Tuesday, February 12, 2013

We Made an Organic Couch!

Our organic, carcinogen-free, super hippie couch is finally done, and now I get to post about it! So here it is, how to make an organic sofa:

The Significant Other on the new couch!

So first here is a little background on why we wanted a new couch in the first place -- the couch we had before was a great find from a thrift store that I've had for a few years, but it was too short so we had been thinking about an upgrade for a while now. What really motivated the change, though, was a cancer scare a few months back that got us thinking about all the carcinogens in our houses -- particularly the toxic flame retardants that are in all furniture made in the last few decades and have been  shown lately to be relatively dangerous (Here's a good summarizing article that also touches on the shifting policies around flame retardants). Between the flame retardants and the toxic off-gassing, we knew we didn't want to get just any new or used couch. Unfortunately, organic couches start at $2,500 and only get more expensive from there, so that left us with one option -- construct our own!

So with off-gassing, flame retardants, environmental impact, and labor practices (and cost!) in mind, here are the materials we gathered to put together our new organic sofa:

  • Wooden futon frame, used (Craigslist)
  • 100% natural latex foam block, returned (used) and re-cut to our dimensions
  • Organic cotton batting (new, made in USA)
  • Upholstery fabric (new, made in USA)
  • Natural bamboo fiber for pillow stuffing (new, made in USA)
Assembling the frame
We assembled the frame, and the significant other made a few structural adjustments:
 The finished frame
The wood is great because of it's visual appeal and because of the vast difference in off-gassing, etc. versus a plastic, metal, or composite frame. Also, the foam works best on slats so that it can "breathe".
Next we got the natural latex foam -- I found a nearby store that sells 100% natural latex foam that is completely free from chemical additives and flame retardants and was able to buy a large block of foam from them for a discount because it had originally been custom cut for another customer and then returned because the size didn't work. So it was never really used, but it's purchase didn't initiate the production of a new item, which is kind of the best of both worlds. The company was able to re-cut the giant foam block into six smaller blocks, which we wrapped in organic cotton batting and covered in muslin to use as the cushions:
Frame + Cushions!
The Significant Other picked out some upholstery fabric that was Made in the USA (woohoo!) and we then got to work on covering all the cushions:

By the way, I did do work on this, too, but just made the S.O. pose for the pictures :)
See, here I am sewing!
Covered cushions!
Once the cushions were covered, the last step was to make pillows for the arms (to make it more comfortable and "couch-y" versus "futon-y") and a couple of throw pillows. I again used "Made in USA" fabric as well as domestically produced 100% natural bamboo fiber:
Here's what the arms look like now (a couple more pillows are coming soon):

I don't have a final picture of the whole couch because I ran out of stuffing for the last pillows (but didn't want to wait to post this!), but you can tell by that smile how much the Significant Other likes it already haha:

So that's our new couch! It's actually really comfortable, and ended up costing us less than a new couch from a department store would. It was somewhat challenging to find foam and batting that wasn't treated with flame retardants and other toxic additives, but I hope that that will all change soon as California continues to re-evaluate the necessity of these chemical additives in furniture.

Anyway, you may not be that impressed, but I am super excited about our responsibly made (by us!), environmentally friendly, non-toxic sofa. Next up, putting together an organic/non-toxic armchair!

(Also, this was our first time putting together anything like this, so I would love any feedback/suggestions/comments you may have!)


  1. Looks great! I love how you got the pillow fabric patterns to line up...looks really nice! Can't wait to visit it in person :)

  2. I'm impressed! It's beautiful! Way to beat the system and create something gorgeous, comfy, AND good for the planet (and wallet too)!

    I'd imagine it might be harder to find all of the organic non-toxic made-in-USA components outside of the bay area... but then again, since most things are sold online now, maybe not!

  3. Thank you, guys! I appreciate the support :)

    Also, as for the materials, yeah they probably are harder to find in other parts of the country, but the foam store is actually an online store that just happens to be based in San Francisco, so lots of people should have access to natural latex foam, yay!