How to Restore an Outdoor Sofa—Cushions, Frame, and All
This project takes an estate sale find and gives it a modern makeover.
Outdoor furniture can last a lifetime if it's properly cared for. Unfortunately, you can't always say that about the style. If you have a piece that is dated or has suffered one too many scuffs or scratches, you can easily extend the life of the piece with a few repairs.
This sturdy sofa was a little too shiny and orange, and it needed restoration to bring it out of a bygone era. With a coat of paint, oversized pillows for the backrest, and a creative solution for the seat cushions, we turned our estate sale find into a very comfortable statement piece that's fit for any backyard oasis.
Chalk paint is a great option for both wood and metal outdoor furniture. No priming is necessary, it's thick and substantial, and it can be sealed with a protective lacquer to protect the color from harsh sun and other outdoor elements. And if you're not in the market for pricey new seat cushions? Paint them. Slightly watered down chalk paint can be used to change the color of the fabric on your seat cushions. It's extremely durable and although it will change the feel of your cushions to make them a bit harder than before, they will soften nicely with time. For a decorative touch, use painters' tape to add a monogram or an accent stripe.
For our project, we used Annie Sloan's Napoleonic Blue Chalk Paint ($38, shop.thepurplepaintedlady.com). Again, no sanding or priming is necessary, but you should thoroughly clean your furniture prior to painting, ridding it of any dust or spider webs that could ruin the finish. A good trick while working with chalk paint is to keep a spray bottle filled with water on hand while applying each coat. If you feel like the paint is going on too thick, mist the area with a bit of water and the paint will thin and spread out as you brush it on.
Depending on your piece, and the color of paint you choose, you may need anywhere from one to three coats of paint. After the piece has dried completely, set it aside and wait 14 days to apply clear Annie Sloan Lacquer Matte Finish ($45, shop.thepurplepaintedlady.com). The lacquer process isn't difficult, but there are quite a few directions you need to follow to correctly protect your piece, so be sure to read carefully before you begin.
Measure your cushions, then head to the fabric store to purchase your fabric. Outdoor fabric is best because it's water repellent, mold resistant, and fade resistant. You can certainly buy new cushions, but it's always more rewarding—and less costly—to sew your own. Our sofa was missing one seat cushion, but after rearranging the remaining seat cushion and one back cushion, we were able to find a perfect fit. New batting and one long seat cover helped to disguise the fact that the two seat cushions were different sizes.
Outdoor pillows are made to last, but they sometimes lack the comfort and softness of indoor pillows. Since this sofa is designed for relaxing, we chose two oversized down pillows your back can sink into, and a Lake Michigan Hand-Embroidered Pillow ($196, catstudio.com) that has the charm of a summer keepsake. Since these are not outdoor pillows, they'll need to be covered, or brought inside with you at the end of the evening.