5 Simple Ways to Spruce Up Your Sofa

Before you kick that well-worn couch to the curb, try these wallet-friendly updates to add comfort, color, and style.

couch with throw blanket and cushions

Johnny Miller

Has your sofa seen better days? These simple updates—a new slipcover, fresh throw pillows, some nailhead trim–can help. Here's how to fix an old couch so it stills works with your decor and prevent one more piece of furniture from winding up in the landfill. Grab a tape measure and some buttons, it's time to spruce up your sofa.

Slip on a Slipcover

Reupholstering a sofa can be almost as expensive as buying a new one. For a more affordable makeover, try a slipcover. It protects your sofa from messes and wear—you can take it off and wash it!—and lets you easily vary the look of your space throughout the year. Check out Comfort Works or Bemz for options that fit models from retailers like Ikea and Pottery Barn. Or consider a custom slipcover. The expense might be worth it if you love the feel (just not the look) of your sofa. Go for a durable fabric, such as Crypton or Sunbrella, if you have kids or pets. 

Apply Nailhead Trim

Nailhead trim can add a sophisticated touch to a contemporary piece. Stick on pieces of painter’s tape where you want the nails—along the base of the sofa, for example. Use a spacer (like Dritz Home Space & Set Tool, $13; joann.com) to ensure the spacing is even. With a rubber mallet or a hammer wrapped in a towel, tap each upholstery nail about halfway into the fabric. Check that the nails are straight, then remove the tape and tap them all the way in.

Add Tufting

Embellish lackluster cushions with tufting (indented buttons placed at regular intervals). Measure where you want the buttons, mark the spots with chalk or pins, and thread a long upholstery needle with at least 18 inches of twine. Push it into each spot and through the back of the cushion. Make a small diagonal stitch, then pull the twine toward the front and loop it through a shank-back upholstery button. Push the needle through the back of the cushion again, tie off the twine, and trim the excess. 

Swap Out Pillows

A couple of nice throw pillows can give new life—and a new vibe—to your sofa. Best of all, pillows cost a fraction of reupholstering, says Albert Nakash, a salesperson at Bettertex, an upholstery business in New York City. The most budget-friendly move is buying off-the-shelf options at a store like HomeGoods, but you could order custom pillow covers from an upholsterer or tailor. Prices start at about $45 per cover—not including the fabric. To save some money, use decorative fabric on one side and a more affordable neutral fabric on the other.

Change the Legs

Switching out the sofa legs can upgrade the whole look. Prettypegs has a great selection of shapes and finishes for many furniture brands, including Ikea. If your sofa’s legs are permanently attached, home blogger Ashley Poskin recommends painting them with chalk paint. It usually doesn’t require sanding or priming. (Try Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan; anniesloan.com.) When the paint is dry, coat the legs with Clear Chalk Paint Wax to seal. 

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