(n.) Cabindo: A condo on a lake, among tall old trees. Half cabin, half condo. My first home. This is a running journal of the renovations, projects, and general shoestring budget craziness.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Porch Couch. Say it 5 times fast

There are two balconies off the back of my unit (for some reason that sounds like the beginning of a song or a pickup line to me, but anyway) facing the lake. The view is lovely, they are exceedingly private and were two of the many reasons I bought this place. I have been working to turn them into usable, comfortable spaces for myself, the  fur-balls, and guests.

Below are some MLS pictures of the space pre-me.
dining room/living room balcony
Master bedroom balcony

the view, with the lake just visible through the full trees

My general goals for this year with the living area balcony have been:
          - keep kamikaze cats from launching off in pursuit of birds
          - seating to accommodate several people comfortably
          - have a flexible space which can accommodate open air projects (ex. furniture refinishing)
          - plant something pretty
          - plant something to eat
          - make an interesting, but not view-obscuring plant stand
          - get rid of nasty indoor, but used outdoor, carpet
          - something to lounge/take a nap on
          - somewhere to set for food and drink
          - make the most of the wall space with thoughtful decoration
          - provide some sort of lighting until electricity can be brought out

I've made progress on every point, and have more goals for next year, but in this post would like to tell you a little bit about my friend: the porch couch.

Porch couch lived many months or years (I'll never know for sure, but that's ok, it doesn't pain me) unloved and undervalued, as boring and stained seating somewhere in the Fairfax County government system. I found him through an amazing adoption website for abandoned institutional items. Public Surplus. I feel bad for all the cast off little things, so I adopt (probably too) frequently. I'm so grateful that P.S. could bring porch couch and I together for the low low adoption fee of $27.58. As my dad pointed out, I couldn't even buy the wood to build it for that price.

poor little guy, just look at that unfinished oak
I got him home via 495, up the 8 stairs to the door, through the house, and standing up vertically in a corner of the porch; thanks to the muscle power of unwitting assistants.

Scene: Mom and Dad stop by after dinner to retrieve their truck I'd borrowed for the day to pickup the couch.
Dad [seeing couch still in back of truck]: oh wow. That's a big couch! You can pick that up by yourself to get it inside?
Me [puppy dog eyes and big smile]: oh no! I thought so (really I did, it got loaded into the back so easily. I must have glossed over the loading dock and burly man-helper part), but now I think I really need your help....
Mom [laughing]: It's getting dark. I'll carry the cushions. good luck.

I 'knew' the couch would fit in its intended sheltered nook in the porch, but I definitely wondered if my measurements or PublicSurplus' were off as I wrangled the thing from standing on end to resting on it's legs, because lemme tell you, that sucker has about an inch of clearance on each side when in place. Its fantastic, but I'm glad my knee didn't sustain (yet another) injury, as I thought it might while tweaking it sideways and nearly falling into position.
I wanted a rich dark tone for the wood, and tested out a couple different stains that I already had. A combination of Jacobean and Ebony looked to fit the bill. After removing a surprising amount of tape from the frame, I painted the stain mixture on, and porch couch looked like this:

fake-tan couch
Eeehhhh, not so rich. A little blotchy n orange. Perhaps it originally hails from the shore? (if you catch my [long shore] drift).
Oh my word. Sorry for that groan you just let out.
Anyway, 2 more coats later and a handful of colorful words directed at all the damn nooks and crannies in the frame, it looked great.

As for the cushions - those covers got stripped off and immediately thrown in the wash. Beyond the gross thought that they had been sat on by countless people who had not washed their hands before that tax lien hearing and nervously fiddled with a cushion seam, or crop dusted their ex while waiting for divorce court; they were stained and nasty looking. The covers came out of the wash spotless and bright, but the boring blue, kinda corduroy fabric was not comfortable to sit on and didn't have the look I was going for.
Recycling to the rescue! In my sizable 'collection' (ie. backlog/horde) of fabric, I'd squirreled away the old shower curtains from my last apartment and Al's last bathroom update. These seemed like everything I could want to upholster the cushions: free, bright, related patterns, complimentary colors found in nature, free, water friendly, visually interesting, available, not a grain sack like everyone on pinterest, and free.
I laid out the two shower curtains with an additional outdoor fabric from 'the collection' to make sure they would actually look good in real life and not just my head, and to estimate if I had enough fabric by using the old covers as a template.

This is Sprout. She wants to help.
She's huge (that's the cover for a back cushion she's pretty much covering),
enjoys bird watching, being brushed, and sounding like a squeaky toy.
This helped me figure out that I'd have to do all the top cushions in one shower curtain, and all the bottoms in the other. With the blue striped fabric filling out gaps, I had just enough yardage needed to get them all covered. The green seemed to be the slightly more durable and less stain-able fabric, so to the bottom cushions it went.
To help the manufacturing process go a bit more smoothly, I made patterns out of some more fabric from 'the collection' for which I had no plans.

This is Navy. She does not want to help.
She wants to say something. She's gonna put it out there;
if you like it, you can take it, if you don't, send it right back.
She wants to be on you.
Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait..........she......she wants to be on you.
The pattern making phase was slowed down by the puddle of cute that plopped on the cushion immediately when it was placed on the floor, and would not move. But, if these are the times that try crafters' souls: I'm a-ok with that.
I made my cuts so that all the different fabrics would make one large rectangle when sewed together. I did make some mistakes because it was a Friday night when the bf was out of town and honestly, I was distracted by TLC and my glass of wine. But such is life, and you're only gonna see one half of the cushion when its in place anyway, so bottoms up and move along. I completed the assembly of each rectangle with double-stitched seams to keep the fabric from running or tearing under the strain of many *ahem* users, and did a contrast stitch at the joining of each piece to keep the seam lying flat, for additional durability, and cuz its darn purdy. Al especially appreciates a good contrast stitch, and as he is not a big fan of his old shower curtain (not of me using it, just the curtain in general), so I thought this touch would give him something to particularly like about the upholstery. With my rectangles ready to go, I had another glass of wine and made single-piece-style envelope cushion covers. Most tutorials show how to do an envelope cover with 3 pieces, but that's 2 pieces too complicated for me. There's a good single piece tutorial here.
I proceeded to wrestle the covers onto the cushions - seriously; with stiff cushions, the fabric overlap, and tightly fitted covers, you're working for it. It was then I realized the curtains were open and my neighbors would probably no longer talk to me for fear I'd murder them or their furniture. More room on the couch for me I suppose.
Originally I was going to make four more seams on each cushion to make proper boxed corners since the cushions' foam is shaped like a block.

But, it was late and 24 more double-stitched seams were just not going to happen. So, I tucked in the corners (this lady has good pictures of it - thank you google for helping me find illustrations after the fact), put the cushions on the wooden frame, and made a quick lumbar pillow to make it look like a real boy outdoor couch.

Voila! I give you Porch Couch.

short, dark, and sturdy. he's what dreams are made of.


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