Friday, April 23, 2021

Recover Your DIY Storage Bench

It's super satisfying to look back at a project from four years ago and think, "Yes! This was so worth it. I love what I made and use it on a daily basis." 

That's how I feel about our DIY Storage Bench of 2017. That bench was an essential part of our townhome's living room d├ęcor, holding the kids' toys and standing strong despite lots of sitting (and jumping...) on it. The cube's structure held up, only needing some occasional screw-tightening. The white finish did a great job withstanding the constant pulling and pushing of toy boxes. The cushion, though a little droopy on the front corners from supporting so many sitters, is still foamy and comfortable. Somehow, mom's crazy idea of using hardboard and attaching it with command strips worked perfectly. In fact, I never took the cushion portion off (until very recently). The only things that didn't hold up were the $5 cloth bins from Shopko. Ah, well, we can't have everything.

Now, in our new home, we put our toy-holding bench in the playroom, but it didn't vibe with the bright, rainbow look I was going for:

I knew I wanted to recover it, but we were also in the midst of covid lockdowns. So it sat, like so, until mom came for a visit a few months ago. Masks on and with my fabric expert in tow, we ventured to JoAnn's to pick a brighter cover for our bench.

Can I make an aside? The fabric we bought last time was awesome! Outdoor upholstery fabric for only $3 a yard??? It lasted like a dream, and the pattern hid any spots and dirt that must have inevitably gotten on it after years of use with little kids. Our new fabric, though adorable, was much more finicky to work with. What did we get, you ask? Mum, take it away:

This time we chose an indoor upholstery fabric that picked up the corn color in the pennants hanging on the wall. It has a classic pattern that makes a brighter, bolder statement than our previous choice. It is heavy duty and should wear well. But it was also expensive; I think it was listed at $30 a yard. (Fortunately, we had a couple of coupons and got it for half off.)  It is an indoor fabric and doesn't have the built-in protections of our earlier outdoor choice, so we sprayed it with ScotchGuard to help protect the surface from inevitable spills. Laurel's note: we also sprayed the previous fabric with ScotchGuard. One must be thorough when one has young kids...

So, how would this thicker, brighter, more finicky cloth, work on a bench cushion? Since the original cover was still smooth and taut, we opted to put the new fabric on over our old one. This was less time-consuming and saved us a lot of staple-removing, but it also meant the fabric under our hardboard was getting thicker and thicker. Would it be too bulky? Would the command strips still work?

We decided it was worth the risk and, like last time, started to staple. This bold, big pattern made it more essential that we line up the fabric just right to keep the pattern lined up and square along the cushion. There was lots of adjusting.  Also, notice that mom made sure we doubled over the fabric before stapling to avoid fraying. Nice thought, mum. 

This fabric is also much more stretchy, which is its own, special pain. Pull it too taut along the long sides, and the foam will develop a weird, wavy pattern along the staples. Leave it too loose and the bench is frumpy and prone to catch. It took some fiddling to determine the right tightness... and even then, we were wrong. I went back a few weeks later to pull it tighter at the short ends. This avoided ripples and gave the cushion a clean look.

Speaking of the ends of the bench, they were, again, much harder to arrange with thicker fabric. We cut out awkward chunks along the corners to try and avoid awkward bunching (with mom's encouraging "Trust me, this is totally normal when upholstering" to give me courage as I snipped out more and more corner fabric, praying I wouldn't take out too much.) Still, we made it, and a million staples later, we came to the moment of truth: would the command strips still attach it to the bench? Yes! Our folds of stapled fabric were just thin enough so the "velcro" part of the strips could connect and stay put. They are still doing their job a couple months later.

Truly, despite the difficulties, I'm proud of  this project.