Bet you never knew your sofa armrests were prime storage space.
Ok, so the guys at IKEA are the masters of hidden / secret storage everywhere. In fact, one of the things I most loved about the ESKILSTUNA sofa series was the undercover storage on the chaise lounge, but… what?
More than 80 liters of storage space wasted on the armrests? NO WAY!
I really don’t understand how they didn’t take that opportunity with several different armrest modules. Mobile chargers, cup / can holders, foldable tables, refrigerators… there’s SO MUCH space in there.
I can’t stop thinking on different options!
For myself, I went for two designs.
First, a “full space” design on the (right) side of the chaise lounge. (The cavity fits two foldable chairs).
Second, on the left armrest — a flip open section for “mobile charger / remote control storage / etc.”. Below that, a full-depth pull-out drawer, tall enough to store A4 sized magazines.
This is the final result:
Full space design, right of chaise lounge
Left of sofa, a pull out drawer
On top of drawer, a flip open storage compartment for chargers, etc
It took a while. Given that I managed to put in no more than 3-4 hours a week (two children). Final cost was about 270€ for both modules. (90€ x 2 plywood, 50€ cover fabric, 20€ rails, plus spray, foam, hinges, etc).
Not counting the tools (stapler + sewing machine). First time upholstering and sewing, really fun! 😉
What do you like most about the hack?
The final look is perfect. It’s quite useful. It still has a thousand possibilities. And the plastic trimming over the corners in wood-like plastic gives it a nice touch matching the BESTÅ modules nearby.
Also, for my first time ever doing an upholstery and sewing job. It was quite fun and rewarding 🙂 The foam / lining part was really fun. But what I really loved is how it really comes to life once you put the fabric cover on top!
What was the hardest part about this hack?
My hands did shake a little bit when I was cutting with pointy scissors the fabric on my brand-new 700€ sofa covers 🙂
Also, removing the trillion staples to peel out the original modules was really tiresome.
What to pay special attention to?
Obvious, but not for us first-timers: DON’T SEW THE FABRIC ON THE WRONG SIDE! (backside front).
Also, one KIVIK cover should be enough for both modules. But all I got left was a few inches, so be really careful not to waste material with a wrong cut.
Looking back, would you have done it differently?
Not much, really. Maybe I would have left the drawer front in wood instead of lining and covering it. But I do like the final look.
Maybe the hinges could go directly on the straight plywood on top instead, making it easier to upholster.
But then, the top part would be a bit shorter in height, and with 15mm plywood there’s not much space for the cups of the hinges: a slip of the drill and off you go 😉 Having 30mm instead is safer.
Sofa armrest storage hack instructions
My first plan was to reuse the actual armrest modules. I thought I would just cut them to make the modifications. But once I peeled the covers off (good luck and be patient removing one billion staples!) I realized it couldn’t be done. The inside was just wooden sticks and 3mm MDF, with just one side in actual wood. So it would just fall down.
Here are a few photos of the original armrest modules and what they are made of, inside and out.
Creating the armrests
So, I went and reproduced the modules in 15mm plywood:.
Board dimensions are 103×50 (sides), 106×16 (top) and 16×50 (front-rear), giving you a box size of 106x16x51.5 exactly as the original.
There’s no bottom part. Just 3 plywood segments to square it. Legs are screwed on the front and back, and the center is just to keep it all nice and square:
Do NOT put a full bottom. Just 3 boards like that, since you will need that space to put your arm inside and screw it to the rest of the sofa.
Once you have “the box” built and screwed all together, it’s time to make the “cut of faith” 🙂
Lay it on one size. Set your circular saw to full depth, say your prayers. Hold your breath and cut off “the lid” of the modules at 30mm. (15mm of the top plywood + 15mm extra from the side). Pay attention to where you placed the screws! 🙂
Do the same on the other side, and you should get your lid ready to go:
It’s time to attach the additional pieces for the hinges. And depending on your choice install the inner components (inner table, rails on both sides, drawer front, etc… Not the easiest way to build it, but I was thinking of the final design at the same time and solving the problems along the way 😉
Upholster the armrests
Ok, now you have your modules built, it’s time to bring them to life with upholstery! 😉
First, peel off the original modules carefully removing the trillion staples on each one. (That’s when you realize they are not really useful wood-wise).
