Sofa Quandary


Things have been changing in my living room lately. Some new things have been added to the room (a wood stove and a wall full of shelves) that made my 96” sofa look MASSIVE. I’ve since been on the lookout for something of smaller scale.

In the back corner of a vintage shop in Portland, I found a little Teak wood, Danish-made loveseat. It was only $365, but still not perfect, so I walked away. After leaving, I still kept thinking about it though. Maybe it’s something to modify? Reupholster?

I went back and offered a respectful, yet low, $200. After receiving a doubtful look, the shoplady got the owner of the piece on the phone and she said she could go $225. I figured that was good enough to give me some room to do something with it, right?

At first, I didn’t like the solid panel side/leg arrangement and thought about actually carving it up or putting different legs on it altogether. I bought it home, took it apart and refreshed the wood with Howard’s Restor-a-Finish and then a coat of Feed-n-Wax. After that, the Teak REALLY looked amazing and I didn’t have the desire to cut into it any longer.

But now I still have the reupholstery dilemma. Before finding this loveseat, my first desire was to have a small grey-flannel sofa in there. Now, I’m not so sure if that would work on this particular piece. I didn’t want more leather because I’ve already got my black leather lounge and the brown leather sling chair in the room… BUT, now I’m coming back to the thought of using leather again. I’ve always coveted a tan leather Børge Mogensen, though after seeing the deep-reddish tone of the Teak, I don’t think tan would work either. I think the upholstery needs to be darker than the wood.

Do I resort to classic black? That’s what I’m leaning towards… but I wanted to get your opinions. Anyone have a great idea for this baby? One thing I definitely want to do if I reupholster, is to rework the cushions to a more boxy shape, and also chop the back cushions’ height by a couple inches. As is, I think those covers are just too tall, taut and bulbous. They make me angry just looking at them. I want boxy and loose. Check these sofas here for an idea. Or maybe I do nothing and re-sell? Wait for the pefect, and probably $2000 piece? I’m all over the place, so please weigh in!

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59 Responses to “Sofa Quandary”

  1. scott says:

    Button-tufted black leather cushions to match the Eames chair.

  2. Steve says:

    I concur, match the Eames and it will perfect

  3. beclu says:

    What about a black and white herringbone wool blend? Mustard Yellow velvet might look cool, kind of out of place in a good way?

  4. Moon says:

    I think a nice rich dark green leather would look great with the wood.

  5. Sally says:

    What about sticking with the grey flannel idea (I think grey and teak look awesome together we have it everywhere in our house and it looks great) but use feather cushions (or foam wrapped feather to give it some shape), cut them down so the sofa is lower at the back and stitch them in (sort of like quilting but more refined) with simple grey cross stitches to pucker it in. Slouchy and comfy – sort of a modern chesterfield with bell’s palsy?

    • MMP says:

      Yeah, that’s exactly the plan for the cushion filling… I love how my feather-filled lounge cushions are all broken in.

  6. Malcolm says:

    I think grey is a good idea, as well as making the back lower, though there doesn’t seem to be much room there. I dislike the severely soft edges and round corners on the current cushions, so I’d like to see something with harder edges to bring a feeling of a clear form into the cushion area. Also, it sucks to have to cover up the curve where the back meets the arm panels.

  7. jenny says:

    I think a charcoal would be nice. Or perhaps the Maharam alpaca herringbone..

  8. What about singular cushions – a lower back for the top and a cushier one for the bottom? Reupholstered in a dark nubby charcoal – it would look so nice with that teak. Love smooth arc of the arms and a nice texture could really show those off.

    I kind of feel like black leather is a little too waiting room or cold or something and not necessarily inviting. A lush velvet could be nice…hmmm…like this:

    I’m loving that gray velvet with the wood.

    • MMP says:

      I like these thoughts… one cushion might make the back appear lower too. Nubby is interesting, maybe more texture?

    • Woah… Morgan and I might be the same person. I also vote nubby dark grey wool to add some contrasting texture to the leather and single cushions all around. I think the single cushions will also make it more streamlined and “appear” longer while still keeping the small footprint you were looking for. Cool sofa, I’m sure it’ll turn out great!

      Can I ask how you like that Restore-a-finish? I’m always tempted to buy it, but it seems too magical to be real.

      • MMP says:

        Hey Dan, Restore-a-Finish is crazy good. I thought it couldn’t possibly work without actual magic involved, but our dear friend Anna convinced me to try it and it’s amazing.

      • MMP says:

        Not loving the singular cushions after mocking up guys… looks like the bench seat in my old 73 Chevy. Maybe it’s the less-than-accurate mockup?

  9. Abbey H says:

    I second what Morgan said, sort of combined with what Scott said. Singular cushions . Tufted leather. Heck yeah.

