How to make an inexpensive couch look like it costs $2,000

When we bought our house, we knew we would have to buy some furniture. We are lucky to have a lovely living space with a fireplace and a giant window facing out front, as well as a sunken area off the dining room leading to the backyard. We’re using the sunken area (which is really an enclosed breezeway) as our “den” (for lack of a better word) and TV room, leaving the living room to our bookshelves, the fireplace (can’t wait to use it this winter!), and what would hopefully be our “nicer” furniture.

Except, in our former place, we only had room for one couch and one chair, so that was the extent of our living room furniture collection. We knew we needed more, including a very important addition – a new couch.

Among J and I’s many back-and-forths on how to decorate our new home, the couch was a long contested one. We both wanted something of the mid-century modern aesthetic, although I insisted that it had to be comfortable. And while we both love fancy-spancy furniture from West Elm and Crate & Barrel, we couldn’t justify to ourselves spending thousands of dollars on a couch, nor did we want to enter one of those payment plans at the big furniture stores. With the exception of our cars and this house, J and I pay cash for nearly everything, and so whatever couch we wanted had to be in our new house budget, and it couldn’t blow said budget so as to prevent us from buying anything else (which is good, because we’ve had to buy a lot).

Enter Ikea. I’m hot-and-cold on Ikea furniture. On one hand, I love it. Almost every single one of our bookshelves is from Ikea, and I just love them. We’ve also been really happy buying our dining room table, coffee and end tables, desk, dining room side table…you get the picture: most of our house is furnished by Ikea. But not our first couch, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go the Ikea-route with this new one as well. We’ve tried out the couches at Ikea many a time, and have never been impressed. Almost every trip we’ve taken over the years, I’ve plopped my behind on this couch or another, wondering, “Do I like it now?” Because gosh darn it, those couches were inexpensive!

At some point, we settled on the idea of buying from Ikea, specifically their Karlstad sofa. The problem was, J wanted the black leather version, namely because the back cushions are tufted and have a nice mid-century modern look to them. I…was not on board with the black leather sofa idea. And so the backs-and-forths began.

Then, I did some sleuthing online and was inspired. Let’s buy the grey cloth sofa, I said, and look at what we can do to it! Look at how awesome it looks! It can still be mid-century and modern, but just without…the black leather part. As in all good marriages, there was compromise and the rest was history.

And so, now, this is how you turn a $500 basic grey Karlstad sofa into something that looks like it could cost $2,000 – for less than $100:





How do you do it? Simple:

  • Tuft the cushions! Specifically, convince your mother-in-law to tuft your cushions for you because she’s a seamstress who knows how to upholster. Score! For this, we bought a pillow case in this grey fabric. J’s mom already had the buttons. Total cost: $20.
  • Get new legs! I’m sure there are other options out there, but we ordered our new legs through Uncle Bob’s Workshop, who handily advertises that yes! they make replacement legs for Ikea sofas. Awesome. It’s important to make sure you find the right replacement legs when it comes to Ikea furniture since most are screw-in. We ordered a nice brown wood, although there are lots of options, to match the legs on our other chairs. The downside was that poor Uncle Bob got super busy after we ordered our legs, and it took more than two months for them to arrive. Sigh. Total cost: around $40.

And that’s it! We still need some new pillows, but I think the end result looks like it could cost up to $2,000. Very happy.


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