Those “peels” will fit each module’s main body. But since you have to staple them leaving a few centimeters of margin, they won’t be enough for the body and the lid.
Use the original ones for both bodies. And make the lids from the additional KIVIK cover of the same fabric option as the ESKILSTUNA sofa. (That was the only way to get a perfect matching fabric). In my case, it was Hilared Anthracite for both the sofa and the KIVIK cover.
You will need the KIVIK chaise lounge cover, since it’s the only way to get a 1 meter long piece. (Although the grain goes horizontal instead of vertical).
Another option would be the DELAKTIG 2 seater cover. (It’s a bit cheaper). But it was not at my store (it’s mail order only) and I didn’t wanted to wait for the mailman 🙂
First step is the lining, grab some upholstery lining at any store (I mean Amazon :-))
The pink one is the permanent, the blue one is the removable. Go for the former, not the latter 🙂
Spray all over the body and place the lining matching the original module. Leave some room, and trim to fit afterwards with scissors.
Drill the assembly holes
Leave the side with the holes free, exactly as the original.
For drilling the assembly holes, place both modules upside down. Clamp them together making sure the bottom ends (the ones with the legs) are perfectly flush and aligned, and mark them. (10mm diameter drill, I used 12mm just to be sure in case of any misalignments).
Once the bodies are done, feel free to place the original cover on them, and see your creation shine for the first time 🙂 Of course, you will have extra fabric at the top. But just put it down for a quick look and earn the confidence of your wife. (She’ll still be thinking you’re crazy doing that to your new sofa :-).
Upholster the lid
Now for the lid. Place the 5cm high foam on top of the lid, again with the spray. Cut to fit, and round the long edges on top, more or less to this shape. (If you have a wood router, you can use the round bit to cut and form the foam, otherwise use scissors):
After that, place the lining over the foam and to the sides. And feel free to place the finished lid inside the peeled skin. We won’t use it for the lids since we will have to sew a new one, but it will give you an idea of the rest of the sewing part.
Feel free to take measurement there of the pieces you will need to cut. (Two for the front and back with that shape, sewed to the long top section). From seam to seam, width is 18cm, length is about 107cm.
Height is your 5cm foam + 1.5cm board + 1.5 border. But you will have to leave some room and cut it loose so you are able to staple it to the lid from the inside. (THAT is the main reason we can’t just use the original one for both the body and the lid).
Fix the covers on
Ok, so that part is done. You can staple the original cover to the main module. (It’s all about how much tension you give to the fabric, nothing more and nothing less), keeping the seams straight.
Align the bottom first, and then work on the top. Once done, you can cut the extra fabric on top and ALMOST make a lid with it to get a preview. Use an upholstery stapler like this:
Don’t worry too much about the staples, you can cover them beautifully later 🙂 (or not)
Grab your KIVIK fabric, cut the 3 parts, and sew them together to form the lid, giving extra space for the inner staples. I used this sewing machine and my mother-in-law (they are useful!), and it was much fun 🙂 You can even use a grandmother too :-), but I ended up learning the thing and the second lid was done all by myself 🙂 Quite proud of it!
Remember: after cutting, pre-sew the borders first so they don’t fray with time. And PAY ATTENTION TO SEW THE PARTS ON THE CORRECT SIDE!! (yes, I didn’t and sew one inside out 🙂
Making the pull out drawer
So, almost there! Place the rails if you haven’t yet:
Storage in the sofa armrest for small items like remote controls, chargers, etc
Beautify the interiors with the plastic corners and/or inner MDF. (I used a 3mm white MDF board to match the interior of the storage under the chaise lounge). Screw the legs to the new modules, screw the modules back to your sofa, and…. TADAAAA!!
Pull-out storage that is hidden in the sofa armrest
And after some SKÅDIS pimping, my sofa armrest storage is starting to become something!