A thrifty, green, and easy reupholstery solution

This project may be the easiest one we’ve ever done (if you don’t count all the indecision and false starts and teeth gnashing that are part of the backstory).

It starts with this blue bench:

This (sorta) Old Life: blue bench living room entry

We bought it about a year ago from one of our favorite vintage furniture spots, Lounge Lizard. We got a good deal on it because we almost literally took it off the truck (it had just been unloaded) and we were willing to buy it as-is without any spiffing up. We weren’t crazy about the vinyl cover, which had a few tears and didn’t really match anything in our living room, but we’d been on the lookout for a long bench and figured we could work with it.

This (sorta) Old Life: blue bench tear in vinyl

And so it has sat, for more than a year, with a series of Granny blankets covering the tears.

This (sorta) Old Life: Upholstered bench

Recovering it felt like something beyond our skills. I didn’t want it to look sloppy/cheesy. I wanted it to look as good as it did when new, with “real” upholstery, but I’ve never sewn piping and the piping tutorials I’ve found look complicated. I was afraid it would turn into another one of those projects in which I buy fabric that sits in a bag for months and months and months.

I’m so glad we figured out a way to give it a more polished and permanent cover that cost us very little time or money and required very little skill.

This (sorta) Old Life: No sew bench reupholstery tutorialIt’s not “real” upholstery with piping and all that, but we do think it looks pretty good. Definitely worthy of the bench. All we needed was one of those aforementioned Granny blankets (a knitted or crocheted thrift store blanket), some fabric, scissors, a staple gun, screw driver, and a little more than an hour. (No sewing machine required!)

Here’s how we did it:

This (sorta) Old Life: Easy bench reupholstery

One reason this project is so easy is that the upholstered cushion sits on top of a simple frame. All we had to do is detach the cushion and wrap it with the fabric/blanket–not much trickier than wrapping a present!

While unscrewing is generally pretty easy, we did have a bit of trouble with this step because some of the screws were stripped. Nothing that a little hacksaw and some pliers couldn’t handle.

This (sorta) Old Life: reupholstered bench

The barefoot DIYer strikes again. Please do as we say and not as we do and wear shoes when tackling renovation projects.

This (sorta) Old Life: reupholstered bench

Look at the lightening speed with which he wields the pliers!

This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

Once we had the cushion off the frame and on the floor, we took the fabric (a large piece of upholstery fabric I’d originally bought on clearance at Joanne’s for a different project) and did a rough wrap of the ends to get a feel for how much we’d need.

We then cut the piece of fabric in half, which left us more than we needed for each end. We thought about trying to be more careful so that we could save some fabric for something else, but in the end we decided not to for 2 reasons:

1. “Something else” is likely never going to happen.

2. In this kind of project, it’s better to have way too much fabric than not quite enough.

Because we had more fabric than we needed, we didn’t have to worry about making any exact measurements, which saved us time. If time is money, we think we can call this a thrifty/frugal move. :-)

This (sorta) Old Life: reupholstered bench

We thought it best in this step to staple all the way down one side before putting any staples on the other side. This allowed us to pull the fabric firmly. However, if our fabric had a pattern, we’d probably go back and forth between sides to make sure that we didn’t pull the pattern crooked.

Our staples didn’t penetrate all the way into the frame, so we had to hammer them down.

This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

This shot is actually from step 9, but it’s the only one we’ve got of hammering the staples.

(That’s why we included a hammer in our supply list.) You may or may not need this, depending upon how your stapler works.

This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

That flap of fabric is going to fold up, and it’s better to cut the excess fabric away so that it doesn’t get all bunchy.

The next few steps were tricky and not especially fun for us to figure out.

This (sorta) Old Life: reupholstered bench

Why, yes: This was exactly how he wanted to be spending President’s Day. :-)

At first we folded the fabric much the way you would if you were wrapping a present, and it looked like this:

This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

This was OK, but we wanted something that looked a little cleaner and not so we-just-wrapped-some-fabric-around-this-bench-and-called-it-good. After fiddling with the fabric a whole bunch, we got it to look like this:

This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

Much better.

We’re going to spare you all the photos we took along the way to figuring it out and just give you the figured out version. Ready?

THis (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

This (sorta) Old Life: Upholstered bench

 This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

The flap gets folded back so that the edge running along the bottom of the cushion won’t show when it is placed back on the bench frame. One of us thinks this might not be a necessary step, but the (perfectionistic, kinda anal) other one does. (In case you’re wondering who is which, just think about who does DIY in his bare feet. :-))

After doing one corner, we did the other corner, then pulled the whole thing tight over the end of the cushion and stapled in place. That would be steps 8 and 9, and it will look like this when you’re all done:

This (sorta) Old Life: upholstered bench

After repeating steps 3-9 on the other end, you’re almost done! Putting the blanket on is easy. First, you’ll need to figure out the placement of your blanket.

This (sorta) Old Life: Upholstered bench

We started out eyeballing it, but then we measured to make sure each end of the blanket was an equal distance from the end of the bench. The next step was to staple the blanket in place.

This (sorta) Old Life: Upholstered bench

For this stapling, we went back and forth between the two sides of the bench. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t stretch the chevron stripes out crookedly. One thing I really like about this project is that it didn’t require us to cut the blanket. If we decide later that we want it back as a blanket, all we have to do is pull the staples out.

There is one more thing we did before re-attaching the bench, which we don’t have any pictures of. Our excess fabric drooped down a bit when we placed the cushion back on the frame, so we used a needle and thread to tack them into place.

The last step is to re-attach the bench to the the frame (which we also don’t have photos of). But we do have some photos of how it looks all done:

bench collageWe know this isn’t an earth-shattering project. It’s a pretty small one, really. But it’s small projects such as these that help make our house become more and more the home we want it to be.

See what we mean?

bench in context before after

This little slice of our living room/entry isn’t significantly different now than it was nearly a year ago–and the changes we feel so much might not be apparent in these photos–but the room is feeling way better to us. It’s still colorful, but it’s not quite the riot of color it was a year ago. It’s much more cohesive, and cohesive feels calm. We like calm.

bench room closer

We’re getting there through small projects done over time–a new rug, paint on the entry walls, some different art, a new color for the stair railing.

We really love that we didn’t have to have a whole vision for the space worked out in our heads or on paper before we started. We love that we feel able to take our time and go slow. Painting that bright red bookcase a different color is now at the top of the small projects to-do list, but we aren’t feeling any urgency to do it right now.

The thing is, we loved the room the way it was back in April of last year. We just love it more now. And we’re pretty sure we’ll love it even more later, when we’ve painted the trim around the windows, and figured out how we’re going to paint the door in the entry, and we’ve got nicer coverings on some of our chairs. But it’s been love all the way through, so it’s all good.

bench corners

Speaking of time–life is a little crazy right now. We try to post on Mondays and Thursdays, but this post is two days late, and it might be the only one we get up this week. I’ve had migraines raining down on me for two months, and all kinds of other stuff is going on, too. We’ll post as we can and try to stay on schedule, but we wanted you to know that it will probably be a little erratic until things settle down.

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How are things going for you?

Got any easy projects you’ve knocked down recently? Made some progress you’re feeling good about? Have more great ideas for repurposing thrift store blankets? We’d love to hear all about what you’re up to.

Feel free to drop us a comment. You know we love them. :-)

We’re linking this project to Sorta Crunchy’s Your Green Resource link collection (which can also be seen at Red and Honey and Live Renewed, two other blogs I really like), as well as to the 2013 First Project of the Year Party at Whisperwood Cottage.