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When I moved to Korea I was setup with a furnished apartment assuming that since my work contract was for one year, my Apartment contract would be too. But since the contract was made by my school and not me, I wasn’t immediately informed that I would be asked to move at some point.

Well that point came about one month ago. I have a place I am moving to that I like but the drastic change in amount of storage space and organization is a small concern. I like things to be in their place and out of sight until needed. In preparation for the move, out of my Hippy Christmas spirit, my girlfriend and I have been keeping our eyes peeled for furniture on the curb as we walk about Seoul’s neighborhoods.

last Sunday we spotted a tall shelving unit in pristine condition and carried it for 3o minutes across town. After dropping it off at home we found a small modern looking couch. inspecting the fabric revealed coffee spills and a lot of dust. Then we spotted a second flaw; a broken leg.

Well what do you do when you only have 3 good legs on a rectangle couch? Make it triangular? Nah, take them off and now you have a nearly usable couch a few inches shorter than the original. We then went to town in the middle of the side-street, stripping the couch down to the bare bones, as confused citizens and at one point the garbage men, looked on, in passing.  Our work revealed what crappy substructure really was beneath the veil of sleek design.

Stripped down

After we got home I measured out the dimensions; 98cm wide with a seat 45cm deep that slopes downward to the back just a little and a back 35cm high. Overall it’s a very unimposing piece of furniture, if you could call it that. I had never tried upholstering anything But how hard could it be? It’s just a small sofa.

After work we went to Namdaemun market area where there are a bunch of shops that specialize in selling second hand everything; refrigerators, kitchen furniture and equipment, machine parts, and tools. We got a few tools we needed then wandered down the tight alley ways hurriedly looking at junk and stopping to drool over some cameras. eventually we found the textile area, selling fabrics was almost entirely shut. We found one shop where the guys working there were welcoming and helped us pick out some fabric.

I spent a few hours that night pulling staples and hammering down the stubborn ones. I love these types of things, I can start working and never once look up at the time. Besides the physicality, it’s so peaceful, you exist in a sort of zen state. Before I realized, it was almost 12:30 and I called it a night.

I would love to know the brand or make as I am curious about the original cost of the couch. Looking at cheap furniture seems like it must have cost around 250 dollars. When we took it apart we opted to to leave the arm rests in an attempt to simplify the process and cut down on material.


Afterwork the following day we went to the Jongno area to look for “Spongee”, or foam. It was late again and shops were closing but we found one that had foam samples but we would have to order. Then another tried selling to us  but it was too expensive and at the third shop a woman had some foam outside in 180cm x 100cm pieces. I wasn’t sure if that would be enough. I calculated and worked it out but under pressure I couldn’t seem to figure if it would work so I asked the woman for her opinion. My initial numbers were right, one wouldn’t have been sufficient so we got two.

With everyone getting out of work and bolting for the metro stations I was really concerned how people would react to me hauling a person sized roll of foam through the metro and into one of the shoulder to shoulder, packed train cars. Luckily the train had room in the overhead storage rack and it wasn’t a problem other than blocking a few of the lights.   When we got home I took closer more precise measurements. One would have been exceeded my needs. so now what do we do with a piece of foam that is 180 x 100 x5cm? It’s a bed!

I got busy stapling away, pulling the fabric tight, making sure there were no major wrinkles. Then the tricky part came, trying to wrap the corners. in another circumstance i would have a sewing machine and made the covers to the right dimensions and put them together, but, here it was on the cheap and simple. Unfortunately it left me with a really terrible looking result.

After an evening feeling defeated I returned home and  pulled all the staples and did it over, having a better plan of attack this time.  On the previous attempt I had already trimmed the fabric so I was left, in a few places with just barely enough to get a staple in.

Seat complete

I felt god about how the seat turned out and played off of that positive energy. soon the back took shape too.

Seat and back Finished

Even before getting the sofa into the house I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the sides. Luckily during the process we found some old dressers being thrown out so I ripped those apart and reclaimed the wood and screws. With my trusty, Japanese handsaw I went to work. Each screw had to be pre-drilled to prevent the wood from splitting.

side box

There was one last step; create a side panel. the first one went well, and fit perfect on the first try. The second took two tries to get the fit right, then the wood cracked while I was sanding the edges. The third try finished it off.


IT has a few wrinkles and other flaws that I don’t like and its not a place I could take a nap but it is a great place to sit and write this blog post or keep all the laundry you haven”t yet folded.

Attack your project with confidence. Have a vision in mind and don’t be afraid to step backwards to move forward on a more solid foundation.