| |

Sofa Hack

We needed a couch, one that could withstand growing people who flop rather than sit and a cat’s occasionally claw honing.

I kept going back to this and this; only, I knew this was going to be heavily used furniture and expensive, precious things have no place in our home for reasons shown in the photo below.  This left me with an Ikea hack I’d wanted to try.

The couch- After deciding to do it, we bought a Karlstad couch from Ikea the next day.  I normally wouldn’t like this couch very much because the cushions seem shapeless without actually being overstuffed or comfy; but I knew the tufting would add some structure.

Spending the day at Ikea was the hardest part of this project.  I get that it has lots of quirky, affordable home furnishings,  I just resent being herded through a labyrinth of Danish modern to pick up one thing.  The intention is to weaken my resolve so that, by the time I reach the stairs, I’ll fill my cart with every throw pillow and fake potted plant I see.  My first impulse was to stalk away without buying anything, shouting, “I’ll show you!  I’ll make my own sofa from pallets!”  However, the two hour drive to get there curbed any outrage.  My son thinks it’s the Ross of home furnishings.

Button fabric- I picked up an extra throw pillow in the same fabric as the couch to use for covering the buttons.  Set up was easy and I Scotch Guarded everything until the room was spinning.

The legs- On our way home from Ikea I ordered tapered, oak legs from Uncle Bob’s Workshop, which I’m hesitant to list because we waited so long for them to arrive.  They were made to screw right into Ikea furniture, so no mounts were needed.  I’ve since seen that Pretty Pegs offers Ikea replacement legs too, but at twice the price.

 (Compare the original legs with the tapered oak.)

The actual tufting– If you decide to do this project and get some crazy $1000 quote for covering buttons and tufting your cushions from an upholsterer, just hang up; you don’t need them.  Some upholsterers I called thought I wanted true diamond tufting, which would be impossible with these cushions.  But another seemed offended that I wanted help with a small DIY project, not a big job.  I did manage to find one upholsterer who said he’d cover the buttons for a few cents a piece and show me how to tuft them.  I could have done these things myself, but I also needed some other furniture rebuilt and recovered, so I took the offer.  He did a good job, but, again, it took months instead of the promised week or two, and he never did show me how to tuft.

At this point, my summer project was almost a winter project, so I took a morning to tuft the cushions last week.  I used this tutorial, though there are others.  I was a little nervous about running a needle through the upholstery, but after seeing my cat’s claws go into the new sofa one too many times, I’m thinking,”How can I do any more damage?”  It is just Ikea furniture!

It wasn’t hard at all; just make sure you have more twine than you think you’ll need (maybe 20 in. of twine per button pair, or about 27 ft. total) for easy gripping.   Once you’ve pulled the twine through and attached both buttons, don’t be timid about bringing them fairly close together.   I was unsure if I was pulling too much, so I left the twine ends hanging from the knots until all of the tufting was done.   This gave me the option to loosen or tighten, as needed, before snipping the ends.  I opted out of tufting the seat cushions, though I love the look, because the upholsterer told me it doesn’t feel as good as it looks and the buttons get pulled off easily.

My guess on our total expensearound $751, compared to the $1400 – 1800 of a Room & Board sofa.

large Karlstad sofa with cover- $599
ready to screw on tapered legs- $88
Button covering for 40 buttons (we got a few extras)- under $15
nylon upholstery twine from Joann- under $15
extra throw pllow for button fabric- $29
upholsterer’s needle– maybe $5 (it has now been months since I purchased it.)
We also bought two extra throw pillows for the couch- $60
There are less expensive tufted sofas out there, on sites like Home Decorators Collection, but we’ve sat on Ikea sofas before and knew what to expect.  They can also be handled in the showroom before purchase.  I really wanted to go with something slipcovered for easy care, and there are sites, like Bemz, that specialize in Ikea replacement covers if we want to update them.  Given the fact that in the first week we had the couch I spilled a glass of red wine on it, I’m think slipcovers were a good choice.
(We now have multiple scratchers set, strategically, around our house.  We are hopeful.)


Edit 11/19/12 – This hack was featured on Ikea Hackers site.


Edit 4/27/15- I have heard so many negative things about Uncle Bob’s service that I thought I should mention it here.  Customers are waiting unusually long times for their sofa legs or aren’t receiving them at all, even after payment.
Ikea is also offering a tapered aluminum leg as an option, now.

Since posting this I’ve added Ikea-specific slip covers to my sofa now.  The process and tutorial for tufting them is here.  I had no problems with the original covers from Ikea, but these were velvet and my cat doesn’t claw them.

