DIY: More Outdoor Upgrades

By Kate Riley June 26, 2009

Last year, I purchased a long iron sofa and matching outdoor chair from our local antique fair.  I love the look of those iron outdoor sofas from Restoration Hardware, but was completely unprepared to pay those prices. 

I bargained the vendor down to $300 for my set – she didn’t want to have to load it back up on her truck, so it came home with me.  My next mission was to have custom cushions made with Sunbrella fabric, but I had sticker shock at the amount the local upholstery shops wanted to charge me for foam, batting, fabric and sewing.  So I decided to make them myself. 

 cushions crop

Last year, I found an online retailer to custom cut high density foam and wrap it in Dacron.  I wish I could remember the retailer, but I can’t now.  But there are plenty of them online. 

dacron wrap cushions

Then I ordered Sunbrella fabric in ‘Dupione Maize’ to cover my cushions.  I love the color in this fabric, because up close there is a deep yellow color woven together with a bit of watery blue.

Because Sunbrella fabric is a bit expensive ($12 to $20 per yard), last year I only purchased enough to do the bottom cushions.  But last month, I ordered enough for the top cushions, hoping the colors would still match.  I was surprised and delighted to find that after a year of summer sun exposure and multiple washings, this fabric hadn’t changed. 

Here’s an up close of the bottom cushions with the fabric from last year, and the top cushions, which I just finished yesterday with the new fabric I ordered last month. 

DIY cushions 050

I’m sure I will offend serious sewers out there, but my technique for sewing outdoor cushions is a bit barbaric.  I simply cut a long strip of fabric to wrap around the cushions, then pinned two rectangles to the sides, and sewed them together.

pin slipcover  sewn together

Confession: I haven’t even finished the openings yet.  Sewing zippers frustrates me to no end, so I’m just going to sew a quick seam and add some Velcro strips later so I can remove these slipcovers for washing.  But I was so tired last night, I didn’t have the energy.  Right now, the back is simply safety pinned.  Sssshhh.  Don’t tell my guests that I’m entertaining this weekend.

Here’s what the sofa looks like now, sitting in my courtyard.  This sofa is 94” long, so my 6 foot tall husband can actually lie down on it. 

sofa final

Pay no attention to that one seat cushion on the chair that I have yet to finish.  But you get the idea. 

sofa from side

These pillows are from Target and just arrived last week.  Here is the link for the small green flower pillows and the larger floral pillows, if you love them as much as I do.   

target pillows

This wall fountain is also from Target – I bought it last year, and it has a nice patina. 

wall fountain

For my master balcony, I redid a pair of chairs that I picked up from the local thrift.  I am really loving the new look given to this pair of chairs. I used a spray primer, Rustoleum’s ‘Heirloom White’, and added some new foam and festive fabric to upgrade these vintage chairs.  Now they sit on the balcony off my master, which sadly was unused and lacking in any decor. 

Chair Before and After:

chair b and a

Balcony Before:

balcony before

Balcony After:

balcony after

Lime green hanging hurricanes from Joann’s Fabrics, melamine pitcher from Walmart. 

  pitcher and hurricane

Can you tell I am drawn to green patterned fabrics ?  How do you feel about decorating with green?


  1. Like I said before, I absolutely adore those chairs – the fabric is gorgeous, and I don't typically like brighter greens. The sofa is to. die. for. Both the metal and fabric. Great job with the cushions.

  2. That couch is just awesome. I just planted the seeds to my husband last week about wanting a couch on our patio – you know the one that will be finished in 2011!

  3. Can you just MAKE ME OVER! Please! Your before and afters are just MIRACULOUS! I LOVE your show! {And I love you, too!}

  4. Ahhhhh Green is my favorite. I painted our dining room table lime green – and it makes me happy every time I see it!!

  5. I can't believe how great the sofa looks. Super job! Love the green pattern too! Green is a great color and has a calming effect. You're the best!

  6. I just recently came across your blog and now it's on my "must read daily" list. Nothing I like better than a good makeover and I think you're a pro at this stuff. Girl, you have a vision. You see new life in dead stuff. Your makeovers today are just the best. Green is a great color and you used it so well. I look forward to lots more inspiration on your lovely blog.

  7. So cute I love the idea for the couch. I get so many great ideas from your blog.

  8. You know what? I think the velcro thing is genius! I haven't a clue how to sew a zipper so Im leary of doing any projects that require them…but velcro can work for a pillow or anything else you don't wear!

