Building a West Elm Inspired Outdoor Sofa

I apologize ahead of time for the during pictures, they were taken with my iPhone as I didn’t plan on writing a tutorial. Also, I’m not the greatest at writing tutorials, but I’m happy to answer any questions if anything is unclear!

When I created the design board for our back porch, we planned on building a DIY version of the West Elm Tillary Outdoor Sofa base and filling their $169 cover with foam or batting. Unfortunately, after sitting on one at West Elm we realized the back cushions slipped around quite a bit and weren’t as supportive as we’d hoped. We also preferred the 17″ seat height of the Tillary Sofa to the 12″ seat height of the outdoor version.

Keeping the idea of the Tillary in mind, we wandered around the store testing out other sofas and settees, trying to formulate a plan. Ultimately we decided to basically build a larger version of the ottoman we built for the living room, with a back rest. (Although we didn’t see one in person, our sofa is sort of similar to the Baxter Sofa.) Then we picked up two of these cute Arrow Pillow Covers, and went to buy our supplies.

Supplies:

  • 2 pressure treated 4′ x 8′ sheets of 1/2″ plywood
  • 2 pressure treated 1″ x 6″ x 8′ boards
  • 1 pressure treated 1″ x 6″ x 6′ board
  • 1 pressure treated 4″ x 4″ post (or scrap wood)
  • 6 wooden fence post tops (or bun feet)
  • 4 heavy duty metal L brackets
  • 9′ x 12′ canvas drop cloth or equivalent yardage of indoor/outdoor fabric
  • fabric dye (optional)
  • 24″ x 90″ sheet 4″ upholstery foam
  • 24″ x 72″ sheet 2″ upholstery foam
  • 20 yard roll of 1/4″ loft batting
  • 2 cans heavy duty headliner adhesive
  • Screws
  • Nuts, bolts & washers
  • 1 can outdoor Scotchgard (optional)
  • 1 can spray paint (optional)
  • Drill
  • Staple gun
  • Clamps (optional)
  • Cut off wheel (optional)
  • Scissors

Estimated Cost: $300-350

Since the hardware store is better at making long, straight cuts, we had our plywood sheets cut to 30″ x 72″ and 28″ x 72″. Keep the excess, you never know when that will come in handy. (You could even use it to make a coordinating ottoman.) When we got home we cut the 1″ x 6″ x 8′ boards into six 29″ pieces, but you could have the hardware store cut those for you as well.

If you’re going to dye your canvas, do that now. Robert and I followed Emily’s steps. Ultimately we ended up using three packets of Rit Pearl Gray powder, and half a bottle of black liquid dye. (The above photo was taken before the black dye cycle.) If you don’t plan to dye your canvas, just toss it in the dryer on warm to remove any wrinkles.

Lay the 30″ x 72″ piece of plywood across two saw horses and attach the 1″ x 6″ x 6′ board along the front edge. You may have to trim the board slightly, as ours was about 1/2″ too long. We tacked the board in place using a pneumatic finish nail gun, and then went back with these 3″ coated deck screws because we like overkill. You could probably skip the nail gun step and just use long screws. After that, attach two 29″ pieces of 1″ x 6″ board along the sides the same way.

Attach the other four 29″ boards the same way, spacing them out evenly (I think ours were 14″ apart). Then attach the 28″ x 72″ sheet of plywood along the back. If you’re like us, you’ll have to stop at this point and run back to Lowe’s 45 minutes before they close for metal L brackets. Don’t be like us.

Again, if you’re like us it will be dark, and you’ll stop here because you’re starving. Assuming that’s not the case, attach your L brackets. I attached ours on the seat surface, along the two outside edges, and the over the inner-most 29″ boards. Screw the bottom of the L bracket into the seat, making sure to screw into the support boards, and then use bolts to attach the bracket to back of the sofa. Our bolts had to be shortened with a cut off wheel tool, but you may find bolts the perfect length.

Once the L brackets are attached, carefully lay the sofa on it’s back and attach the legs. We spray painted six Severe Weather¬†4-in x 4-in Treated Post Caps black and used them as our legs, but you could anything from these bun feet to casters. (Although, I recommend using something like Thompson’s WaterSeal if you use regular bun feet.) Since we wanted the seat height of our sofa to be 17″, we cut a 5″ length of 4″x4″ to attach the post cap to, and then screwed them both into the sofa frame using our 3″ deck screws.

Once your legs are attached, it’s time to attach your foam.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a 30″ x 72″ piece of 4″ foam, but otherwise a 24″ x 90″ piece will work just fine. Also, our JoAnn has a policy against making more than one cut for a customer, so we simply cut ours into three 24″ x 30″ pieces using a serrated knife. It won’t matter that the seat is made up of three pieces after you wrap everything in batting. Initially we planned to just use scrap foam wrapped in batting for the back support, but ultimately we went back to JoAnn for a 24″ x 72″ piece of 2″ foam (tragically without a coupon that time).

