Introduction: Revamped Sofa Bed

This Instructable basically hopes to inspire others not to throw away the good quality things we have around us just because they are unfashionable.

As can be seen here, the old sofa bed we have did not really suit the interior of our cottage, which we have been renovating. However, it did provide a good solid base and strong pull-out mechanism for something fulfilling the same function, albeit with an altogether more modern, lighter look.

In the instructable I will show how to:

  • expose and finish surfaces that were originally hidden away from the human eye
  • repair, fabricate and add new parts

Step 1: The Task

We have a very robust sofa bed in our living room which is very practical when we have visitors. The problem is that our cottage has quite small rooms and the sofa bed is from another era (1950s - 1960s) and from a bigger house. We always have it half extended because the kids love to sit on and watch cartoons with their legs stretched out. However, this means that the sofa bed looks untidy from the side as can be seen in the images of the original.

We wanted to preserve the backrest and base with its robust pull-out mechanism and wheels, but transform the rest into something less bulky and overbearing.

This meant:

  • removing the bulbous armrests
  • replacing the armrests with something slimmer and longer to hide the extended section
  • removing the old upholstery covering the back
  • sanding, filling and painting the exposed wooden construction
  • re-upholstering the cushions - done by a professional, and the most expensive part

For the construction changes we needed:

  • 10 metres of 40mm x 70mm timber for the armrests
  • 2 metres of 200mm x 20mm timber for the front of the pull-out mechanism
  • 4 metres of 60mm x 20mm timber for tops of armrests
  • 1metre of 12mm dowelling for joining the corners of the new armrests
  • assorted woodscrews
  • 6 woodscrew/machine screw combos
  • offcuts of wood panelling (from projects around the house)
  • 1 tin of matt white water soluble paint
  • a dash of clear matt water soluble lacquer

Step 2: Removing Upholstery and Painting the Base

This was the biggest and dirtiest job and we were not sure what we would find under the upholstery. We completely discarded the armrests and I stripped them down later on in my workshop so the wood could be reused. We discovered that the sofa bed is actually constructed of two seperate units bolted together in the middle. This made our job easier as we could dismantle it and work on each part separately - a sort of his and hers approach.

Removing the clothupholstery from the wooden construction was time-consuming work where we had to physically pull out hundreds of staples holding the cloth. We found the best was to insert a sharp screwdriver under the staples and then prise them up, pulling out at least one end and then yanking out the whole staple with pliers - and yes, our fingers, wrists, elbows, etc. ached long after!

After that was done we found that the whole thing was beautifully made from a combination of solid wood, hardboard, and plywood of various thicknesses. The back part was made from plywood bent over a curved wooden frame. This was great as we wanted to keep the wooden construction exposed and just sand, fill and paint it.

So we did just that. We cheated a little in that we only filled in the irregularities and staple holes where they would be visible, but painted the whole construction. The water soluble paint was used thinned down as a base coat and then unthinned as two topcoats.

Step 3: Construction and Fitting of the Armrests

As my carpentry skills are almost zero, the construction of the armrests is very simple. Basically, an oblong frame made out of the 70mm x 40mm pieces of timber. Each armrest is 1200mm long and 400mm high with the timber standing on its 40mm edge.

The pieces are joined with the ends of the horizontal pieces butting against the edges of the upstands. A 12mm dowel is inserted into the tops of the 40mm edges of the horizontals about 20mm from each edge. The upstands are then screwed to the horizontals into the dowels. The screws are countersunk and will need to be at least 100mm long. I applied a little wood glue to the mating surfaces for extra security.

These two frames are attached to the sides of the sofa bed using three woodscrew/machine screw combos (about 70mm long, half of the screw has a wood screw and the other half a metric thread). The armrest had to be provisionally propped up against the side of the sofa bed and the best position for each screw was marked so that it went through the plywood side panel and could be accessed from behind in order to bolt the armrest to said panel. There is one screw in the top horizontal to fit into a hole in the side panel near the top of the back rest and the other two are left and right in the bottom of the horizontal to fit into holes at the bottom of the side panel.

The frames were then painted as in step 1, and then panelled using offcuts of tongue and groove panelling. To attach these offcuts a strip of waste chipboard was nailed along the centre line of the inside perimeter of the frame. the thickness of this centre piece is 20mm - the thickness of the frame (40mm in my case) minus twice the thickness of the panelling (20mm in my case), as both sides of the frame are panelled. Along the top of each armrest I screwed a flat strip of wood a little wider and longer than the armrest. The panelling and armrest were then finished with a clear lacquer.

Step 4: Pull-out Mechanism - Simple Repairs and Fitting Front Boards

The original sliding pull-out mechanism is beautifully made. There are two stages, each of which is constructed from strong plywood strips that slide along between the strips of the other stage - simple, strong and fool-proof. We changed nothing there. However, repairs to the legs holding the castors were neccessary. The legs had bent over time and the slot-head screws fixing them to the sliding mechanism had worked loose. These repairs could only be carried out after removing the two upholstered front panels which also serve as handles for pulling out the extension. This was fine with us as we wanted to replace the front panels with simple wooden boards anyway.

The legs and castors were removed, and using a vice and a few persuasive taps with the DIYers best friend (AKA The Hammer), all was put straight.

The 2000mm x 20mm board was cut into two pieces of equal length and attached to the straightened legs using the holes for the original front boards.I used four 6mm galvanized coach bolts with countersunk heads. The board was then painted with a clear water soluble lacquer.

Step 5: The Upholstery and the Final Result

The upholstery is the part that makes the whole project look great so that had to be done professionally. An acquaintance of mine is a professional upholsterer - he tackles everything from antique chairs to car seats and furniture. The result is perfect.

The original cushions were four big squares, each divided into two folding sections. As we use the sofa bed half extended we got the upholsterer to make two folding squares and to non-folding squares. We chose the colour from a wide range of samples. The cost worked out at about £200 including work and material.

The final result looks good (from two paces) but a professional joiner would probably have a minor heart attack on seeing my attempts at joining two pieces of wood. I am however, happy to have accomplished something solid that looks a little like something (of disputable quality) we saw at a furniture store. The overall cost is hard to define as we are renovating our cottage, and there are a lot of boards, laths, etc. left over from other jobs.

Concerning time: the days just do not have enough hours, so autumn changed to winter ........ and then to spring. In the meantime a new set of book shelves had to be made, and finally, at the beginning of summer, we finished our Before and After Project.

Before and After Contest 2017

Participated in the
Before and After Contest 2017