any furniture can fit here. When we custom build furniture, we're able to fit it to fit the precise dimensions of the room, no more, no less. For example, when we built our boys' loft bed, we made it wide enough to sleep on comfortably, but narrow enough to not take up too much floor space in their very small room.
On top of that, because space is limited, we wanted our furniture to be multi-functional. Instead of just having a couch filled with more and more padding and wood and whatnot, we said if we could make our couch also be a place to store shoes, it's perfect.
I don't have an exact tutorial, because while Mike and I discussed the project, planning each step of the way together, giving ideas as to what we thought would work best, the project was completed over a long period of time, with many steps, and I wasn't always present when Mike was working on it. [For the most part he did the actual building with the wood, while I mainly helped planning it, and did the final touches (padding it and sewing it).]
The entire cost of our project was roughly 30 dollars.
It first started out as a shoe box. While I was in the US in January, Mike decided that our shoe situation was getting out of hand, and decided to use some wooden boards we had in the house, left over from another project (possibly scraps from the loft bed), to make a storage box for shoes. He made a long rectangular frame, and on the ends, filled it in with wooden slats, but the other sides were empty. He put it against the wall, and the front he covered with large thick-ish plastic bags to keep the shoes in. The top he made from two discarded cabinet doors he found in the trash.
I don't have a picture of the entire thing, but here's the end of it.
As you can see in the picture... it ended up being piled up with stuff, used as another storage surface, more than anything else.
And obviously, the plastic bags ripped not long after. So my husband took a thick plastic canvas he had (an old municipal banner that he found in the trash) and cut it to size, and stapled it on to the side in place of the plastic.
We had it sitting like that in our house for a few months.
Then not long ago, we found some wooden pallets in the trash, cut them up and planned a bit how to use it to turn the shoe box into a couch. I suggested to Mike that to make it into a couch, he should turn the box on its side, otherwise it would be too tall and too narrow; flipping it onto its side enlarged the seat and made it at a more comfortable height.
While I was out of the house one day, Mike went to work, and when I came home, I saw that he'd built a back and arms for the couch out of the pallet wood. He laid two long pieces of pallet wood inside the shoe box, on a diagonal, and screwed it together at the top of the seat part. He took the cubes from the pallet, and leaned the front of the arms on it, and cut a notch in the diagonal wooden beams to rest the arms in/on. He took two pallet boards and screwed them in to the diagonal boards to be the back of the seat.
He lay the cupboard doors across the top to be the chair, and this provided a little space to sit on, but not enough.
I suggested that Mike make the front be a solid wooden front out of pallet wood, and use hinges to open and close it. Mike secured the three pallet boards with two narrow wood scraps at the side, and it fit perfectly into the shoe box.
Then he went and bought 2 hinges from the hardware store- our first expense so far- less than $3, and attached hinges at the bottom of the wooden frontal piece. The front swings open and downward. Mike added 2 L hooks which turn to open and lock the front door to the shoe box part of the couch.
After a few weeks, Mike and I cut and pieced together more scraps from the pallet to fill in the empty spaces at the side of the seat of the couch, cutting notches in the wood, and it fit perfectly and snugly. These were secured with screws.
My friend picked up 2 pillows for me from a swap she was at, since she knew I was looking for them, and then I got a few more pillows as hand me downs from family members, which, temporarily, we put on the bench as cushioning, and covered it all with blankets to give it some padding and a uniform look. We did that for a few weeks, until we got a chance to finish it. It was ok, but not super soft, and wasn't even, and the pillows slid out of place frequently. But it was comfortable enough that my sons have fallen asleep lying down on it. (The biggest down side was that there was no padding on the arms.)
Yesterday, I was in the city and picked up some foam cushioning. It was sold only at a set, pre-cut length. My husband measured our couch and the cushion was a little less than twice the length of the seat, and wider than the seat, so I figured I could cut it and piece it together to fit the couch. It cost me $27 dollars. I could possibly have gotten it cheaper, since I saw someone selling a foam mattress second hand for $7 dollars, but I wasn't able to get there soon enough so someone else bought it.
Today, I took the two pillows from the swap, folded them over the arms, and sewed them together underneath the arms.
There was a bit of cushion in the front that I couldn't sew together, since the wooden block was in the way, and the cushion was standing out to the side over there, so I used a thumb tack to tack it into the wood.
I then cut the foam cushion to size- I first cut it to reach over the entire seat part, side to side, and then cut off a long narrow strip from the front. I wedged this in place between the pillows on the arms and the wooden seat of the couch.
The large piece of foam that was left covered most of the back of the chair. From the piece I got off the front, I cut a shorter piece of foam to fill in the rest of the space.
From the foam meant for the back, I cut away foam from the area that would be overlapping with the padded arms.
Doing this, it fit snuggly, without any overlapping parts.
I took two old pillows that weren't the softest or most comfortable and put them on top of the foam padding for extra cushioning on the seat.
I then took a hand me down faux down blanket and put it over the entire seat- back and bottom, and partially over the arms. It was too long to cover it, so I folded it over and had the doubled area of blanket be along the back of the couch, because the bottom already had the cushions as extra padding.
Because I didn't want the blanket flapping around or bunching up, I sewed the sides of the blanket down onto the pillows on the arms.
Here's the finished padding of the couch. (Yes, I know the blanket is stained- who cares? It's just the padding.)
Now for the cover!
We have this pink thick weave blanket/couch cover type thing which I put on and tucked it in around the edges, and voila- a comfy couch. It's short, and leaves the door to the shoe box exposed.
With throw pillows, to make it more inviting.
And with my princess Anneliese sitting on it. She didn't want to smile for the picture- she wanted to go do something else...
For now, I covered it with this maroon, larger couch cover, that I bought for our old couch in our old apartment. This one covers the wooden door to the shoe box. I'm not sure which I prefer. I don't have to decide for good, because I can change couch covers whenever I want (or whenever one needs to be washed).
See the shoes?
I'm really excited about this! One of the hardest things about living in a small apartment is that I feel its hard to entertain, since there wasn't really a comfortable place to sit. Now we have a comfortable couch to offer our guests. And it doubles as a shoe box, and doesn't take up too much space- it fits perfectly between our stairs and the door.
Next project- an ottoman for this couch, in case people want to put their feet up.
Have you ever made homemade furniture? What furniture was it? Do you know anyone else who made their own couch? How did they make it? Have you seen a couch/shoe box before?