Squeezing my sofa through the door, hacking foot stools and coffee tables, and putting wheels on everything!
Read time: 6 minutes
Let’s start with the sofa. The main event in a living room as far as I’m concerned. They get heavy usage and are massive. Where you slob out after work, relax, watch TV, snack and chat with friends. Basically, all the good stuff.
As a renter living in flats furnished by higher unknown forces for all of my adult life, I realised I had never actually had a sofa to call my own before. l have certainly sat in a few though; I have lived in 13 different houses in the 15 years since I was 18, so I reckon I’m a bit of a connoisseur.
So when I got the chance to buy one of my own in our new place I was super excited. I didn’t realise how eye-wateringly expensive they are however, and it turns out I have very expensive taste indeed. Green velvet ones don’t come cheap apparently! Failing that, I have always wanted a brown leather sofa – something a bit like a Chesterfield. So it was off to the furniture charity shop to try my luck. I love our local one – Barnet Furniture Recycling Centre, I could spend hours there (and have done). It’s a bit hit and miss though so you have to go regularly to snap up a bargain, but eventually after a couple off weeks we lucked out and found a three-seater for a very respectable £100. Jackpot. Not quite a Chesterfield but decent quality and I reckoned we could make something of it if I changed the legs one day – perhaps a bit like this one I’d seen for exactly 23.99 times the price in West Elm.
Here are the wonderful chaps from the centre delivering it. You can hardly tell the difference right?!
A side note on doorways here.
Why are doorways always too narrow? We regularly need to get sofas and beds and washing machines and fridges in and out of our homes and yet we continue to build them far too narrow to make this achievable without scraping and scratching walls, disassembling it or passing it through a window instead (just me??).
Now, buried deep inside the 2010 Building Regulations (stick with me guys – it’s worth it!) is the mysteriously named Part M ‘approved document’. Part M suggests that when building and upgrading, any internal doorways should have a minimum of 75cm clearance, ideally 80cm. To compare – mine are 74cm, but once you take into account the thickness of the door when it’s open, this reduces to just 69cm.
80cm was not plucked from thin air. It is there because at this width someone using a wheelchair can comfortably get through without shaving bits of themselves off. Sounds sensible right? And just common courtesy not to leave your friends and family who may have difficulties with mobility outside too. Not to mention so much easier for the guys trying to get my sofa in. My flat was built in the 1960s, so long before Part M. But given that the average home lasts for around 100 years and during this time it is likely to house a whole host of residents of different ages and abilities, with furniture and bikes and walkers and prams continually making their way in and out, building any doorways from now on just that tiny bit wider can make a massive difference as we grow and change. And don’t get me started on how cool I think barn and pocket doors are. That’s for another day….
However, while Part M is an incredibly powerful piece of guidance, it remains only guidance, not an obligation. And outside of the construction industry, it’s pretty unknown, so no one is demanding it. So do your bit and make sure you ask your architect or builder about it if you ever find yourself doing any renovations.
But back to the sofa.
Our new one has a pretty low back without a headrest, so it actually requires some secret core strength to sit in it. Fine right now, and while I plan on having six-pack abs deep into my 90s (in my dreams), this set up may not always suit. Sofas with the option to add on good-looking headrests as part of a modular design don’t seem to exist. And your choice in higher backed ones at the moment are pretty limited too – unless you like the throne aesthetic or want a La-Z-Boy.
It is also LOW. I count myself as pretty fit, but even I struggle to get up from it without my Weetabix. Everyone knows someone who has had to throw out a sofa before the risk of becoming permanently beached there gets too real. I mean it’s great for the Barnet Furniture Recycling Centre and me right now, but come on guys, it’s not exactly sustainable – economically or environmentally.
If you are buying one brand new they are a huge investment too, so you really want them to last. It baffles me why there are so few customisations you can make to adapt this major piece of furniture with you over time. I suppose sofa makers like you buying new ones – DFS adverts won’t pay for themselves I guess. All you can really do at the moment is use dreaded chair raisers, or change the legs out entirely for something taller. Thank goodness the latter is becoming easier to do, and this is exactly what I am planning with my own sofa. I love PrettyPegs who make custom legs to personalise your Ikea furniture. It totally changes the look of your sofa for a snip of the price of a new one. Places like Loaf offer various height legs to go with their chairs now too, which is great.
