living room sofa makeover

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, Furniture Makeovers, Living Room, My House, upholstery63 Comments

 I shared the new arrangement for my living room, but I thought I would share an “official” before and after of the sofa.  The sofa that was in my living room was a lovely piece my aunt let me “borrow long term.”  I slipcovered it in drop cloths and used it for about four years before I gave it back to their side of the family.  It belonged to my uncle’s mother and now that I have a steady stream of furniture coming and going because of my business (and that’s what I do), I offered it back to them and they accepted.

So, I was on the hunt for a new sofa for the living room.  Since our TV isn’t in that room and it’s more of a formal space right off the front door, so the sofa can be a “pretty sofa.”  It does need to be comfortable, but it doesn’t get the heavy use of our family room sofa.  I checked out Craig’s List first and hit it at just the right time!  I found this beautiful Gustavian sofa for $100 back in the spring.

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My dad delivered the old sofa to my aunt around Thanksgiving, so I needed to get busy on the sofa that’s been hanging out in the basement for a few months.  I painted the blonde wood in MMSMP Grain Sack and distressed it lightly.  I did use the bonding agent, so I wouldn’t get any chipping, and finished it off with a light coat of White Wax mixed with Antiquing Wax.  I’ll share about that later, but Abbe discovered that mixing the two together makes an amazing gray wax!

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And I upholstered it in the antique hemp sheets I recently sold in my shop (I did order more!)  They have become my favorite for upholstery since they are heavy duty and have a lot of character.

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The gimp trim is the natural French gimp from Online Fabric Store and it’s just hot glued on.  As with all of my upholstery projects, this one’s not perfect.  In order to save fabric, I allowed the seams to show and I love the subtle patchwork look and it came in handy when I needed to add some more fabric to one side of the back, because I pulled the other side too much and ended up being a little short!

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I even accidentally had one seam inside out and I assured my mom I would hide it in the back, but somehow it ended up right in the front!  Oh well.  It just adds to the character of the piece.  It would look bad with most fabrics, but it works with this one.

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Here she is all done…


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Actually, Jeff still needs to add some supports and tighten a few places on the back of the frame, so the back is still un-upholstered.  It’s sturdy, but there are supposed to be two center supports under the sofa, so it doesn’t bow in the middle.  We have one that fell out and just needs to be glued in, but the other one was missing, so Jeff is going to make one.  You can see the sofa is bowing slightly in the middle and it’s putting strain on the outer legs and arms.  It’s an easy fix that will sure things up and make it last for many years.

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I’m going to cover the bolster in either some grain sack scraps or pieces of an antique white linen sheet.  Not sure, yet, but there will definitely be pleats involved.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make a tutorial on this one, but I had to sort of figure it out as I went and I messed up in a few places, so I would’ve just been leading you astray anyway!  I am excited to share that Jeff is going to be my camera man and editor AND we have a nice new camera and sound equipment AND we just ordered some lighting, so we plan to make a lot more videos.  I always wanted to, but it was hard when I was doing everything and I knew the quality wasn’t good.  Now that I have help, though, I have a big list of videos I want to make, including several for upholstery.

The antlers hanging over the painting were taken down today.  They weren’t really working for me, but it was worth a try!  I think the painting (found at an antique store for about $30) is so pretty on its own.  

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And I moved the Hobby Lobby clock I painted with MMSMP Ironstone from the family room above the piano in the living room.  I like how light and bright it is, since the piano is so visually heavy.  We’re putting 3/4 height wainscoting in the family room, so the clock needed to find a new home, anyway.

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I’ve loved big, old clock faces and reproductions for a while, but they were always so expensive or didn’t look convincing enough for me.  When I found this metal one on clearance at Hobby Lobby, I knew I could paint it to get the look I’ve been after.  I added the Bonding Agent to the milk paint, so it would stick to the slick metal surface.

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And I am still thinking about making new curtains for the living and dining room and I’m swaying even more in that direction.  I ordered another buffalo check swatch to see if it would work for the space.  (The other ones I got had too much green in the blue.)  It has to be perfect to make me want to sew eight new panels!  This is the fabric I’m considering…

If I don’t change the curtain fabric, I would at least like to spruce up the curtains that are currently there.  I made them early on in my drapery-sewing career and it shows.  I’ve learned a lot since then and would like them to look a little sharper.

The kids had a snow day today, so I’ve been building Legos, making snacks and not getting as much work done as I’d hoped, especially on the heals of Christmas break! The work always seems to wait for me, though, so I’m sure it will still be there on Monday…

MMS_DividerI shared this at Thrifty Decor Chick’s Before & After party.

living room sofa makeover

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63 Comments on “living room sofa makeover”

  1. Hi, you could use your existing curtains to make eyelet top curtains, they look ‘sharper’ somehow, they fold back very neatly…or you could make NEW eyelet curtains with the check fabric ……. 😉

  2. Marian, I LOVE that painting. For me, it makes the space. I think the buffalo check, with its soft yet defined pattern, will work well if you decide to go with it.