Spray the seat board with heavy duty headliner adhesive, and then spray the underside of the seat cushions. We applied our seat in 3 sections to make things easier on ourselves, and tried our best to keep the gaps between the pieces as minimal as possible. For best adhesion, allow the adhesive to set for five minutes before sticking the cushion to the seat board. Once each piece is in place, weigh it down with something while it sets (we used hand weights).

Once the seat cushions are in place and you’ve given the glue a chance to set, gently tip the sofa on it’s back and wrap the seat in batting. We just tucked the back of our batting into the crevice between the back support and the back of the foam, and then wrapped the front and sides, stapling as we went. The corners will be a bit tricky, but you can either wrap them like you’re wrapping a present, or cut a slit in the corner and wrap each side independently. (For more detailed steps, Michelle wraps her corners like a present in this post, and Megan sews her corners together in this post.)

the canvas looks Light ‘Urple here, but I assure you it’s gray

At this point we chose to attach our canvas drop cloth as well. We felt it was the best way to ensure we got everything lined up correctly (especially since the drop cloth we used had seams, and we wanted to make sure those didn’t end up in a weird place). We rotated our canvas so that one of the 9′ sides was along the front edge, and then tucked the canvas into the crevice behind the seat cushions (like we did with the batting). After carefully stapling the drop cloth into the crevice, we stapled along the sides, and then the front edge, wrapping the corners like a present. It may be easier to cut your canvas and cover the seat, and then cover the back. You could also use two long pieces of indoor/outdoor fabric to cover the sofa.

While the sofa is on its back, attach the back cushion to the back support with adhesive the same way you attached the seat cushion. Since our back extends 18″ above the seat, and our JoAnn will not make any cuts less than 24″, we cut the excess off of our 24″ x 72″ piece of foam and used it for added lumbar support (we also put a roll of batting above the lumbar support to lessen the step in the foam). You could simply use an 18″ x 72″ piece of 3-4″ foam.

Once the adhesive has set, rotate the sofa onto its legs and wrap the back with batting and canvas (or another strip of indoor/outdoor fabric). It may be easier to rotate the sofa onto it’s front to reach the underside of the back edge. The outside edges of the back support will be done like a really long corner (you can see how ours turned out below). We had enough of our canvas left to skin the bottom of the sofa as well, but that’s not necessary.

Yay, you’re done!! Now relax on your new sofa!

Note: We took things a step further and Scotchgarded our sofa (and we may actually buy a weatherproof cover for it as well). If you’re going to use Scotchgard, test it on an inconspicuous area or an extra swatch of fabric first.

Additional note: We are lucky we moved the sofa onto the porch after attaching the back support, because the doorway into the porch is 32″. If we had tried to complete anymore steps outside we may not have been able to get the sofa onto the porch. If you have equally narrow doorways it may be best to build in place, after making all your cuts.

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14 Responses to Building a West Elm Inspired Outdoor Sofa

  1. looooooooooooooove it. can you come build one for me????

    • Cait says:

      Thanks, Casey! I would totally build one for you if you lived closer! Haha. Maybe Whistler&Donuts, Toronto Edition? ;)

  2. emily says:

    beautiful, cait!!

  3. This is gorgeous! Doesn’t look DIYed at all!

    How lucky that you moved it before finishing assembly! Don’t you love when the DIY gods look down on you like that? haha

    It really does look great – good job, guys!

    • Cait says:

      Thanks Ash!!

      Yes, I’m totally thanking the DIY gods for that one, otherwise I’d have been coercing R to start on the barn doors before he’s ready… haha

  4. Gamble says:

    That looks great! Way to go, guys!

  5. Martina says:

    Haha “..if you’re like us it will be dark and you’ll stop here because you’re starving.” that sunds awfully familliar. The sofa turned out great! You did an awesome job on the back/side tucks for the uphosltery, nice and clean. It looks super comfy too.

    I’m a big fan of assembling new furniture in place ;) especially if it’s something we’re building just to be sure it’s going to fit.

    • Cait says:

      Thanks, Martina! I may go back and blind stitch the corners, just to make sure things stay put, but otherwise we’re so happy with it! It’s definitely comfy!

      Haha, and yes that is how most of our projects go, stopping due to lighting/hunger.

  6. Lindsay says:

    OMG this is awesome!!! Great job!

  7. Wow – this is really awesome! I’m super impressed, and wish I had an outdoor place when I could use soemthing like this!

    • Cait says:

      Thank you, Michelle! I’ve been considering an indoor version. After we finished the outdoor sofa I kind of wanted to try a chaise lounge!

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