Similar Posts


  1. Hi Michelle,
    Love your Karlstad hack. After despairing of the price for the faux-retro Room and Board sectional and its lack of availability in Canada, I also reluctantly succumbed to the lure of Ikea. However, I bought the Karlstad sectional-same basic shape and clunky square legs. Did you buy new square foam for the pillows for that nifty square shape? I find the loose pillows very puffy, and want a more tailored look. Do the eight button tufts square up the back pillow, or should I also get square foam cut? Any help would be appreciated. BTW the legs are killer! My email is karinrjeffrey@yahoo.ca.


  2. Thanks, Karin! Yes, tufting gave the back cushions a lot of structure and they are still going strong. It was very easy to do myself- just follow the links in the post for a good tutorial. Good luck on your sofa project!

  3. I'm a little confused, did you make covers for the rest of the couch? Or did you get that professionally done? I want to do the same thing so just curious.

  4. Ikea furniture comes uncovered and disassembled in boxes. The covers for the couch come with it. There are several colors to choose from. When I bought the whole set-up I got an extra throw pillow in the same fabric to cut up for fabric to cover the buttons. I do have a link in the post to a store that sells a larger variety of covers that fit ikea furniture, but they are also more expensive. Hope this helps.

  5. Hi there! I love what you did with your sofa – fantastic job. Just curious how this sofa is holding up with the cats. The fabric you chose would be my choice as well. I prefer fabric sofas over leather, but concerned my cat will shred the fabric.

  6. I absolutely LOVE this couch! I have a small place so I'm going to get the loveseat. One question, what size button did you use?

  7. I was having another piece of furniture covered and the upholsterer said he'd cover these buttons for pennies and show me how to tuft. He did cover them, but way later, and never showed me how to tuft. Oh we'll. There are button covering kits at hobby stores and I hear it is very easy. Some dry cleaners or alteration businesses might, too. Hope this helps.

  8. Hi Michelle,
    I wonder if it is possible to take off the cover from cushion for washing after tufting?
    Thanks for replying!!

  9. No, I'm afraid the buttons would have to be snipped off then sewn back on after washing. This would be true of any tufted cushion. However, back cushions don't have to be cleaned as often as seat cushions, and its not that hard to sew the buttons back on if a serious spill occurred. I scotch guarded the upholstery really well before using and have some Folex spray on hand for spills. Good luck!

  10. I used Early American but I just checked and this shop is on vacation. Honestly, we waited so long for our sofa legs to be delivered that I almost gave up on it. After having it a couple of months, I noticed one leg has a crack in it. Nothing has collapsed, but I am keeping my old Ikea legs in case. So, you may look into another shop.

  11. Hi! I love your sofa and I'm going to attempt to do the same to mine. Can I ask what size buttons you used? I went to Ikea and meant to measure the buttons on the leather Karlstad, but I forgot. I think I'm going to order 7/8" ones. Thanks!

  12. Thank you, Becky. I used 3/4 inch buttons and had a few extra covered in case some were damaged over time. I don't think the leather sofa has buttons- just a sort of tufting. We have a leather Karlstad chair and it has no buttons, but it looks good next to the couch.

  13. Hello, This looks amazing! Am I right in thinking you use the cushion itself to give the tufting depth by sewing right through (that's what it looks like in the tutorial), it's just all the upholsters I've asked in the UK seemed to talk about using foam?? Also what do you do with the scotch guard? Sorry if that's a stupid question ^_^

  14. Yes, it's not true tufting. It took me forever to explain that I didn't want true tufting to upholsterers here, too. Finally, one man understood and, as I wrote, he said he'd show me how for free. He didnt, but I guess the thought counts. Another seemed offended that I was wasting his time and quoted an outrageous price- $700 to sew on buttons!
    Do it yourself, Anna. You can't ruin this fabric and its free labor. It's easier than sewing a button on a shirt.
    Scotch guard is a fabric protector that you spray on to sort of seal the fabric and repel stains. All upholstery fabric should already have undergone a treatment like it, but I was babying my new sofa, so I did extra.

  15. Hi Michelle, Thanks so much for your reply. Yeah, I got some stupidly high quotes from upholsterers here too. The tutorial you posted is really helpful though, so I'll definitely give it a go myself ^_^ Thanks for your advice and encouragement!

  16. Just found this and it was like a direct answer to a direct prayer. This is EXACTLY what I want to do with my Karlstad. One question, how did you pay Uncle Bobs. I chose the check option and finished check out, now i'm not sure what happens!