Sadly my sofa is not an Ikea one (in fact I have no idea about its origin or how many homes and bottoms it has seen – I find it best not to know…). So in order to make my West Elm inspired version I am hoping to change the legs over to slightly taller narrower legs to give it a bit of extra height as well as bring it into 2019. If you do DIY like me just be very careful anything you do can safely take the load.
Next up, foot stool.
These are all over every interiors Instagram post at the moment. People have gone mad for them as a way to spice up their front room, as well as being an absolute blessing for tired legs and creaky knees. Big ones, small ones, sometimes multiple. Though they are not all made equal. Getting one that supports your lower leg all the way from the back of the knee to the ankle at a nice gentle downward angle is the way to elevated bliss.
For me personally, I love L-shaped sofas as a way to get my feet up and relax, but they are not for everyone as they take a surprising amount of strength and flexibility to get your legs up there. It’s why modular sofas are great so you can adapt them as you need – not just to the shape of your room, but the shape of you. But seeing as an L-shaped sofa isn’t what the charity shop gods provided for us this time, I hatched another plan. In Ikea we found a lone part of a Vimle sofa in the reduced section, which doubled up as some extra storage too. Happily it was also green (though sadly not velvet). It did weigh an absolute tonne though and once in situ it really was in situ forever. And there is only one place it can go in the room without it looking stupid, which meant that when people came over it was in the way. Paul and I needed it in different positions to make it comfortable too. Not great for the adaptability I was looking for. I wanted to be able to change the room configuration to suit different lounge users without giving myself a hernia every time.
So I added wheels. These £10 ones from Amazon in fact. Sorted. Just check they can safely take the weight. These ones are pretty hefty and also have brakes so if we ever want to use it as an extra seat it doesn’t roll away with our guests.
I also got a little wheely cart from Flying Tiger to sit beside the sofa and the lamp which you can move around to bring your cup of tea closer as you need too. Putting wheels on things is my new favourite thing I think, everything is just so much easier to move where you want it. I really want to put all my furniture on them now! Reaching plugs, hoovering, changing the layout when I get bored, it just makes so much sense.
Now I have been completely suckered in by Instagram, and have become a big fan of putting a big tray on a footstool as a ‘coffee table’, but Paul was dead set against it. Seeing as he is a proud Northern tea drinker and it is his tea that would rest upon it the most, I conceded. I can see it’s probably not that practical either really – having to move a big heavy tray every time you want to put your feet up – where does it go?
But nor was there room for a nice coffee table as well as our massive footrest. I tried a few things but just wasn’t loving it. I really wanted a Charley C-side table from West Elm (always West Elm!) which I think I may actually be in love with (also see this blog for more reasons why they are so great, not just look pretty) but as the purse wouldn’t allow at that moment, I decided to get creative instead and make my own little coffee table / footrest house.
I am hardly a master carpenter however, so I was so excited to find out about Playwood. These are nifty connectors in all different colours that you can use to securely connect standard thicknesses of wood sheeting to create all manner of furniture to your exact specification. So I measured the space so my design would fit our living room with plenty of circulation space (more on this next time) with the footstool able to neatly tuck away into its own little garage.
Using Playwood connectors means that it is completely adaptable too. I can easily undo them and create a new design if ever this one no longer suits. When we inevitably move again and have to try and fit all our stuff in a different configuration, it will travel flat and may well then be reborn as something else. It’s also cheap as chips. Not to everyone’s taste but works for us and fun to make. I thought I would eventually paint it or something – but the raw look is growing on me.
Here’s the wood being cut to my specification in Homebase. 5 cuts for free!
So that’s it for part one of the living room. In part two I will be covering plug sockets, curtains, flooring, lighting, TV units. Exciting stuff! Thanks for reading as always. Get in touch anytime or feel free to share with anyone who is thinking about updating their living room too. Would love to hear what you are doing in yours.