11/03/2010

our karlstad sofa hack


We've been looking everywhere for an affordable mid century sofa and we've found that anything new is too expensive and reupholstering something authentic costs even more, so we turned to our friends at Ikea to help us out. The great thing about Ikea sofas is that they're cheap and they're slip covered. We have cats (you can see Happy chilling under the sofa below), so that's a great feature for us if we need to replace any clawed upholstery (also great if you have kids). The only bad thing is that their frames are a bit generic, so we tried to think of ways we could spruce one up.

In the end we decided to hack a Karlstad sofa and we got the whole look for under $750. We're pretty happy with the results.

First, we decided to have the seat and back cushions button tufted. After some convincing, we got an employee at Ikea to give us some spare fabric samples so we could upholster the buttons.  We were originally going to do the tufting ourselves (there are some great DIY videos on Youtube), but we got a quote from a local upholsterer to do the whole thing for $40 and we couldn't pass that up. 

We also decided that the legs were too plain and had to go. It turns out that Ace Hardware sells stainable mid century tapered legs in a variety of sizes for a few bucks. We chose the 8" legs and stained them "Early American".

Finally, we wanted to add some color so we picked up some throw pillows from World Market, and there you have it! We'll break down the prices below:

Ikea Karlstad sofa frame: $350
Linneryd slip cover: $250 (I think they start at $150 for other fabrics)
Button tufting: $40
Legs, mounting plates and wood stain: $25
Throw pillows: $75

Grand Total: $740

72 comments:

  1. Whoa, I never would have thought to redo the legs! Nice one, it looks great. I do so love a white tufted sofa!

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  2. hey. can you help me out with a little more info on the tapered legs? i just bought a vintage bookcase for my girlfriend for christmas and want to put some tapered legs to really bring out the mid century vibe. can you tell me if you bought the tapered legs from ace hardware's online store or at a retail location? any help would be appreciated. can you email me at williamcmoran at hotmail dot com. thank you.

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  3. hi. Could you please tell me how you got the legs to fit? I recently bought some tapered legs at Lowe's for my Karlstad, and the screws are too narrow and short.
    Thank you!

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  4. Hi. So you can't screw the tapered legs directly into the pre-drilled holes. They won't fit, as you found out. You have to get mounting plates for the legs (they should be right next to the legs at Ace and cost around $3 apiece). When we first attached the legs we used the short screws that came with the mounting plates, but the legs ripped right out of the wood a few days later, so we had to use some extra long wood screws. Just find a good solid place on the bottom of the sofa where you can screw all four sides of the plate into solid wood. Let us know if that does the trick!

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  5. legs add a classy mcm touch! wow is the word :)

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  6. Wow. I saw this on apartment therapy and had to check it our for myself. Well done.

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  7. LOVE it! just re-posted this on my blog!

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  8. Amazing! The sofa looks beautiful and expensive. I re-posted this on my blog http://designoholics.blogg.se/ . Hope it is ok.

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  10. Andrew, the legs are made by Waddell. I don't see them on Ace's website anymore either, but I've heard that Lowes and Home Depot carry them as well. Cheers!

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  11. Shouldn't you be able to retro fit the tapered legs with a metric bolt to fit the predrilled holes?
    I recently lost a bolt for an ikea desk leg in a move and ended up just buying a threaded bold with no end in the closes metric size I could find (I used the little display they have up in the bolts section at ACE)

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  12. This is fantastic! Well done- very inspiring.

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  13. this is SO amazing. we just dropped a lot of money on the petrie sofa at crate and barrel - to think, we could have saved so much money for the same look!

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  14. Could you post a picture of the buttons you used? (Pre-upholstry) and any tutorials on upholstering the buttons?

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  15. Hi Steph, The upholsterer did all of the work for us, so I have no idea what the pre-upholstery buttons looked like. There a few really good tutorials on YouTube. Just search "how to button tuft".

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  16. Oh, and if you're asking how to upholster the buttons themselves, I read that there is a machine or tool that upholsterers and some fabirc stores have that does it. It is supposedly very cheap to do. Given that it only cost us $40 for the buttons and tufting, the button making can't cost much. Hope that helps!

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    1. The buttons are incredibly easy to do. A kit is available at fabric stores, craft stores, even Walmart. A piece of your fabric gets placed over the form and pulled to the back. A bottom piece snaps into the top and holds the fabric in place. These large ones should be quite simple. I make them for my clothes from the fabric I remove when hemming.

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  17. just blogged about your before and after! it's totally inspiring! http://herlongwayhome.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/best-ikea-hack-ever/

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  18. amazing hack! good job guys! inspiring!

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  19. What size leg did you use?

    http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Search?keyword=Hardwood+Round+Taper+Leg&langId=-1&storeId=10051&catalogId=10053

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  20. @Critifur, Looks like Home Depot doesn't have it on their site, but we used an 8" leg that we found at the local Ace Hardware.

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  21. For morgancorgi and others...

    I'm a small furniture maker & toy maker. I've been making custom legs for Ikea stuff for over a year. You can unscrew the original legs and screw the new ones in - that simple. No hassle. I use the correct hardware.