  17. When I switched my site to a dotcom I lost a lot of comments where I told about my experience with Uncle Bob's. I loved the legs, though one has a hairline crack that I think we might be responsible for. However, the shop owner was going through some family illness and things and was very slow to send our sofa legs. We asked many times to just have our money refunded and each time were told the legs were being mailed the next day. We paid with debit or paypal and almost wrote it off as a lost cause when they actually did come. I think it really was a case of them keeping the shop open when they were unable to do business because of health reasons. Later, they closed the shop for a while. I see they're open again and only selling the sofa legs. Most likely, they've got everything under control and you'll have a good experience. I'd contact them via etsy about how to send payment and give it some time. They are my favorite style of leg out there, but if it doesn't work out, ikea is selling a similar option now.
    Btw, I am about to redo my sofa slip covers and tufting in a custom slipcover made by comfortworks in velvet just for the Karlstad. I'll review the covers and their tufting kit. They offer alternative covers for Ikea furniture and are a good price for a handmade cover. It may be something to keep in mind for later. Good luck.

  18. Thank you once again! I ordered the legs, but Texas is having an Ice Storm which will delay my shipment but I suppose its understandable. I will look into comfortworks as well, thanks for the tip. All the best!

  19. You're welcome and yes, we did! I have already tufted the comfortworks slipcovers and, man, do I love the way they look! The post is coming along.

  20. I just ordered from Uncle bob's and get my legs pretty quickly! (I think within about 2 weeks. Now I'm just waiting very patiently for the delivery of my Karlstad to put it all together 😉

  21. That's pretty fast, especially at this time of year. I have now tried a new velvet slipcover on my Karlstad that I love. I'll post about it as soon as I finish the holidays. It's a great replacement for the Ikea covers.

  22. I haven't seen it done on an Ektorp. The roll arm style kind of makes an overstuffed, unstructured couch look comfy to me. But the straight arms of a karlstad didn't. The closest thing to a tufted Ektorp I could find was the Allerton sofa by Crate and Barrel. It's slightly overstuffed but without a roll arm. Are you buying an Ektorp or a Karlstad? I ask because there are companies that sell great covers that would breathe life into an Ektorp without any tufting necessary. I just re-tufted my sofa in velvet from ComfortWorks. It's so, so great. Their velvet looks sharp tufted but would look nice untufted on an Ektorp, too. It's something to consider, anyway. I will be posting about it soon.

  23. I love this! We are redecorating our living space and I am looking at ordering from Uncle Bob's to replace the legs on our dark brown leather Karlstad sectional. From the photos, your chair looks like it's the dark brown leather as well. Can you tell me the stain/wood options you used for yours? They look beautiful. Did you order the standard 5 1/2" length?

  24. To get around being herded through IKEA, park in the loading zone and walk backward through the store. Grab a flat cart on your way in, go directly to the aisle with your item, load it, and check out. That's how we avoid the maze and the insanity.

  25. We're having a terribly tough time making the buttons on our own – the fabric seems thicker than what our button kits want to take. Does anyone else have this problem? I imagine we could buy premade ones, or go to an furniture shop to get them made…we like "DIY" though. Any thoughts on how we can succeed?

  26. I was afraid to try making my own buttons, unless I had too. I think I mentioned in this post that the upholsterer we were using for another job, threw in the buttons for a song. But if we hadn't been using him for something else, he probably would have charged more. I think it may be worth your time and a bit of extra money to get someone to do it for you.
    If none will do it, you might try asking around about local seamstresses, and who furniture stores use for their repairs.

  27. I had the same problem and almost abandoned the project but after spending the $ for the twine needles, buttons, etc…..I finally came up with an alternative. There are conflicting reviews for the Dritz snap together buttons when it comes to a thick upholstery fabric like I was using. I'm telling you IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE!! Not to mention the quality of the button itself is questionable. I used the same template circle that comes with the buttons to cut the fabric. I used a 3 ply thread…typical thread in my sewing box, and a sturdy needle and stitched small stitches around the edge of the circle (leave an edge so it can handle the tension when you draw it closed) place the button in the middle and pull the thread drawing the fabric around it snugly. Equal spacing ensures a flatter, less "ripplly" appearance. Secure with a stitch or two. Voila! Button slipcovers! Probably takes more time but I had already invested in the supplies. Plus, I know these things won't pop off. Good luck!

  28. I ordered the ikea replacement legs from uncle bob's workshop five months ago and I still don't have them. Hopefully them come soon. I would go with someone else.

  29. I'll add my experience with Uncle Bob's workshop. Waited 5 months and they started ignoring my pestering emails asking for updates and no one picks up the phone there. Now I'm trying to get a refund. What a headache! plenty of other options folks, spare yourself.

  30. I think I mentioned our long wait in my post too. It appears things are no better with that company. Pretty Pegs is expensive, but may be worth the quick service. Also, Ikea has started offering a choice of legs for this sofa. I son't like it quite as much as the ones we bought separately, but it is better than the original legs.

  31. Thanks for posting this, I'll edit my post to include the things I've heard about the service, just to forewarn readers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.