Feb 20, 2014

Pallet Couch Part 1

Our living room furniture has not been working for us for quite some time now.  We had a couch that was given to us for free by a neighbor when we first got married.  It was in relatively good condition at the time, but over the past few years our cat shredded the front, and the back corner got a nice scorch mark from the time we misjudged just how hot those wall heaters actually get.  We have a couch cover on it, but I'm endlessly putting it back into place and trying to get the abundance of animal hair off it- I swear that fake suede stuff is designed to cling to everything that ever touches it.  What's worse though is that it's not comfortable.  The seat cushions have lost all integrity and the back cushions are overstuffed and lumpy.

We also have my dad's old recliner, but it was well beaten and no longer comfortable either.  Given the small and awkward shape of our living room, combined with the needs of our large family, we really wanted a nice sectional sofa to put in the corner.  As it turns out those are expensive.  I'm also relatively picky about the look, the comfort, and the type of fabric it's made out of.  There were some promising options on ikea.com, but they would run me at least $1000 (plus tax!) and I would have to drive at least 2 hours to get to a store and sit on it to see if I liked it.  If I did like it I would have to figure out how to get it home.  That would involve some borrowing and/or renting of a truck (trucks?) or a trailer, and a pretty hefty gas bill.  

With a baby coming in August we really can't afford all that- and I'm not sure I would want to.  I'm willing to pay good money for something we love that is going to last, but I'm not willing to drop that kind of cash on a compromise.  I suppose it's lucky we like making things for ourselves anyway.  I toyed with the idea of taking apart our existing couch and trying to rebuild it, but that would be a complicated adventure and still rather expensive once you consider the amount of additional lumber we would have to buy, the added foam, and all that fabric.  (It bums me out how expensive fabric is.)

Pallets, however, are free- that idea was very alluring to me.  There are awesome pallet projects all over pinterest- this is a fad I can really get behind.  Not only do I actually really like the style (and the price tag), but do you have any idea how much of the world's lumber is tied up in shipping pallets?  Me neither, I forget the number, but it's a lot!  Ask Chris, or google it.

Anyway, with the idea of using typical twin mattresses and sheets as fabric I made a few sketches, took some measurements of our current set up, and did a little math.  It was clear this would be far more cost effective and not too much work.  I'll share the final number and breakdown once it's all completely finished, but right now we're on target to stay under $600.

Here's a picture of our first layout to get an idea of how much cutting we would need to do.  We wanted the height of the seat and the back to be relatively similar to our current couch.  That second pallet extending toward us in the foreground is completely unnecessary, which we remembered once we layed the mattresses down.  (Mister was kind enough to photobomb for us.)

We needed to trim a little off the edges to fit the dimensions of the mattresses.  That part was simple.  On the bottom, we trimmed the edge the would face the inside and lie under the mattress- mostly because it would look better, but also to make things easier during "assembly," which will be a whole different post.

Instead of trimming the pallet on the back the same as the one on the bottom, we decided to split the difference and trim the two outer back pallets evenly so it would look more balanced.  Does that make sense?

This is after they've been trimmed.  See how the left and right pallets on the back are each missing a small chunk?  We thought that looked better than just one of them missing a big chunk.

The tricky part about working with pallets is they're not perfect.  They're not all the same size and they're not all constructed at exact 90 degree angles.  We had to be very careful to measure multiple times before each cut.  Even so, you can plainly see a gap between the left and center pallets in the back.  Structurally it shouldn't be a problem, as we'll be adding supports when we put it all together anyway.  Aesthetically we'll call it character.

We also wanted to remove some height from the back.  You could easily skip this step if you didn't mind the way it looked, but the proportions bother me.  Besides this couch is going to be in front of a window, and our living room is dark enough without giant pallets blocking half our light.  This presented challenge number 2- how do you make a cut flush against a board when all you have is a little skill saw* that has guards and guides and what-not sticking out in every direction?  Chris did the best he could, and then had to clumsily struggle through the last little nub with a tiny hand-me-down jig saw that was only slightly more efficient than a butter knife.

He did a good job though, you'd never know he lacked the appropriate tools when looking at the final product.  I'm really looking forward to sprawling out on these nice wide mattresses with a bunch of fluffy cushions and pillows.  Not one person in our family is a sit-up-straight-with-your-knees-together-and-feet-on-the-floor type of person- not while relaxing in our living room.  We lay down, we drape ourselves across the furniture.  You'll typically have a dog and a cat and a seven-year-old pushed up on you at all times.  Guests aren't exempt either- the cat won't come near you but the dog and the seven-year-old definitely will.  We're really excited about the extra space.  The added bonus is: two guest beds right in the living room!  I'm sure it will be quite comfortable, so long as you don't mind Dear getting up and staring at you awkwardly at 6am, followed by Mister around 7.  Oh and the cat running laps on your head from about 11pm to 4am.  See?  SUPER comfortable!

Next up: sanding and painting!  And sewing cushions, and some minor assembly... It'll probably be at least a week or two until we're finished.

*I need to work on my vocabulary- I have no idea what my saw is called.  Is it a skill saw?  You can see it in some of the pictures, maybe you know better than me.

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