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February 27, 2016 1:51 PM   Subscribe

My midcentury modern sofa is supremely uncomfortable. Please help me fix it. Details below the fold.

I love my midcentury modern sofa, and realize it will never be as deeply comfortable as an overstuffed behemoth. But I want it to be at least a little comfortable. How can I fix it?

It's basically identical to this one.

First question: Originally there were clips and straps (maybe leather) but at some point they were removed, and now it's supported with lawn-chair type webbing and screws. I tighten these periodically, and have a thin board on top of them beneath the cushions. There are two holes on each side of the base on the arms, like maybe a dowel or something used to fit there horizontally under the cushions? Should I try to buy clips and straps? What goes in those two holes?

Pics here.

Second question: I'm sure the foam is shot. Unfortunately, so is my budget. A friend has suggested getting a dual foam cushion ... firm foam and then a top layer glued on of memory foam. I'd like to make the cushions and inch or so thicker, and I want to have new covers made as well. (The current ones zip off.) Would it be possible/advisable to get the base of firm foam the same size as the current cushions, so they'd fit in the covers. Then later when I have funds to recover, I'll get memory foam added and have larger covers made?

Also, any help IDing would be great. I don't think the sofa is teak like the ebay listed one, because it's not heavy at all.

Thanks so much!
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That's not enough support straps. Your foam might be OK, but usually straps like that are waffle weave. Someone did the bare minimum when they re-finished the sofa. The dowel wouldn't do much IMHO.

You can buy these straps and DIY. I'm sure there are TONS of tutorials on the inter webs. After that decide about the cushions. You could also cut up and add cheap (like from Costco or cheapest in my area a store called Fallas) memory foam in the meantime - this should fit inside existing cushions.

(actually, I did a full wrap of puppy pads inside of fabric couch cushions to protect the cushion from spills, and this bulked out the cushion inside the cover, firming them up quite a bit. I used Amazon puppy pads that turn to gel when wet + duct tape. you might be able to survive without new foam. good foam is expensive, so do that once and do it right.)

Fix the seating support first, worry about anything else second.
posted by jbenben at 2:17 PM on February 27, 2016

Whoops! The dowel likely adds support to the frame, but it doesn't add seating support. Yes replace the dowel or add a similar support, just so the frame stays square.
posted by jbenben at 2:19 PM on February 27, 2016

Thank you! Added info: there are no grooves on the sides of the sofa to support waffle weaving. I could do something with nails ... there have been plenty of nail holes drilled in this baby already ... but I don't know how waffle weave straps would have been attached on the sides.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2016

I would use a staple gun with heavy duty staples for webbing, not nails -- that's too much tension on one point. To do the side pieces, you can either wrap in all the way around and staple underneath -- I can't tell if there's a gap there or not -- or you just staple it right to the base slats and the cushion will cover it. Fold the raw end under so it's doubled and use plenty of staples -- like 5 or 6 for each point.

Redo the webbing. Here's an old AskMe about that.

If that seems like a pain, you can also just put in a wooden seat base instead. It won't be as squishy, but if you have a good foam cushion on it you'll never have to worry about it sagging or snapping.
posted by ananci at 3:11 PM on February 27, 2016

The webbing looks very loose, and is cut too short and poorly attached so there's no way to make it right without redoing it. Read up on how it should've been done, because what's there now is wrong.

Those look like counterbored screw holes, but there pictures are too close in to provide much context so I can't guess what the screws might've fastened.

New foam cushions (with a layer of batting around the foam, inside the cases) are probably sufficient. I doubt you need memory foam.

Teak really isn't all that heavy.
posted by jon1270 at 3:25 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The slots were for, probably, leather or tight weave cloth straps that clipped into them. The holes under the webbing were probably to keep the metal clips secure. I have worked on stuff like this before, you'll be hard pressed to find something replace it.

Every support stretches, if you want to staple webbing down you'll need a stretching tool. You tack down one end and use leverage to pull the webbing taught before tacking down the other. An upholsterer wouldn't charge too much, maybe 100-200 bucks.