  3. Don’t hate me, but I really like the room before the rearrange. I loved the way your Ironstone looked all group together in the curio.

  4. Your redo of the sofa reminds me of those high end “deconstructed” upholstered pieces at Restoration Hardware. I like it!

  5. Wow, love how the rearrangement looks! I, too, am in the mood to purge – and am listing some furniture pieces that I’m surprised I’m ready to let go of..and it really does feel great!!!
    Plus, it will give me a little spending money for some new stuff that I actually need – yay!
    Happy new year!
    Leah: )

  6. I’m with Pamela…..I too loved the ironstone in the curio. Do love the painting and all the other pieces….you just need a bigger house!!!
    Happy New Year!!!

  7. This looks amazing. I love how simple it is… and the door behind the sofa with the simple countryside painting is just perfect. Although i did like the antlers, i like it without the antlers too. There’s just something good about that door in the mix…. and i’m in crazy in love with the sofa and that fabric…


  8. I love your decorating style and read your blog daily! I think the blue buffalo check pattern will be lovely for your curtains in the living room. By the way, you need to turn your clock a quarter turn so that the XII (12) is at the top and the VI (6) is at the bottom.

  9. I imagine this is when you hate blogging…. I typically love your stye but the new LR is pretty stark , similar to everything else out there……….something about the old LR that added just enough differentiation – warmth.

  10. Ha, no I don’t. 🙂 I am not done with the room, though…still figuring out all of the layers, so I’m keeping it very clean at first, so i can be intentional about all of the things added.

  11. Miss M, did you consider maybe placing your antique dresser you placed in front of the window right next to the door with an ironstone bowl to catch your keys or place your purse when you enter the house? Maybe you can add a lamp there too. Then where you had the antique dresser another chair like the “club” chair with the canning back or the chair you recently got form Soft Surroundings? As for replacing the window treatments keep in mind the buffalo checks is a “secondary” print (your side dish), the existing ones are “primary” (your entree) which is supposed to be your road map. To spruce up you’re existing window treatments paint the drapery rods in Ironstone and grain sack combo and do pillows to match your draperies or if your piano stool has a cushion reupholster in the drapery fabric print. Just a thought for a more custom look.

  12. I believe a home should be functional and lived in….I have a 120 year old farm house I have moved furniture, flipped rooms and redone more times than any sane person should….Lesson learned…only you and your family will know when it is right…sure it may look nice but if it is not functional, it will not be used ….Since my children have grown and moved on to their own homes, I tend to keep things as they are, plus I now have alot of big heavy furniture, do what ever works for your family if it is pleasing to the eye another plus…We recently moved our dining room furniture out to the barn and purchased two leather couches in there place…seems a waste to only use a dining room 6-7 times a year..For now it works for us…Come Easter we may be holding our plates in our laps on the couch…such is life…Happy New Year

  13. You have the eye. The buffalo fabric if its like the sample would look perfect with your new look. Isn’t it funny how one thing leads to another but its fun?!! I can’t believe how bright the rearrangement looks. The simple rustic table does look good empty. Less visual weight? And I bet you could sell your drapes as is too…more $ for the buffalo fabric!!!

  14. Will the change in color of buffalo check be ENOUGH change to you to make the effort?
    Maybe you should try something entirely different!
    Tell me about the old bench in front of the sofa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love it with the sofa.
    What color is the grey paint?????? What is a good grey to use with blacks and whites thru out the home?


    Keep doing the great job you do for us everyday!

  15. I didn’t even notice that the clock was turned wonky! Funny. The sofa is lovely- cant wait to see how the room comes together!

  16. I’ve not been quite certain what it is about your style that keeps me coming back for more. Anyway, it has finally dawned on me with this rearrange. I like that you aren’t afraid to be ‘un’ perfect, your love of natural elements and your ability to arrange and balance in a symmetrically pleasing way without it being too matchy matchy. Vundebar!

  17. Hi Marian,
    Your energy amazes me and I can’t wait until you get your Pottery Barn sofa next week and make room for that in your beautiful house! Happy New Year!

  18. MMS,
    I really like the fabric of your current drapes…it has more depth that the buffalo check.
    If you want buffalo check, maybe a yellow or coral (warm color against all the cool) would be the punch you are looking for.

    1. I agree with Lori, I was wondering why i wasn’t quite drawn in, even tho it is a very lovely arrangement. I think a coral accessory on the coffee table and on the drapes would add a lot of warmth. It does feel a little cool and monochromatic to me. I DO understand it is not finished Marian, so ….just saying. I am glad the antlers got another lace to be, I am sure Eulalie and the other lady are happy, must have made them nervous. 🙂 And again, task lighting?