    Mid-Century, round, tapered, similar to the ones shown = $30/4 + shipping. see them at www.unclebobsworkshop.com > Furniture & Household > Custom Furniture.

    I can make any size/style/finish you would like.

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  22. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BQ7WZO/ref=ord_cart_shr?ie=UTF8&m=A1SV1BYDTUK2Z5

    Here they are, on Amazon.

    So, I have a question for you guys.
    The cushions are tufted but the covers are removable?

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  23. Thanks Uncle Bob! Looks like a great resource for mid century legs. AND you don't have to mess with the mounting brackets!

    Ashley, removing the cushion covers means removing the buttons. We actually just recovered the sofa in a darker fabric (photos to come) and we're having it retufted right now. The light fabric was no match for our pets!

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  24. Great hack! My girlfriend and I just replaced the legs on our Karlstad. We're prayyyyying that the particle board holds up!

    Also, ya gotta post a picture of the new slip cover. I'm sure it looks great. Cheers and thanks for the inspiration.

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  25. @ luckyhole: Just posted a photo of the new slip cover. Enjoy!

    http://www.ourmidcentury.com/2011/03/our-new-karlstad-sofa-hack.html

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  26. LOVE the sofa...especially the new gray slipcover! What size are the upholstery buttons you used? There are a million sizes out there and I like the diameter of the ones you guys used. Thanks!

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  27. Didn't even know we had a choice! They are 3/4".

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  28. I am doing this right now for even less-- bought a used Karlstad for $100 on Craigslist, a new slipcover, and the extra fabric for $3 from the "as is" section at IKEA. I'm getting the button tufting done for $40. Just have to buy the legs. :)

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  29. Your IKEA Karlstad hack totally inspired us to do something with ours.

    We've already replaced the legs with something that was custom made for us via a woodworker on Etsy.
    (http://www.etsy.com/shop/UncleBobsWorkshop).

    He has the right sized bolts and makes nice mid-century modern styled dowel legs.

    We're now looking for a decent upholsterer in our area to tuft the cushions. I considered doing it on my own, but after experimenting with a couple of throw pillows, I found it was difficult to get the buttons to have the same tension. I think an professional could make a much better job at it!

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  30. What?!?!?!? This is the most amazing sofa makeover I've ever seen! NICELY done!!! I'm fantasizing about a Karlstad sofa now!

    -Ashley
    www.DesignBuildLove.co

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  31. One reason I like Ikea sofas too is that you can remove the slipcovers to wash them.... However - now that you have tufted the cushions, you won't be able to remove them, right?

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  32. um, for 740 dollars you could have purchased a much better quality sofa, with tufting, and zero work.

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  33. @Jo, as we have explained to other readers, you do have to take the buttons off to clean or replace the cover, but if it only costs $40 to re-tuft it, it's totally worth it for the look IMO.

    @Kylie, Not sure where you're looking, but if you can find a tufted, slip-covered sofa w/ mid century legs that's available in several fabrics (that aren't microfiber) for under $700, then you my friend, are a much better bargain hunter than we. I will say that after several years working in the design and furniture industry, if you're not paying over $1500 for a sofa, then you're not getting any better quality than Ikea.

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  34. Hi,

    I am an interior designer in Austin, Tx and have my own blog on my website. Would it be ok if I reposted your article on my blog and use your photos as long as I made sure you got credit and linked back to your blog?

    thanks,
    Alexis Lane
    www.LaneDesignStudio.com

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  36. Hi Alexis - Not a problem at all!!

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    1. Hi, can you please tell me where did you did the apolstry / tufting?
      I'm locatedcin NYC, thanks,
      Maor

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  37. MCM Karlstad replacement legs available here:

    http://www.unclebobsworkshop.com/

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  38. I live in Phoenix and am planning on buying a Karlstad and having it tufted. I would really like to know the name of the upholsterer you used, if it isn't any trouble. I'm going from a very contemporary look to more midcentury and I think the Karlstad tufted is perfect!

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  39. This is totally brilliant!! Ive recently bought a cool retro bar that this look will go perfect with. Wonderful DIY :)

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  40. This is an amazing idea! Thanks for sharing.

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  41. You've inspired me as I try to decide whether to buy the Karlstad or not! One question: you replaced the legs with 8 inch tall ones? Is that the same height as the original Ikea chunk legs or is the sofa taller now? Thanks!

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  42. Hi SR,

    I can't remember how tall the original legs were, but I think the 8" legs might raise it a bit. However, when we bought the new legs, we had several size options, so if you're worried about it being too high, maybe go with the 6" legs.

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  43. I am curious, did this sofa hold up? I am looking into one with a chaise or buying custom. I would love to know if it will with stand lots of use.

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  44. Yes, seems to be holding up very nicely. We had to change to a darker slip cover as you can see in a later post, but haven't had any other issues. We love it.

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  45. Hi!

    I took this post to heart about 6 months ago and added mid-century legs to a newly purchased Karlstad in Isunda gray. Looks beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your project!