  9. Wow, your sofa looks absolutely gorgeous. I love it and what a fabulous piece. YOur two chairs also look wonderful on the balcony, such a great place to sit and relax with a nice cup of tea. You've done a wonderful job with the cushions and the velcro is such a good way to go. I have had zippers break and the velcro doesn't so I really like it better. Love the pretty green colors. Hugs, Marty

  10. your sofa is to die for!!! I love it….and yes, I have recently begun to really love green! Love all that you've done!


  11. Wow, that couch is huge. I was imagining it being the size of a loveseat but no…it's a full sofa. How wonderful to have when you have guests over. Everything looks beautiful! Can I come over for a chat and some iced tea on your patio?

  12. I love green. I have gray green throughout my home, paired with red and yellow ochre. Love it!

  13. Oh Kate, this might be my favorite project of yours. I'm sooo close to getting myself a sewing machine. You've done a great job. Love the balcony too.

  14. Kate, this looks fabulous! Love the green throw pillows too–esp. the tiny flower ones. Question: are the little green flower pillows more of a citrus green, or more olive? They look different/more neutral on the Target website (I like your photos better :) )

    I am quite possibly the laziest seamstress on the planet, so I hear you about the zippers, but if you ever decide you want to use them in the future, I found the book Slipcover Chic by Carol Cooper Garey to be really helpful for sewing box cushions with hidden zippers.

  15. You are such an inspiration and creative soul. What a great couch turn around. It looks fantastic. The green pillows a great extra. The chairs off your balcony look wonderful! You are one creative lasy and I am awed by your talent…you make it all look so easy!

  16. My kitchen cabinets are guacamole green….LOVE IT!!! There are pics on my blog….GO GREEN!!!

  17. That's is amazing, I love your idea about velcro instead of zippers to make it removeable. I have a footrest that I need to redo the cushion on and one reason I'm putting it off is to avoid a zipper!
    Love the chairs too, it's hard to believe they are the same chairs. Once again, it's amazing what a can of paint can do!

  18. You got an excellent buy! And you've done a beautiful job with your outdoors. Just wanted to make a suggestion. If you don't want to use velcro, which tends to cause me problems when washing, then you might consider snaps. Remember those things that don't get used much anymore? I use them when I make coverings for pillows so I can take them off to wash. Easy and no problem in the washer.

  19. Looks great! Your sewing is better than mine, so I think it is fabulous. I still think those chairs turned out wonderfully. I haven't done any DIY lately and need to get on it. I am also drawn towards green fabrics, not quite sure why, just am. :)

  20. love it…my "theme" color for my outdoor decorations this summer is Lime Green…it is just so easy to work with!

  21. Wow!!! I absolutely love your couch and chair. You got it for a steal too! Well done on the sewing. I figure, unless you're going to be selling what you're sewing, no need to be so perfect about it. It looks amazing! Great job.

  22. I'm sitting here stunned and clapping (let's throw in a whistle too shall we?). You did SUCH an amazing job. I love that you were able to do it on a budget too. Oh…and your "barbaric" approach to making cushions?…I'm totally going to copy that. Thanks for the inspiration.

  23. The cushions look fabulous! I'm glad that you didn't let your insecurity with sewing keep you from doing it.

    p.s. IF you do install a zipper in a project, it usually goes in first. So, I'm glad you're doing velcro. :)

  24. I. am. so. jealous. Of it all. ;) I get so overwhelmed just thinking about meauring/cutting fabric, but you did a fabulous job!! :)

  25. Beautiful!! I just got two chairs from Craigslist that will be beautiful with a makeover. My question is, do you sand your chairs before you prime them?

  26. Awesome! Green is my favourite colour too. It is a "life" colour. It makes you think of spring and all things coming back to life. blah blah blah.
    ANYHOW…being a sewer of many many years – I say WAY TO GO ON THE CUSHIONS. Who cares the manner you did it. YOU DID IT. and velcro is a great product perfect for this type of job. You can easily take off the covers and throw them in a cold soapy laundry tub and have them ready to go back on in no time.
    Thumper from Oshawa,

  27. Green and gray are my two new favorite colors. I painted my bedroom gray with white and black accents and my boys room is about to be transformed to something with navy blue and some shade of green I have yet to pick out!

    I LOVE how you transformed the balcony, it is so crisp and welcoming!!! Great job!

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