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My Couch Got the CHEAPEST Makeover Ever: Painted Couch Tutorial

My Couch Got the CHEAPEST Makeover Ever: Painted Couch Tutorial

My couch was the first piece of furniture I ever bought. I was in college, and a friend's roommate was trying to get rid of her couch. I had just sat on the thing, and I thought to myself "What the heck, why not?", paid her $25 and the deal was done. Fast forward 4 years: I studied for college classes, planned my wedding, watched movies as a newlywed, put my swollen pregnancy feet up, and napped with my new baby boy all on that couch. We have history. Nevertheless, something needed to be done about the monstrosity. I mean, look at it:

I put up with the outdated, tired looking floral for too long. The rest of my house is slowly coming together (bathroom renovations are well under way, and can't wait to show you those!) and I wanted my living room to look at least somewhat put together. So my options were:

1. Buy a new couch $$$$$

2. Get this couch reupholstered $$$$

3. Reupholster it myself $$$

4. Paint my couch $

Maybe I wasn't quite ready to let go of this storied couch, but the main reason I chose the last option is because I just wasn't willing to dole out $500+ for a new couch or reupholster, or the time commitment of reupholstering it myself. This makeover cost me less than $50.

While painting upholstery sounds crazy, it's really not as absurd as one would think. I paint fabric for a living after all. (Have you seen all the bookish delights I make for my Etsy shop? ALL PAINTED FABRIC.) While some may be scared that painting their couch would turn into a disaster, here is what could also happen:

SO. Let me first tell you how I did it and then I'll get into how it feels to sit on and why I chose the colors I did.

There are a couple different options for painting upholstery. One: You can use latex paint and textile medium. I use textile medium to paint the items in my shop, so I know how expensive it is. It would have taken about ten bottles of textile medium to paint my couch (around $100) so that was definitely not an option. Two: You can use premixed chalk paint, such as Annie Sloan, which is pretty spendy at about $15 per quart. Three: You can make your own chalk paint with regular latex paint from Home Depot, calcium carbonate, and water. I chose option three.

 To paint a full size couch, here's what you'll need:

  • a gallon of latex paint (I used about 3/4 of the gallon) in FLAT finish
  • calcium carbonate, which can be purchased on Amazon. I used about half of the 5 pound bag
  • spray bottle with water
  • large-ish paint brush
  • Fine (400 grit) sand paper

First step: mix up your chalk paint. Here is the recipe I used.

3 1/2 cups paint
1/2 cup calcium carbonate
1/4 cup water

Remove all cushions from your couch and make sure it's relatively clean of all dirt and particles. Spray down the section you'd like to start with with water from your spray bottle. I found that spraying water as I was painting made it a lot easier to get good coverage with the paint. Depending on what type of fabric you are painting over, you could try spraying water directly onto the paint after you've brushed it on. Paint the entire couch. Do not despair. It will look horrible. Here is my couch while painting the first coat:

Let the first coat dry completely before moving on to the second and third coat. Depending on how dark your couch is to begin with and how light the paint you've chosen is, it may take three or even four coats of paint to get good coverage. Continue to spray water on the section you are painting as you work.

I was really worried at this stage. It did not look good. I started second guessing my color choice almost immediately, and it didn't help that when I sent my mom a progress picture, she responded with "OMG I'm buying you a new couch." But by the third coat and a darker stain on the wood trim, I was feeling a little bit better.

When your paint has dried completely and you are happy with the coverage, it is time to sand. Sanding is EXTREMELY important if you want a couch you can actually sit on. Before sanding, the texture was scratchy and stiff. And when I say scratchy, I mean an absolute nightmare to sit on if you're wearing shorts. But after some quality time with the sandpaper you'll be sitting pretty.

I could have stopped there and had a loud PINK couch, and that was my initial plan. However, in true Haleigh fashion, I couldn't stop there. There was something missing. Something floral...

So I decided to paint on a pattern. My floral pattern was inspired by the Rifle Paper florals, but my own creation. I used craft acrylic paint mixed with textile medium to do this part. If you're not confident in your pattern making skills but still want a patterned couch, you can always use the stenciling technique. Royal Design Studios has fantastic stencils specifically made for furniture.

So maybe you're asking why I chose pink. I love pink. To what is probably an unhealthy level. Somehow I resisted the urge to paint the walls of our house pink (I'm glad, because we have a lovely and calming palette of whites, greens, and blues now), so when I decided to do the crazy thing of painting my couch I wasn't going to resist the urge. My heart was telling me pink, whispering "you don't have pink anywhere else..." So there you have it, I chose pink. I think if you want to do a solid color, however, maybe don't choose pink. The color works beautifully with the flowers, but it is a little much by itself. If I were to do it again without the pattern, I would probably choose grey.

As for the texture of the couch. Guys, if you have a really comfortable couch or a couch that you spent a mini fortune on, don't paint it. SERIOUSLY, DON'T PAINT IT. It simply is not as comfortable once it has three layers of paint on it. However, that is not to say that it is uncomfortable.

My couch was a million years old and not very comfortable to begin with. I got it for $25, so even if I absolutely hated how it turned out I wouldn't have lost much. Sitting on it now feels rather like sitting on a leather couch, which I don't mind. I put a good effort into the sanding of it, and that, I believe, made all the difference in the world.

Now that it's all said and done, I couldn't be happier. I was nervous going into the project, but it turned out prettier than I could have ever imagined. It took a good thirty hours, but now I have a couch that doesn't make me want to gouge my eyes out every time I go into the living room, and there is something to be said for that.

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