Until I entered the DIY-Blogging world, I had never heard the word “upcycle” before. Yet “upcycle” (meaning to “process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original”) is the word that best describes most of the projects I do. Maybe that drive to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” comes from seeing too many PSA-style theatrical performances during elementary school- you know the kind that encourages kids to recycle and “be green”, with adult actors dressing up like empty pop-cans and singing songs about being abandoned and left to rust in the rain. Maybe those elementary school skits instilled an inner drive in me to make sure that no tired old piece of furniture with the potential for esthetic greatness ever feels sad and abandoned in the trash bin 😉
This week’s post chronicles an upcycling project that I hope inspires you to try some upcycling of your own, whether you follow along with the post and try to outfit an old bench with a new design, or pick an entirely new project.
A few months ago, my sister-in-law’s sister put out an Instagram post with a picture of an
upholstered bench (the kind you’d put at the end of your bed) and the caption “Does anybody want this?” It was quite a nice looking bench, with a gleaming dark wood frame and a button-tufted white bonded-leather cushion. The cushion, however, had become her (super-cute, by the way) dog’s favourite thing to lick and chew on in recent months, and part of the bonded-leather had completely disintegrated. I had been enviously looking at pinterest images of bed-end upholstered benches for awhile prior to this, and so when I saw her post and the relatively great condition of the bench’s frame, I commented “I’ll take it!” right away. And so I became the proud owner of a to-be-upcycled bench that then sat in my storage for about 5 months (DIY projects tend to have a way of building up 😀 ).
So a couple weeks ago I finally got around to the actual “Do It” part of my “Do It Yourself/DIY” project. I’ve never upholstered anything before, but found an amazing blog post by Tara at Suburble that described upholstering an ottoman chair using a staple gun and a certain style of fabric folding that sounded pretty beginner-safe.
I spent an hour wandering the aisles of my local fabric store, debating whether to play it safe with a nice grey, neutral canvas or take a risk with something with a bit more punch. A gorgeous navy and white printed canvas, which I can only describe as “Ink-blot/Navajo Pattern/Damask” inspired (truly!), stole my heart and so I decided to take a walk on the wild-fabric side. I got just enough of it to cover the bench, but now that it’s all used up, I wish I had gotten more to make some co-ordinating throw pillows out of! (Take note, fellow DIY-ers: always ask for more fabric than you need when the fabric sales lady is waving her scissors about in front of you before she cuts it. You’ll always find something you can do with extra fabric, and you’ll always lament your poor decision to get less fabric when you realize you are 2 inches short of enough fabric to make your current project.) While you’re at the fabric store, pick up a few yards of quilt-batting or quilted fabric (usually 2 pieces of fabric with a sheet of cotton-batting sewn between them). You can use it to luxuriate your upcycled bench by adding an extra, cushy layer of comfy-ness beneath your patterned fabric – your tooshie will thank you!
White and blue fabric called for something a bit less serious than the attitude a dark wood frame exudes, so I bought a can of Krylon ColorMaster spray paint in “Brilliant White – Satin”. And while we’re on the topic, here’s another area where buying extra will always pay off: always get 2 cans of spray paint! I ran out ¾ of the way through painting the bench’s frame and had to run out to buy more. It’s better to have extra – there’re always picture frames or something that could use an update with the leftover paint. Learn from my mistakes, and do what I say, not what I do 😛
The whole project, from start to finish, did take a couple days, due to paint dry times and the fact that whoever had made the bench in the first place must’ve been an absolute staple-gun fiend (seriously, there were hundreds of upholstery staples in places no staple need be), which took quite a while to remove. However, the time was definitely worth it – It turned out beautifully, as my cat can attest (he’s decided its his bed, and no human can change his mind.)
If you’re inspired and are interested in doing a similar upcycle of a bench, follow along with the image walkthrough of my project below!
– Upholstered bench needing some TLC (check out thrift stores, antique shops, or possibly your grandmother’s garage?)
– Heavy canvas or upholstery fabric, enough to cover the bench’s cushion, plus a little bit extra
– Quilted fabric, enough to cover the bench’s cushion, for underneath the patterned fabric
– Fabric scissors
– Staple gun and staples
– Exacto knife or blade
– Upholstery staple remover (or screwdriver with flat head, for prying staples out)
– Screwdriver matching screws in the bench, for bench disassembly and reassembly
– Cat, for provision of assistance, annoyance, and comic relief (optional)
1. Disassemble the bench to separate the upholstered cushion from its frame. If you’re like me, you may find your cat trying to provide some “assistance” at this stage. Nothing draws a cat to a DIY project like a box-like contraption to sit in.
2. Prep and paint frame first, to allow enough time for the paint to dry, and to apply multiple coats if needed. I’m not the most experienced spray painter, so I did have to do a couple coats to make up for some rookie mistakes. I gave the frame a quick once-over with some sandpaper, and smoothed out a few dents in the wood before painting. If you haven’t spray painted much before, I highly recommend checking out this post on spray painting tips from LiveLoveDIY – the pointers really helped me!
3. While the paint is drying, you can start disassembling the old upholstery on the bench cushion. It’s pretty amazing to open up a sleek piece of furniture and see all the work that somebody put into it when it was first made. Because this bench was tufted with buttons, it had tons of string ends and buttons to cut away in order to lift the fabric off the foam. Exacto knife to the rescue! Also try to remove as many of the old upholstery staples as possible – leaving them in and covering them up is tempting, but it could make it harder to put the new staples in.
4. Depending on your preference, covering the cushion in an extra layer of quilting may or may not be necessary. As you can see in image #1 above, because the cushion on this bench had buttoned-tufting in it, it left dents in the foam when I removed the old fabric. It didn’t look as smooth when the new fabric was placed on top, so I covered the foam cushion in a neutral quilted fabric (#2 & 3) and used the staple gun to adhere it to the cushion frame (#4). It made the whole cushion look a lot smoother and feel a lot cushier (#5).
5. Cut your patterned fabric to size, and put in a row of staples on one side of the bench. Once the staples are in place on one side, pull the fabric tightly across the cushion to pull it in place and staple on the other side. If your fabric is patterned like mine, you might want to double check that the pattern images are all in the right spots and are not crooked before you staple it down. For the ends of the bench, as mentioned earlier, I used the fold-over finishing technique used by Tara on her blog Surbuble – no sewing required!
6. Once the paint on the frame is dry, and your
cushion is fabulously fabric’d, you can then reassemble the bench!
7. When the frame and cushion are securely refastened, you (and your cat, who has been patiently waiting for his “throne” to be finished) can take a seat on your new, one-of-a-kind upholstered bench!
I hope you this post inspired you to do some upcycling of your own! Let me know what you think in the comments section below – I love to hear feedback, or about your own experiences with upcycling! Until next time,