Small Sofa? Settee? Large Chair? I’m going with sofa. This post will show you how to repurpose a crib into a mid-century inspired sofa. Taking trash to treasure ranks in my Top 10 of all favorite things.
Not even an expensive, convertible crib. Nope, nothing but the least-expensive-but-still-safe sleep prison for my precious darlings.
Wait, maybe not safe since it was one of the drop-side cribs of death, so it had be repurposed or get tossed in the garbage. The crib spent some time repurposed as a lego table– but the boys prefer the floor. How else does one plant lego brick landmines to maim the parents? JB suggested we just throw the thing away as he watched me haul it back down to the basement.
One does not simply throw things away.
When I realized that my basement fort couldn’t be a permanent office and moved myself back upstairs, I justified the expense of my time with a low $50 materials budget. Our basement overflows with items waiting for new life, and I’m trying really hard to live the life of an anti-over-consumer.
I ended up spending $80 total– for a gallon of paint, two new brushes, and $30 bucks a yard upholstery fabric (then 50% off!) and some extra foam. To date, I’ve spent a max of $7 a yard, it took me several days to work up the nerve to even cut the fabric!
Here’s the crib in the so-clean, pre-Zach nursery. Those hand-painted sea creatures would eventually cause night terrors in my babies— MOM WIN! I still miss my giant goldfish (which you can see if you click the link).
My office needed a chair, but not an overflowing monstrosity like the one above. Something comfy, but practical. Something, um, free.
I’ve seen many crib-into-bench ideas and since the mattress also sat in my basement, I decked it out at a little couch.
It looked like a crib and crib mattresses aren’t particularly comfortable to sit on when one weighs more than a baby.
I poked around the internet, looking at couches, choosing a few mid-century modern couch designs as inspiration. Nice clean lines– furniture whose footprint matches its function, nary a superfluous poofy cushion in sight.
I’m going to tell you the truth- if you’ve ever cut a piece of wood with a power tool; sewn a semi-straight line; and used a stapler– this project is doable.
Step 1: Shape the arms of your sofa.
Our crib had those high, arched sides. No good. I used a jig saw and cut down at an angle. I like easy, so the highest point of my incline meets the back of the sofa.
Step 2: Let’s Get Stable!
You weigh more than a baby; is the crib sturdy enough? You can see the original bottom of the crib under the cedar bunkie boards (yup, had those in the basement; I got them for $5 at a thrift store 3 years ago). If you don’t have random bunkie boards, cut 2 x 4s to length, and screw them into the frame.
Glue and nail a thin piece of wood to stabilize the wobbly spikes to stabilize your arms. This also gives the flat, mid-century modern form when you start to shape with the foam.
Step 3: Foam strip, a lot of glue, and even more tape.
Sidebar: Some 13ish years ago, adventurous friends helped me take a reciprocating saw to an over-stuffed couch, which is when we all learned that even pre-made furniture is largely shaped with cardboard.
Step 4: Cardboard for shape. Cardboard for stability. Cardboard 4 life.
Your goal here is to give a solid foundation to shape the cushions. I had a few heavy duty shipping boxes (see above about not throwing things away).
Step 5: Padding
Turtles? What the what? So. My mom made custom crib bumpers for the still-gestating first grandbaby. I tied them so tight– no choking!– that they had to be sliced off with a very sharp knife, rendering them useless as crib bumpers. For years they’ve hung out in my scrap fabric project box just waiting… to be put back together with the crib. I used the bumpers to fill in the padding on the sofas arms. Reunited, and it feels so good.
Step 6: Assemble the first layer of padding.
Padding inserted, everything’s nailed or glued down. Incidentally, this is about when I headed downstairs to look for a heavy-duty stapler. That stapler is my new BFF. Get a good stapler. Tack nails and tape cannot replace a good stapler. If they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire*…
Step 7: Estimate your fabric needs by making a pattern.
Large sheets make great slipcover/upholstery pattern pieces. Unless, like me, you choose a fitted sheet. You can’t fold fitted sheets into neat squares because they are the devil’s work. Therefore, if you can’t fold it into a square, they will not make nice rectangles. But it did help me estimate my yardage (a king sized sheet is about 3 yards; I bought 4).
I ended up asking my first grader* about vertices and then drew out the geometry. At the most basic, most furniture is nothing more than a simple quadrilateral.
*I’m only sort of kidding.
Step 8: A little more cushion, please.
Cardboard and thin foam isn’t very snuggly. I intended to make a padded cushion with extra lower back support using scrap “mom, that’s too babyish for us” fabric and some of the 5 pound box of fiberfill I got on sale– 2 years ago. THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN EASIER HAD I JUST BOUGHT FOAM*. Unless you are trying to prove something to yourself, just buy the foam.
*That deserved a yell. I overstuffed the back cushion only to really notice the lopsidedness when I dry-fitted the upholstery fabric. I’m not a perfectionist, but it was bad even by my standards and I had to rip out some of my precious staples to adjust the cushion stuffing because sofa Spanx doesn’t exist. Lumpy is neither mid-century modern, nor comfy. When I reupholster other furniture, I will just buy the foam.
Step 9: Embrace flexibility.
Remember how fitted sheets can’t become rectangles? This is when old patterns come in handy. Speaking of– have I mentioned that I can’t sew by following a pattern? I can take stuff apart and make new things from it; I can look at an object and determine how to make the fabric piece together, but patterns– with their darts and seam allowances– make me all sorts of weepy.
Step 10: Foam on top
Take coupon and buy 2 yards of foam to smooth out the pillow. Hey– they DO make soda Spanx! I stapled this stuff on top of my scrap-fabric cushion.
Step 11: Attachment
Staples– too many is not enough; so many 3/8 inch staples in this bad boy. The fabric on the arms took the longest. It’s in two pieces– the inner trapezium* meets the flat top of the outer trapezium.
*Seriously, that one I did learn from 1st grade common core math.
Step 12: Remember
You’ll say to yourself, naw– I’ve pulled the fabric too tight (you didn’t), and I’ve got enough staples (you don’t).
As for the edges? I found it helpful to think about neatly wrapping a present (not something I do much of– the neat part). It’s the same sort of concept when wrapping a sofa.
Step 13: Details
I found button making thingys (that is the scientific name for them– my brain is spent after trapezium) on clearance for 97 cents. I find absurd joy in making buttons. I could make buttons ALL DAY LONG.
Step 14: Get a mascot and “borrow” your oldest child’s sonic screwdriver.
I haven’t put the knob back on the TARDIS door yet, which means you can’t get in without a flat-edged tool. It’s funny until you actually lock yourself in there without a screwdriver one evening.
A few weeks ago I locked myself in on purpose as the boys left for karate.
Elliot: “Daaa–aaaddd! Mom locked herself in her TARDIS again!”
Zach: “Mom’s just gone to another dimension. She’ll be back by breakfast.”
Which would be hilarious enough, right? Until several hours later, when this happened:
Elliot on his way to bed whispers through the door: “Breakfast is at 7, Mom. Don’t be late.”
Pure childhood memory gold, right? Yes– except Elliot, at 5, has a grasp on reality somewhere in between loosey and goosey. A few days after my dimension field trip, Grumpy Cat (aka Tartar Sauce, aka TARDIS Sauce) showed up on my sewing table. Why? BECAUSE I NEEDED A COMPANION. Hard not to love that kid; he thinks JUST LIKE ME.