  19. Hi,
    I’m a Canadian planning a shopping trip to the states. (Buffalo New York area) I’d like to pick up some drop cloths to slipcover a set of Parson Chairs. I’ve purchased drop cloths here, but they are much too heavy.
    I’d appreciate any suggestions as to BRAND… WEIGHT… SIZE…

    Also, any suggestions of brands of “looking glass spray paint”?

    I know the following stores are in this area…. Home Depot, Lowes, JoAnnes, Hobby Lobby…

    Thank you in advance,

    1. Debbie, I’m in Texas so this may not be true in New York, but we found the best drop cloths at our local Home Depot. We didn’t care for the ones from Lowes as they were pieced together and had a seam (or even two!) which was a problem for curtains. Not so much for slipcovers though. Just be sure to open them as soon as you get them so you can check them out and exchange them if you need to. Another thing we found out is that the colors from package to package could vary, as in different dye lots, so you need to watch for that too. Good luck on your hunt!

  20. Don’t hate me either, but I liked the “before” better. The curio was perfect between the 2 windows. I think the sofa looks heavy. And I loved the round ottoman with the box pleats. And I love the current drapes.

  21. My advice is to enjoy the lego building and snack making!! Yes, the work will ALWAYS be there, but the kids will not! signed, Empty Nester 😉

  22. I love the idea of changing the curtains…maybe go with drop cloth fabric…and use pillows to add color! paint the curtain rods, too …love your openness! Thanks for sharing your creativity process…you’re awesome!

  23. I am a little behind. Did you make the blue and white drapes with the pinch pleats? If so, are they difficult to sew?


  24. I was inspired by your blog about organizing and cleaning out. So now I have several drawers and containers much more organized. With your inspiration and Rehab Attic, which I also love, I started a new project this morning taking an old antique piece and staining the top and painting the bottom half. Hopefully it will turn out to be something I can use – it’s fun anyway! Thanks for all of your inspiration. Happy New Year!!!

  25. Love your decorating. Have you thought of putting a unique artistic “something” above the picture behind the sofa? Looks like it is needing a little embellishment there.
    Just a suggestion.

  26. I love the carved detail on the legs and arms of that sofa!
    I must say though that I agree with those who think the room now looks a bit too stark. Hope the addition of new “layers” will change that. 🙂

  27. Ah envy is such an evil thing but you already know I envy you with much love 🙂 You find the most amazing things & know just what to do with them. If you get rid of your existing curtains, please let me know & I may just stop considering moving your entire house to my lot lol Happy New Year Marian I know this one will be super amazing for you too!

  28. I think one of the things that has always drawn me to this room was the beautiful fabric of the curtains. I hope you are able to salvage the material for another project if you end up replacing them.
    My daughter and her family made the trip to Colorado for Christmas and just when I think I’m done with something she says,” Well, Mom, you could paint that nook another color and I think you need long drapes there”. And wham, she’s right and I’ve got more to do! It’s fun though to have her perspective. I hope you too enjoy the perspectives of all of us!

  29. I SO love the darker blue, floral drapes that you currently have behind the couch. They lend just a bit more of an elegant country look for the somewhat dressier front room.. The buffalo plaid is a lot more casual. I agree with another writer, that a little something above the country picture would make that spot look finished. Love your blog and read it daily! I don’t have these colors in my home, nor this style at all, but I sure love your look!

  30. What a nice job you did with the sofa, I love that little (mistake) itended up being “just right”. My Amish grandmother taught me to always make a mistake, because only God is perfect!!!!Checks are my favorite, My sewingroom, kitchen and den all sport them, but. I want to try the buffalo checks as well! Someday you children will remember your time together, not if the house was perfect! Good girl!

  31. Your clean, simplified look tells me you’re ready for the next change, whatever it may be. I think the urge to purge is a spiritual thing, instinctual as the seasons. We can’t make room for the new without releasing the old, eh? I LOVE the painting. And I love the placement you chose – very creative. I agree with other comments about the dark curio filled with light ironstone, it’s a classic look. But there’s something very appealing about this shot. You can see how the light plays in the room and that the perspective is one of openness. It’s a room that is ready to receive and must reflect what you feel on the inside. On a side note, I am NOT happy that I now have to budget $$ for the Pottery Barn rug I suddenly must have. 🙂

  32. Keep up spending time with your boys, they won’t be so young and before you know it they’re growing up and out on their own. It’s a shame to have to look back to wish you’d spent more time with them. They need you so much. I can say this cause I know. I listened to being nagged about always having to have our house just right with 3 small children in it. I was a terrible Mother in that I didn’t listen to my own heart instead of the person nagging continually about something that didn’t really matter in the long run. Enjoy your little boys, they are so precious.
    I like your couch with the mistake on it too, looks lived on.
    Now that I’m an old lady I can let things go a bit, you have that to look forward to. You have lots of years when your kids leave home to do whatever you want but not when they’re little or teenagers when they need you as much. Happy weekend

  33. I love the sofa and would love to use the antique hemp sheets to reupholster my sofa. I can’t wait until you have more to sell. How can I make those sheets stain resistant?