  10. MMP says:

    You all are doing great… this is gonna be way more challenging now, but so many good ideas! I should do some photoshop mockups.

  11. That wood looks so rich and buttery, I wish I could reach out and touch it! But I have to be honest: something bugs me about the proportions of the sofa. Maybe it’s just the over-tall height of the back cushions, but the arms look really, really tall compared to the rest of it. Or maybe the love seat width looks too narrow in proportion to the height of the arms. I don’t know what it is, but (to me) it’s just not quite right. Looking at your inspiration photos, it seems like all the sofas with higher arms have side cushions.

  12. MMP says:

    Ok, the mockups have begun… the top has been chopped and looks way better. First step, leathers…

    • OK.

      I like the long cushion with no tufting. The tufting is just too fussy, while the sofa wants to be a little modernist sculpture.

      I am now sold on the idea of lux dark gray velvet – it would be unexpected, masculine and feminine at the same time and look so amazing with the wood.

  13. >svensson says:

    There’s quite a few nice ideas here already. I’m not so sure about the smooth leather, though. I don’t know if this is easily available, but how about a kind of raw leather, maybe a little like the chair you got a couple of weeks ago? After all, it’d be nice to have a corresponding look with the various seats. Plus, I think the haptic of raw leather is a lot nicer than that of smooth leather.

    I do like the idea of using charcoal, but a dark brown – once again, like the seat – could work, too.

    But I’d definitely vote for a more angular or boxy cushion shape!

    Good luck with the work! And make sure that you post your progress, it would be great to see that and the final result.

  14. bekah says:

    I found your blog this morning and its so good I am eating scrambled eggs in bed and trying savor it (the blog, not the eggs) I’m up in Bellingham Wa and its nice to see a great crafty blog that is geographically close to home!

    Love, love the bedroom door!

  15. Ferme says:

    The previous owners of our house put in a gas stove and removed the connection to the vent. The propane smell is too scary for us. It didn’t bother the previous owners. We want to put back in a wood stove and I am curious about the cost of your wood stove installed?

    • MMP says:

      Yeah, gas smell in the house doesn’t sound cool to me. You might want to contact an installer… mine wasn’t that much, but it’s just one straight pipe up… seems that there’s a lot of install/cost variables here.

  16. caitlin says:

    the grey and brown leather in your mock-up both look great.
    we just re-upholstered a teak sofa in vintage army tents and it looks amazing…maybe something to think about? i also like the idea of loose bench and back cushions. not quite as tight as in the mock-up so that it’s more casual to contrast with the hard lines of the frame.
    can’t wait to see what you do!

  17. Chris says:

    Though I usually dislike stuffed leather cushions, I’m definitely liking your mock-up of the black ones. The back cushion proportion looks good. What about a single non-tufted cushion across the back and 2 cushions for the seat in a deep charcoal wool? Maybe less stuffed but with welting to give you casual + structure?

  18. Vanessa says:

    Personally I would do a charcoal wool. Check out the army surplus blankets. Also you mentioned not liking the single cushion in the mockups , but I think the problem is too many buttons. I would try 4-5 across and 2 down. you could also try putting the buttons on the seat cushion instead of the back.
    Also, What do you think about squaring off the edges of the teak a bit, just down the front and sides of the arms?

    • MMP says:

      I did think about squaring off the wood… chopping things up a bit… but after cleaning and polishing the wood, I don’t think I can bring myself to cut into it now.

  19. Amanda says:

    I love the idea of reupholstering a couch with vintage wool blankets. I’m dreaming of a heathered grey with a thick cream stripe that travels down one side of the sofa, yum.

    • MMP says:

      Yeah, tried draping one of my grey army blankets over it – grey wool with a tan striping pattern on it… looked pretty cool.

  20. darla says:

    I may get a round of boos but what the heck … What about a graphic print? Not both cushions but one print, one solid? That would break the church pew look & the bachelor leather look. (read neither as offensive, please!) A friend recovered her office chair with this, graphic on one cushion & solid on the other.

    Before shortening the back cushion, be sure to sit on it for a while. Will the back cushion slide down? Would it leave you resting uncomfortably on the frame?

    • MMP says:

      I won’t boo that. Could be cool definitely… but probably not my style. I think I’m creeping back to something really classic on this piece.

      And I think the back cushion will slide down a bit, but shouldn’t cause a problem sitting. I like the idea of being able to see the top of the frame even, and the cushion will still be thick enough to prevent hitting the frame.

  21. Kate says:

    hmmm… what about doing a really long bench cushion with a loose filling that would then kind of rise up and slightly overspill the arms? i’m thinking with a knife edge seam for the edges. perhaps maybe even one large or interconnected loose cushion as in the Lafer images. i’m not sure about the logistics of making it, but it would address the arms by playing them up while saving you from committing teak-cutting.

