Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ugly Couch Transformation

My first-ever furniture transformation project! Yes, I'm kind of nuts starting out with something this big. I'm not sure what possessed me, except that it started out like most of my craft projects do - with an overwhelming urge to just jump in and do it.

I had some red leaves upholstery fabric on hand that I was planning to use in our bedroom - but then I bought a different bed set and the new fabric really didn't go with it at all. So I thought it might look good on our couch.

Our couch. Sigh. It was old - more than 10 years old. The fabric was not in good shape. Lots of worn spots and stains. The pillows were all super flat. So it was either figure out a way to recover it - or burn it. So I decided there wasn't much I could do to mess it up, right?

I went back to Home Fabrics and Rugs to get more of the fabric, knowing that I didn't have enough on hand to cover the whole couch. I literally drove for 3 hours not even knowing if they would have any more of the fabric. I didn't call ahead to check either. I just wanted to leave it up to fate. (I'm a dork like that.) I got to the store and frantically started looking for the fabric, all the while trying to act like I wasn't on a mad mission. Luckily, they had another bolt. Whoo-hoo! I ended up paying about $8/yard for this fabric. I love, love, love it so much.

Use the big guns.
Don't waste your time using a wimpy staple gun. I started out stapling my fabric on with a little Black and Decker battery-operated 19 volt staple gun. In fact, I had gotten it for my DH at Christmas with the express idea that I would be using it to recover furniture. Alas, this staple gun wasn't powerful enough to handle this project. After recovering just one arm of the couch and lamenting to DH about how hard it was to get the fabric to stay put around the curvy arm, he brought out the big staple gun, with the air compressor and everything. What a difference. Smooth sailing from there.

Do some initial prep.
Before working with the new fabric, I cleaned up the old couch. I use a butter knife (very professional) to take off the back of the couch. Those staples were in there good, and this took some time.

Once it was off, I vacuumed out the inside of the couch. I even found a few Hot Wheels cars from my boys. Too funny.

Trust your instinct.
Just start putting your fabric on and stapling! This is easy for me to say considering we were going to get rid of this couch unless I could salvage it in some way. Also, my fabric didn't have an direction, so if you are using a stripe or a plaid, you'll have to do more planning than I did. But since I didn't have that challenge, I just laid the new fabric over top the old and started stapling, pulling, stapling, and trimming.

Initially, I worried about stapling this new fabric over top of the old. I'm sure the proper way is to take the old first. But I had no patience for that. So I just plowed ahead, putting the new right over the old.

Lastly, I reconstructed the entire back from a new piece of fabric, just folding and cutting as a I stapled.

Reconstruct the Pillows
As I said, the pillows were flat from years of use. To fix that, I slit each pillow open, stuffed them with more stuffing, and sewed them back up. That one little fix made an amazing difference - big, fluffy, comfy pillows!

Then I sewed new covers for each pillow out of the new red fabric to match the couch, plus a coordinating blue and yellow for the four smaller pillows.

The last pieces were the big couch cushions. I didn't even attempt to do those myself. They're big and curved, and I just didn't trust my sewing skills for that one. So I found a local upholstery shop - Pechous Upholstering here in Lincoln - and had them recover them for me, using my fabric. The total cost was about $160 - well worth it to me! They turned out beautifully. I highly recommend their work!

The Big Reveal
Ready to see how it turned out? I'm so excited with how it looks!

I even add fabric-covered buttons and tufted the little yellow pillows. Love how those turned out.

I was pretty nervous about the back of the couch as this would be the only place where the staples would actually show. But it was really a pretty smooth process. I think it looks awesome, and you can really barely see the staples. I thought about gluing a piece of braided trim or something over the staples but I don't think I will even bother - you can really hardly see them at all.

And one more time....tired and boring before:

And fabulous, beautiful after!

Thanks for looking!

This project was featured at Coastal Charm!

Entering this project in Not JUST a Housewife's Best DIY Project of 2011:


Linking up to these parties:



  1. great job! i am so intimidated by upholstery- you make it look easy!

  2. Thanks Cassie! This project made me feel brave enough to try a few other projects. Hopefully more to post soon! :)

  3. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Wow! So courageous!! I want to do some of my own upholstery one day....too much of a chicken though so not sure if that will happen:P Unless maybe I had someone holding my hand:D Thanks for the tutorial... you did make it look less intimidating!

    Also thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving me a sweet comment on my fall table centerpiece:) See you around!

  4. WOW. THAT was a big job!! It turned out lovely...thanks so much for linking it up!

  5. Thanks ladies! :)

  6. Awesome job you did here on your sofa...looks outstanding!!! Be looking for a feature here at NIFTY THRIFTY TUESDAY:)


  7. Thank you Linda!

  8. What an amazing transformation! Great job!

    Dana @

  9. Thanks Dana! We love it!

  10. Lissa ... that is a HUGE job to tackle and you took it all the way to BEAUTIFUL !! Very nice job, you have the right to be proud. New follower.
    Audrey Z. @
    Timeless Treasures

  11. Thank you Audrey! I still love this couch - everyday I see it and think "I did that!" :)

  12. You are my hero. I have a little club chair in my office I've been putting off reupholstering for MONTHS. Nay, YEARS. This looks freakin' awesome. Congrats.

  13. Thank you Amy! You will have to go for it!

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Re-upholstering some furniture pieces really seems difficult, but I think this is far easier since you don’t have to do the stitching. You just have to lay the fabric, tuck it and staple it. Anyway, your chosen design is perfectly beautiful. It definitely livens up your living room.

    Wacky Brown

  16. This sofa looks really nice. Good job. Your explanations were so clear. Thank you!

  17. Awesome! This looks great! Was this just cotton fabric?

  18. I got a killer deal on a vintage sofa at the Goodwill, and hubby got me a hard core staple gun for Christmas... but I've been way too impatient to do it right. Thanks to YOU and this incredible masterpiece, I am ready to get out that staple gun and have some fun fun fun!



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