  34. I loved the room before . I love the room now, and i will love the room 6 months from now.
    You are amazeballs!!!! Thank you for sharing the room in its unfinished state .So calm and serene!!!

  35. I love your old curtains! That is my favorite thing in the room. If you are going very simple and white with your decor you need a pop! Just fix up your old ones and save yourself some work. Why not add some hemp or check for an edging or border?

  36. Your room looks fabulous! One of my favorite things about you is your ability to see the beauty when there are “mistakes” in your projects! You do wonderful work, thank you for the inspirations! I would love to know the name if your buffalo check if it works out! By the way, I know the mean well, but I think it’s kind of funny that people give you advice:). Stay true to you!

  37. Marian, it is your discipline that is so evident in this room. I like your careful work, your thoughtful analysis of space vs. stuff, your search for that balance, for just enough “layers” and no more.

  38. I am absolutely wild for that sofa! I’ve been combing the furniture pages of Craigslist list in hopes someone is selling it’s identical twin. Alas, I don’t think I’m going to find it. You totally scored on that purchase-Amazing!. So, if you ever think of selling please let me know…err.. I mean all of us;-) Of course you’d be crazy to sell it and I’m sure you can’t just let me know you’re selling (wink.wink). So, anyway, I like the evolution of the living room. Love the rustic blue bench and the buffalo check curtains. I’m inspired everyday by your site. I”m busting out my new sander and ready to get to work!

  39. Marian, I like your changes in the living room. It is unbelievable how much energy you have and are not afraid to make those changes. I do think you may want to try another color for drapes for that punch. I love buffalo checks as I also have them in my home, but I like the drapes you currently have as they do add some depth with the neutrals in your living room. No matter what you do I know the room will just turn out great. I enjoy reading your blogs every day as they are so inspiring. I cannot wait until you have more of that hemp fabric so I can place an order.

  40. Love it all..esp piano…you don’t see a lot of decorating around an upright piano…we can’t be the only ones w a piano in the house:)

  41. Love how simple & casually elegant the sofa feels. Love watching your living room redesign. I actually have an old armless more modern sofa from CB2 that has simple lines that I’ve always wanted to reupholster in grain sack or linen. I’ve held onto it for years because it’s just too good to let go of it has a large tear in the basket weave fabric. I would love to see some upholstery videos! I’m always so motivated & inspired by your posts. Maybe in the new year I will finally tackle that sofa. Oh yeah, I was a fan of the antlers:)

  42. I have an idea for your curtains. To make your curtains look sharper I would take a pom pom fringe and add it to the inside vertical edge of the panel. You could go with a simple natural color, or pull in that pop of color others are talking about by doing an alternating color pom pom fringe. It makes seams that were not quite perfect become less obvious, especially if you iron the panel and give it a nice crisp edge before putting on the pom pom fringe…plus it is very French (something I know you love). Just a thought.

  43. I l love the sofa treatment, very subtle. All the interest is created by the mismatched seems. The reverse seem is the best. It really works. This is a treatment that I will happily steal.
    By the way, I am also an obsessive furniture re-organizer.

  44. Sono rimasta incantata da tanta bellezza e da tanta bravura nel dare nuova vita a questo bellissimo divano!
    un abbraccio

  45. The fabric piecing on your sofa makes me so happy. It makes me think of my mother in law’s couch that she bought in the 70’s. By the 90’s the cushions were getting threadbare. She salvaged some excess fabric from underneath and perfectly patched the cushions by following the floral pattern. She was so proud of her work (which really was amazing) that she would show it to everyone who came over. What a wonderful woman. Loved her.

  46. I am new to your blog and just love your style! I am so amazed when folks can make their own drapes and upholster furniture! I truly love the brighter blue drapes that you are using now ~ it gives the room that pop of color and have a more chic look…the buffalo plaid has a more country feel to it (not that there is anything wrong with that) …just my 2 cents!

  47. Where did you locate the blue buffalo check shown above? I have been looking for 2 years and keep finding ones that are also too green.

  48. I know this is August, have you done anything yet with the buffalo check drapes? I’ve seen some cute things done with bustle valances. You probably could use some primitive linen/hemp/ etc fabric. Might be an idea. Love the sofa!

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