I’ve been wanting to spruce up our patio for a while back with some cozy furniture. I had been wanting a place where I could lounge with a good book or catch up with a friend over a warm afternoon latte. But after spending a few summers looking at the furniture at places like Target and Home Depot, I knew that their prices were more than we wanted to spend. I scoured Craigslist but everything listed seemed either grungy and mold-covered or still crazy expensive. I even considered joining the pallet furniture trend and building seating that way, but I hadn’t seen any outdoor furniture with pallets that I really loved, and pallets tend to be crazy heavy.
Then I found my answer. One day I stumbled across this amazing blog called The Design Confidential. The blogger, an incredibly talented woman named Rayan, creates plans to build beautiful furniture inspired by stores like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and West Elm and then shares then for FREE on her site. Amazing! So of course I showed the plans I found for a Crate and Barrel patio sofa to J and told him we just had to make it (read: he would make it, I’d find some way to try to help). I had the task of making the cushions. How hard could it be? I used to sew things like in junior high. That was just like yesterday-ish.
Lucky for me I married the manliest of men. J is the kind of man that brews his own beer, rides a vintage motorcycle and takes his own ax on every camping trip in the hopes for chucking it at something wooden and then chopping it into submission. He was up for the task.
We ended up borrowing a few tools from some friends who are renovating their house, and we built this sofa in about a day. J was the man with the plan (literally), giving me tasks like sanding and drilling and screwing things into wood. It definitely was a 2-man task, mostly because you need the extra hands to hold things in place while the other persons screws them together. I honestly can’t believe how well this thing turned out. It looks totally professional, like we went to the store and bought it!
Once the building was completed, it was time to stain and seal. We picked out a lovely weathered grey stain that would go super well with the small cushions I’d found at our Crate and Barrel outlet down the street. It went on soooo nicely! And then we sealed it. That’s when things went south.
The sealer has a honey yellow tint to it, as most sealers do. Unfortunately the yellow when mixed with the gray turned the wood a bright green color. Ugh. It was not what we intended, but it will have to do…for now. If we had known the sealed would have that effect on the stain color, we would have either found another sealer to use that wouldn’t alter the gray color, or would have stuck with a more neutral brown wood color. Nevertheless, it’s stained and sealed. And green.
The final step was to sew some cushions for the seat and back of the couch. I’d done some research and learned that I should get a special type of foam called Ez-Dry which allows water to pass right through it instead of holding on to water like a big heavy sponge. It isn’t cheap — I probably spent close to $100 on the foam alone — but I know that it will last and won’t sag or be all moldy like the cheap stuff. I ordered my fabric online from fabric.com and borrowed a few sewing machines from friends (long story but the first one didn’t function properly and basically brought me to tears of frustration).
I really was crossing my fingers that my jr high sewing skills would come back, and after LOTS of online tutorials on sewing box cushions and a first not-so-perfect cushion, I managed to create 3 mostly well sewn cushions and one ugly duckling. I had plans to give each cushion lovely green piping, but it was going to take such a long time that I ditched that plan. Thankfully, when it’s all put together it still looks great!
If there is a piece of furniture for your home or patio that you’ve always wanted but don’t want to shell out lots of money on, why don’t you take a stab at making it yourself? Even with it’s imperfections, a piece that you make is going to be way more valuable to you than something you just pick up at the store.
Want to make this piece? Here are a few extra details:
- projects costs (estimates) : wood and tools about $125 / fabric $45 / foam $100 / 3 crate and barrel pillows $30 (outlet)
- the plan we used is for Crate and Barrel’s Reef sofa (click here for the building plan)
- the sofa in this plan sits just 6 inches off the ground. That was too short for our liking so we added about another 5 inches to our height
- you CAN build this in one day if you have two people working together. One person sanding while the other cuts. You’ll need another day or two for staining and sealing
- splurge and buy the EZ-dry foam. In the end I think it only came out to about $20 more than the regular foam which is totally worth it to not have water-logged cushions
- Make sure your fabric is made for the outdoors! Sunbrella is the best known outdoor fabric but also is very expensive. I found this fabric for just $8.99 a yard on fabric.com. It is water and mold resistant and can withstand 1500 hours of direct sunlight
- Don’t give up if you mess up! Most mistakes can be fixed or hidden.