    I do have a question about your couch in general - How well do the covers on your seat cushions stay in place? I'm having an issue with them "drifting" and having to take the cushion out every week or so and readjust the cover. for example, on my couch, the top seam of the cover (at the front of the seat cushion) will have drifted down halfway down the front of the cushion after a couple of weeks. have you had any issues like this?

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    1. No problems with seat cushions. It probably has to do with the button tufting though.

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  46. hi,i just wnat ot know if you put something( piece of wood) into the pillow for making tufting or if you drilled from side to side.
    thaks a lot

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    1. Cedric - the button is just tied to a button on the other side of the cushion. They use a long needle to pull it through.

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    2. In that case, does it mean the covers can no longer be removed? Since it's attached to the cushion.

      Really love the result, btw. It looks so much better! We just got a Karlstad and have ordered legs from Uncle Bob. Now, just need to figure out the tufting.

      Thanks for sharing this.

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    3. Faith, that's right the covers cannot be removed, but to change the cover you'd just have to have it button tufted again which at only $40 is much cheaper than reupholstery.

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  47. Hey there,... so here's the thing. I actually thought of doing these exact same hacks before I stumbled upon your blog! I applaud your success and I'm glad there are pictures showing details of the project and outcome!

    I thought about using the Waddel legs too but they seemed too flimsy to support a full-sized couch. How have they been holding up? Do you find yourself sitting gently down every time? Or do you not think about it and 'plop' down when you sit?

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  48. Love it. I am doing the same to my Karlstad, but bought it used and don't have the tools to remove the pre-existing block legs.. do you or any of your readers happen to know the hex key size needed to take the IKEA legs off?

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  49. Wow, just love this hack! The changes you made were so simple yet made the sofa look so luxe, bravo! My husband and I just bought the Karlstad sectional and are about to embark on a similar job (I'm going to attempt to dye the cover a nice teal color though). My biggest concern are the legs, how are yours holding up? I saw that you had to replace them (or was it the bracket?) shortly after making the switch, have they been fine since? I think the new legs are just spectacular but I don't want to risk compromising the integrity of the couch (especially since ours is a sectional). Thanks so much!! ~Katie

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    1. Hi Katie, so glad you like it! The legs are great! The only issue is with the mounting plates. They seem to support plenty of weight, but if you move the sofa by dragging it, the plates can bend. If I were you I would probably go with the Uncle Bob's Workshop legs. They screw right into the existing holes. We might eventually convert to them as well.

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    2. Excellent to hear, thanks so much!

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  50. Hello from England! The queen gives her regards!

    Can you tell me is that a two seater sofa or the three seater Karlstad? I was wondering about the proportions of the buttoning etc, I am totally planning to craft something like your fantastic creation! I too have been searching endlessly for something mid-century to pad out my new (old) London flat, and have had constantly watering eyes from the prices, and this has inspired me no end!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Leo

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  51. ie is it the 165cm or the 205cm width?

    Thanks!

    Leo

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  52. Hi
    I fell over this webshop where they're designing legs especially for IKEA beds and couches/sofas.

    http://prettypegs.se/

    Really cool stuff and they ship all over the world

    /Mette

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  53. ps. the bolt matching the Karlstad is called M8Bolt (guess it's a european system) - maybe easyer to find...

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  54. Can you tell me who did your tufting? I live in Phoenix and am dying over this tutorial. We're students and can't afford an expensive sofa, so it's really our best mid-century option.

    mandy.madson@gmail.com

    Thanks!

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  55. I live in small town Iowa, with a very low cost of living, and the local upholsterer wants $300 to do my tufting, and that is with fabric scraps they already have laying around. More if I need something ordered. um, no thanks! I'll tackle this myself, and I hope it looks as fabulous as yours! Thank you for the great idea. I haven't decided on the legs just yet. Thank you for sharing this idea!b

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  56. I believe these are the tapered legs she used.

    http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1297665

    http://www.acehardwareoutlet.com/productDetails.aspx?SKU=51061

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  57. Hi I make these mid century style tapered legs that fit on the Ikea karlstad sofa, they are made in a selection of styles and finishes, with the correct bolts, so they are ready to just screw into the bottom of your sofa. Here is the link to my listing
    https://www.etsy.com/listing/117585026/ikea-karlstad-mid-century-style-sofa

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  58. Hello,

    I was wondering if you can still change the legs on the sofa bed version of the Karlstad? Thanks so much for your site!

    Rebecca

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  59. Hey, I have the Karlstad system and my cats have destroyed the covers we originally got 3 years ago. I was wondering how the Linneryd covers held up to clawing? Thanks.

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  60. Hello, I was wondering how the tufting has held up. Another blog I saw said that it may actually help the cushions stay firm, rather than getting a little misshapen as sometimes happens with cheaper furniture. Thanks!

    -Kamille

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  61. Amazing! We were in exactly the same situation (looking for a mid century style sofa that didn't cost a kidney) and I found you while planning my 'Karlstad Hack'. Thanks for sharing and for your updated sofa! We've had the dark covers for the last few years and have switched to light for a change.

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