Intro: Make an Armchair Out of A...Coffee Table!
Some days ago I was visiting a local store when I noticed a beautiful octagonal chair that almost looked like a hand.
A mix of this and this.
Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it (making it was not in the plans), but I thought it was really cool, I like original furniture that you don't see often.
At first I didn't even think that I could make one, but a few days later I found a ruined coffee table in my basement. I had it in the living room for years before but I completely forgot about it. And because of its octagonal shape, it immediately reminded me of that chair I saw in the store!
I knew this would have been one of the hardest things I had ever tried to do, but I thought "why not?" :)
So I took advantage of these super hot weather to spend some time in the basement (thanks god it's cool there) working on this chair...and this is the result!
What do you think? :)
Step 1: Prepare the Table
My coffee table has a triangle at the bottom of its legs, and as you can see from the picture, the edges have been eaten by my bunny years ago :D
I thought that it would have been useful to keep this level on my future chair, so I removed it for a while and cut its edges out a little to give it a regular shape again and put it back where it was after I painted it.
Anyway, let's start!
The first thing I did is passing a layer of primer for wood on the triangle and on the legs of my table.
This paint helps the final color hold on a very smooth piece of wood.
You could actually sand it a little with sandpaper instead, but doing this on a very curvy surface is not easy at all. For this reason, I used this special paint for wood and let it dry.
I didn't do this on the whole table because I knew that I was going to upholster the rest later.
Step 2: Paint the Table
Once the primer is dry, you can remove the excess and make it smoother using a pretty fine steel wool. You could use a fine sandpaper but, again, steel wool is much easier to use on curves.
After doing that, you can finally paint on the white paint with a regular varnish - I used a beige/cream color.
You may need to pass more than one layer of paint this time, it depends on how well your varnish covers the wood. In this case, always remember to wait for the previous layer to dry before painting on it again.
When you finally decide that the wood is completely covered and the paint is compact, let it dry for the last time! :)
ps: I had so much fun doing all of this...I need to paint furniture more often! :D
Step 3: Cut the Foam
It's time to begin the upholstery part!
Lay a big piece of thick upholstery foam on a table. It must be bigger than your coffee table because this will become the seat.
Mine was 10cm thick (3.93 inches) but you can use a thicker or a thinner one, it doesn't really matter except for one thing: the thicker it is, the harder will be stapling the whole seat later :(
Now place your coffee table upside down on the upholstery foam and trace its outline on the foam making it about 1cm bigger (0.39 inches) than the table.
Remove the table and cut the foam following the outline you traced. I used a special foam cutter but you can use whatever you have or your feel more comfortable with.
I don't recommend using scissors (even big ones) because the cut will not be accurate on thick foam. You can normally use them if your foam is thin.
Step 4: Glue the Foam
Before covering the seat, we need to secure the foam on the table to make sure that it doesn't move.
What you need here is a specific glue for foam, I think it's epoxy in English, but I am not too sure about this.
Anyway, I didn't have this glue the day I worked on my chair so I tried to use white (wood) glue. I spread it on the table and placed it upside down on the octagonal foam that I had cut.
I let it dry for a night...
It worked!!! :)
Step 5: Cover the Seat
It's time to cover the seat.
I used red artificial leather but this can be done using any other kind of fabric.
Cut a big piece of fabric, it must be big enough to cover the whole foam and reach the wood behind.
Lay your piece of fabric upside down on a table and place your coffee table in the middle of it with the foam facing the back of the fabric.
Start stapling the opposite sides of the fabric to the wood, always pulling it enough to keep it tight.
If you are using artificial leather like I did, be careful not to pull it too much because it can easily break where the staples are. In case you are using another kind of fabric, pull it as much as you can: the result will be better.
Continue to staple all along the 8 sides.
Step 6: The Seat Is Almost Ready...
After stapling the sides, there are all the angles left...don't panic!
Actually, the angles that need to look better are the ones that will be at the front of your chair, and these are only 2! The others will be hidden later.
Because my coffee table has 3 legs, I figured that the front side of my chair would be the one that has a leg right in the middle. This way the chair will be steady when I sit on it.
So, considering your front side, continue to pull the 2 angles' fabric from the adjacent sides and staple them.
Now fold the left fabric at the front and staple it too.
I am sure it's much easier to understand while looking at the pictures.
All this would have been easier if the upholstery foam was thinner...but I had already imagined my chair this way so I really needed to do it anyway! :D
It's not impossible...you can do it!
Continue to staple the other angles the way you prefer, as I said before, they will be hidden so it doesn't matter too much.
When you are finally done, cut the excess fabric out.
The seat is done!
Step 7: The Back and the Arms
Let's start to prepare the back and the arms of the chair now: you need 3 pieces of wood for the back and 2 for the arms.
As I've already said, my coffee table has 3 legs only, so I decided to make it more stable adding a fourth "leg" in the back. My idea was to make the central back part of the chair long enough to touch the floor. I wanted to make the whole back this way but the chair would have become way too heavy that way, so I thought that one was enough...
I wanted the back of my chair to be 40cm tall (15.74 inches). Plus I had to consider about 4cm (1.57 inches) because these pieces would have been fixed to the seat through their bottom - you'll understand better later.