Looks like teak to me.
posted by Max Power at 4:07 PM on February 27, 2016

I have a couch very similar to yours. See below for what I did to fix the webbing. For the cushions, I bought upholstery foam from a discount store and covered it with a heavy rug -- at some point I'll do cushion covers, but the rug works nicely as a stop-gap. It's very comfortable now.

If you look underneath the straps and nails in your photo, you'll see a thin groove in the wood. This is where the original straps attached.

To fix this properly, you buy metal clips (like these) from an upholstery store. The clips are then attached to elasticized webbing which you then stretch across the frame. (There are about a zillion tutorials online but see this one for an example).

To get the right supplies, I'd recommend taking your photos and some measurements to any decent local upholstery store. They should be able to hook you up with the right stuff, including a pair of pliers to attach the clips to the webbing. I think I paid maybe $35 for my stuff, and it did a much better job than staples or nails without causing damage to the frame.

Also, it's not uncommon for couches from this era to only run the webbing in one direction, so don't assume it has to be cross-woven. If you get the tension on the webbing right, and it's the right type of webbing, it'll do a much better job of supporting the cushions than what you have there now.
posted by pie ninja at 4:49 PM on February 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd add to pie ninja's post the straps clipped in that I worked on were always leather, and dried worn and cracked. Don't use leather.
posted by Max Power at 5:00 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, good point, Max Power. Yeah, the ones I replaced were ancient, cracked leather. I switched out for modern upholstery webbing with a bit of stretch.

This was a couple years ago now, and the couch is holding up nicely.
posted by pie ninja at 6:26 PM on February 27, 2016

Honestly that design where it slopes down into a V is just horrible for your back. The Worst. You can make the cushions perfect and it'll still slowly cripple you. There is a reason that style was not long lived and sofas with level seats came back into vogue.
posted by fshgrl at 6:34 PM on February 27, 2016

When you get the foam, go to an actual upholstery supply company, and remember to get the plastic that allows you to get the foam in the cover. It's a tube of plastic sheeting, a bit stronger than a dry cleaner's bag. You use a vacuum cleaner's wand to suck all the air out of the foam so you can easily slide the foam/dacron package in the cover, after which you let air in, then remove the bag.

And don't cheap out on the foam! Good foam is more expensive than you think. It's expensive because it's worth it.

The term of art for the waffle weave is Pirelli webbing, btw.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 8:35 PM on February 27, 2016

Seconding the suggestion to use a stretching tool for the webbing. Without the proper tension webbing won't be supportive.

I took an upholstery class at my local vo-tech high school. For $300 we were asked to bring in a piece of furniture to work on and got the personal attention and advice of a pro. Cheaper than going to a pro, or what's more likely for me, trying to do it yourself and needing to go to a pro to get it fixed anyway!
posted by Otter_Handler at 6:26 AM on February 28, 2016

Sorry I'm late! I dug out my old chair out of storage and took a few pics that might be helpful. But first, this store in California stocks replacement supplies for Danish modern furniture for do-it-yourself repairs. There may be others as well.

My chair still has its leather straps, so you can see how they're supposed to work. They have metal clips (like you see on that store's site) clamped onto the strap ends; the clips slide into those slots along the sides. (My armchair has an individual slot for each strap, but it looks like your couch has a long, single slot for them.) They slide into the slot(s) all the way around the frame. The straps themselves are just a basic weave, nothing complicated.

The holes on the underside are probably screw holes. If you look directly into one with a flashlight, you might see a screw head.

I ditched the original cushions (which were filthy), but they were just foam rectangles covered with ugly plaid fabric. So if you want something more ~authentic, stores like Jo-Ann's sell foam blocks just like them that you can cover with your own preferred material. I was more interested in expediency (needed something to sit on!), so I hit the garden department at Wal-mart and bought some cheap reversible lawn chair cushions on clearance. Standard garden furniture pillows are exactly the right size to fit this type of furniture, they come in lots of fabric choices, no sewing is required, and they're way more comfortable than my original cushions were.

The finish on mine was a bit scuzzy (after sitting on a front porch for years), but wiping it down and attacking with tung oil worked wonders.

(I only lurk here, so first ever reply. Gulp.)
posted by borometz at 5:40 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

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