  22. Jen says:

    Dark green leather or dark grey flannel. I have to say, this light grey font color is terrible on old eyes.

  23. ap says:

    nice find!

    black leather cushions are the way to go, in my opinion. and, yes, definitely lower height on the back ones. but i vote against tufting. i think this bad boy needs clean lines. super classy *and* classic.

    look forward to seeing the end result.

  24. Erin Z says:

    This reminded me of a post over on Manhattan Nest (forgive me if this has already been brought up).
    I love a good grey felt in just about anything and their take on it was pretty novel :

  25. Peter says:

    Dark grey wool felt!!

  26. This is totally off subject but I love the way your living room is coming together. The iron stove is cool and I covet those Franco Albini stools.
    I thought of black before you mentioned it, maybe a wool? I love the leather Borge Morgensen sofas too but so pricey.
    Try the black you’re already leaning towards, then if it really makes you feel funky still, sell that baby!

    • MMP says:

      Thanks Jenn, I’m glad you like. I’m excited to see the sofa done and show off the whole room to you soon.

  27. Um, I guess I wasn’t TOTALLY off subject, just a little. I needed to fix that.

  28. Logan says:

    I like the gray idea. I bought a chrome sofa thing off craiglist with lame redish faux leather cushions with the idea of redoing them in gray tweed or something. Good idea to square the cushions off and chop the back ones down. Cool find! I really like the angled armrests, and of course the wood grain.

  29. MMP says:

    Well, I’ve finally made a decision. I was ready to do black leather, then after moving some things around in my living room, I realized I had too many leather things going on. I decided to come back to the grey wool look, and today went to the Pendleton Outlet in Sellwood and found their heathered grey wool. It’s so amazingly perfect. Anyway, a couple weeks and it should be done! I’ll take pics and post an update then.

    Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions!

  30. casey says:

    I think leather is the wrong choice here. I only say that because you have leather on two pieces. You need a good balance. And wool is a solid choice, still masculine. I like what you are doing with lowering the cushions. The tufting seems like too much for this little piece.

    As for fabric, Pendleton Home store in NW sells a great range of solids and patterns of wool by the yard. Under $50. They also have an eco washable wool. It would be very Portland of you. Be careful doing one cushion, you’ll need to find fabric that’s wide enough to span the width so you don’t have a seam. Kvadrat, the more residential and offshoot line of Maharam offers a great variety of natural fabrics like wools and cottons that is perfect for reupholstery. Something with texture and nubby is going to hide dirt and/or animal hair (if that’s an issue) better than a straight solid. I’m a designer, so I could get you trade pricing for both lines, if you aren’t able to yourself.

  31. Erica Hassinger says:

    Agree on no leather. Just stumbled onto this site the other day — if it helps for inspiration. Some charcoal mid-century tweed goodness, perhaps?

  32. Arin says:


    A little off subject.: I have 2 chairs that look the one that is shown to the left of the sofa on photo 3. Mine are a bit wobbly and need new upholstery and I was wondering if you had any experience with rehabbing those chairs or if you knew anything about the manufacturer, etc. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated!

    I look forward to seeing the reupholstered sofa.

  33. Arin says:

    Ack! I see that you already did a post on the chair recently that I missed,

    • MMP says:

      Yeah! I didn’t have to refinish that one, other than wax the wood and condition the leather. Do you have hex bolts on yours, like mine? These chairs were made to be flat packed, so it might just need a gently tightening.

      • Arin says:

        Yeah, I do have the hex bolts, but it appears that someone glued the pieces together at the joints so I can no longer disassemble the chairs. I need to figure out how to dissolve the glue. I am thinking that that might be impossible to do.

  34. Jason says:

    Charcoal grey corduroy with white corduroy piping. Single button tuft centered to each cushion. Wife just covered a piece in corduroy. Fantastic. Very durable but a quick broken in look.

  35. Oh what a funny “dear cushions’ love note. While u r considering your options (keep, sell, gift it, burn it – just kidding on the burning) you may want to decorate the cushions ugliness until u save up money for a new sofa or upholstery. Try stenciling a pattern or even words onto the cushion (I recommend u stay away from I hate you cushion), or painting a strip on the cushion – something to visually distract u for the time being :) Lookign fwd to seeing what u decide to do! A

  36. Suite Henry says:

    I think you can definitely do grey. Not flannel but maybe a tweed or a herringbone. I would do either charcoal or a real true grey with no brown undertones. Editing the height a bit is cool. You are so brave! I’d be such a chicken about something like this!!

  37. Dale says:

    I see one black leather cushion for the seat and like you said, a low black leather cushion for the back. Very sleek and simple.