So 2 pieces of the back are 44cm tall (17.32) and the longest one is exactly like that PLUS the measure to reach the floor. It's much easier to do than to explain!
The arms are shorter than the back so I made them 24cm tall (9.44 inches), 20cm + 4cm at the bottom.
Their width is as long as the coffee table sides.
Step 8: Foam for the Back and Arms
Just like you did for the seat, you need to cut pieces of upholstery foam for the back and the arms.
So cut three big foam rectangles of the same measures of the back plus 1cm (0.39 inches) on each side (a little more at the top, if possible), and remember not to consider the 4cm (1.57 inches) in excess at the bottom - these must remain free.
Do the same for the arms.
When you finally have all the pieces of foam, spread the glue on the wood and glue the foam to them.
Do the same for the 2 arms. I used a thinner foam for them but you can continue to use the thick one if you prefer.
After everything is dry, staple the tip of the foam to the top of the wood back to give it a round shape.
Step 9: Extra Wood Pieces
The last pieces of wood that you need for your chair are strips as long as the sides of the table and about 2cm (2.78 inches) wide. You will need these to keep the back and arm pieces fixed to the seat. Cut the edges as a half triangle so that they can easily face each other (see pictures).
You'll need 5 of these.
Now make 3 holes through them and attach them to the back pieces and arm pieces using screws, right at their bottom, on the same side where the foam is.
And for the longer back piece, you need to place it near the other 2 pieces to know exactly where you have to attach the wood strip.
Step 10: Cover the Back and Arms
Now you have to cover the 3 back pieces and arms. So cut 5 pieces of fabric, big enough to cover each of the backs and arms.
Lay one of them upside down at the centre of the fabric and start to staple all around it, always pulling a little, and proceed just like you did for the seat.
Do this for all your pieces.
The only difference for the arms is that I decided to cover one angle of the bottoms too because they will be visible once they will be fixed to the seat.
Make sure that they are opposite angles because one arm will be facing the other.
I covered the left angle for the left arm and the right angle for the right arm.
I admit that this step is a little hard to do if you, like me, are not a real upholsterer. You need patience because artificial leather easily breaks as you staple on it, plus you need to make sure that there are no bad looking "waves" at the front. You may need to remove staples once in a while (I often did actually)...but I can assure you that it's not impossible!
Step 11: Put Everything Together!
The hardest part is over...It's time to assemble the chair!!
The first thing I did, is to temporary attach all pieces to the seat using long nails in the back, at the bottom.
I started placing the longest one of the 3 backs on the opposite side of where the front of my seat was.
After that, I added the other 2 ones next to the first one and finally, the arms facing each other on 2 opposite sides.
When you've finished to place all the pieces the way they should be and you are satisfied, secure them with screws at their bottom, where you added the extra wood strips, turning the chair upside down.
I also added 4 iron bars that join the pieces together in the back, always using screws. This way I am sure that they can't move anymore.
Your whole chair is finally steady!
Step 12: The Arms Back
The last big thing you have to do is to cover the back of the chair with more fabric.
Cut a big (huge :D) piece of fabric that will cover the whole back, including the central back/leg piece, and 2 smaller pieces to cover the back of the arms.
Make sure to cut them bigger than the actual measure, especially the pieces for the arms, they must be much larger than how they actually are.
Let's start with the arms: staple one edge of the fabric upside down at the top of the arm back, as you can see in the picture.
Cut 2 strips out of cardboard, just a little shorter than the arm's width.
Now staple one of these strips to the fabric you had just stapled, but make sure that it's straight and parallel to the top of the arm.
Fold down the fabric, pull it a little, and staple it to the bottom of the arm, where nobody can see it.
The fabric on the side that meets the other back piece must be stapled on the back of it so that it will be hidden after you cover that other part too.
The other side doesn't meet any other piece so just staple on the side. We will hide it later.
The trick of the cardboard gives a good and finished effect so that the staples will be hidden.
Do the same for the back of the other arm.
Step 13: The Back...Back!
Cover the rest of the chair just like you did for the arms, except that it's one whole piece of fabric this time.
Staple in the back when it's possible, and when it's not, simply staple on the side.
Look at the pictures to understand how I covered the back/leg. You will have to fold the exceeding fabric on the sides of the leg and staple them in the back (I actually cut some out too because it was too much).
Step 14: Cover the Leg
You probably have noticed that the inside of the leg has still not been covered.
You could leave it that way if you prefer, but it's visible after all so it's better to cover that part too.
Simply cut another piece of fabric, lay it on the wood and staple all around it.
When you are done, cut all the exceeding fabric on the sides, trying to keep the cut as close to the staples as possible. It will be easier to hide this way.
Do the same on the whole chair if you still have exceeding parts left.
Step 15: Finishing Touch...
Now the last part...
Hide all the visible staples gluing stripes of trimmings on them, all along the sides.
Remember to do this in the back of the leg too...it will become just like a frame all around it.
I used hot glue for this and it worked perfectly.
I am proud to announce that your chair is finished!!!
All you have to do now is trying it...I can't tell you enough how comfortable it is! ;-)