My sister reminded me a while ago that I said I wasn’t going to “wiggledy niggledy” (I’m pretty sure she meant higgledy piggledy) any more stuff for my house.  I was going to BUY things, HIRE people, go into ACTUAL stores where the furniture is already built and ready to take  home!

I do remember saying something like that in a moment of DIY desperation, but I thought for sure she’d realize I didn’t mean it.  Although let me tell you, I am getting a bit tired of doing every single thing myself so I really am going to hire people more often to do things. Even if they’re things I know I can do myself.  Why?  Because I have more things that I want to do than I have time.  So I’m going to take the least fun things on my list (like putting on a new chicken coop roof) and hire someone to do them.

I was also absolutely, without a doubt, cross my heart and hope to buy .. going to purchase an outdoor furniture set.  Something that was as inviting and comfortable as the rest of my backyard.



My big dining table from Ikea is great. I have Ikea chairs and a bench around it with my white plastic Panton S chairs on either end.  It looks great, is comfortable and fits a lot of people.  Done.




The pizza oven, the greatest thing I think I’ve ever built. It looks so beautiful but there isn’t any way to actually relax around it and enjoy it.


I have 4 outdoor chairs from Costco and a small love seat I bought from Walmart right beside the pizza oven and it looks nice.  But that’s about it.  I never once sat in those chairs for longer than 10 minutes and neither did anyone else who came over.

It felt very much like a waiting room.  And an unsubstantial waiting room at that.  One that wasn’t very important. You were definitely not waiting for anything important here.  You weren’t waiting for a heart surgeon.  At best you were waiting while you got your car’s oil changed.


I wanted  the area around the cob oven to feel as important and rustic and comfortable as the oven itself. I wanted a place that was so comfortable and beautiful it compelled me to sit outside and relax.

So I started looking in stores for outdoor furniture to buy.

I started at Costco.  Nothing suitable there.  Then Walmart and Ikea and Home Depot.  Nope, nothing, nada.  Now I knew I had to start getting into the higher end stuff so I went to garden centres and furniture stores that specialized in only outdoor furniture.  I was getting closer but I still didn’t really like any of the furniture.

It was all pretty similar, nothing very different and it was all HUGE.  Like I mean, HUGE.  Fred Flintstone HUGE.  The seats were about 3 feet deep (they call it deep seating) and when I sat on them my feet just barely hung off of the edge of the cushion like a 5 year old.  You couldn’t pick the firmness of cushions and they all felt pretty gross.  Crunchy actually.  I discovered this is because they’re using a certain type of open cell foam that’s meant only for outdoor use in higher end outdoor furniture.  This type of foam allows water to drain RIGHT through it so when it gets wet in the rain it’ll dry in no time.  That’s a plus.  However the price of that foam is so hysterically high it puts the price of these outdoors sets up into the stratosphere of crazy-stupid-I’d have to sell my corneas expensive. And I like my corneas. I use them almost every day.

You can estimate around $7,000 – $10,000 for a full outdoor set if it’s higher end.  So, a sectional, chair, ottoman and table.  The same type of configuration is between $1,500 and $4,000 for a lower end line.

So yeah.  Rock bottom pricing on an outdoor set is $1,500.  Those are the sets that usually don’t use outdoor foam or good quality fabric.  So within a year your cushions are rotting on the inside and the fabric is faded to a completely different shade on the outside.  FOR OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Screw this.  I’m building my own furniture.

The first thing I did was scour the Internet looking for a design I loved.  I didn’t want to make outdoor furniture that looked like I made outdoor furniture.  And I was doing this right.  I wasn’t cheaping out.  I was still willing to spend $2,000 on making a set so long as it looked and felt great.  If I’m going to shell out that much money, it might as well be on something I love.  That doesn’t have crunchy cushions.

Enter the  Restoration Hardware Aspen Collection.



This is what I was going to make.  It was a really simple design, easy to DIY and it was the perfect combination of contemporary and rustic. It’s like the fine folks at Restoration Hardware designed it especially for me and my pizza oven.

Once I knew this was the set I was going to make (or at least a slightly modified version of it) I got to work getting my materials.


Last week I showed you the process of hacking up the wood to give it a more aged, rugged look and how I got the untreated hardwood to construct it with.  I initially wanted to make the arms out of antique barn beams because WHY WOULDN’T I?  But when I actually got a look at some nice barn beams I realized just exactly how hacked up, hand hewn beams are.  They’re irregular and no two are alike and therefore no two are the same size.  Trying to build something even remotely level out of them was going to be a nightmare.

Plus barn beams aren’t cheap.  For the amount I needed to make a sectional couch and chair it was going to cost close to $600  I found the part time, private sawmill on Kijiji (which is like Craigslist) and got all my wood for $325, with enough to make a table as well.

For the back supports of the couch I managed to find some old thick barn boards from a friend for free.



It was going to be $2,500 to have the cushions made for two couches and a chair if I ordered custom ones from one of the high end outdoor furniture places.  It would have cost around $400 if I bought all the cushions at Ikea.  But the Ikea cushions weren’t very thick and the fabric fades over time.  Plus Ikea was sold out of ALL their outdoor cushions by the beginning of July when I started this ridiculous venture.

I decided I would make the cushions myself and bought my fabric.  While I was in the foam store asking about pricing on the open cell outdoor foam they told me that if I bought that particular foam I would be the only one in the history of the store who ever had.  It’s 3 times as expensive as regular open cell foam and if you have good outdoor fabric you shouldn’t need the open cell foam.  O.K. then.  I ordered the regular foam since I had bought really good Italian outdoor fabric.

I also asked about how much it would cost to have them make the cushions for me if I gave them all the material I had just bought.  $600.  SOLD.  (That doesn’t include the price of the foam by the way)  It would take me days and days to make the cushions and they’d never come out looking as professional as if I had them professionally made even though I do indeed know how to sew.  Cushions are a pain.  So I contracted that job out.

TOTAL COST OF THE CUSHIONS (foam, labour & materials) – $1,200

So that means …


I made a few small changes to cut the cost of the set as well.  Instead of the Restoration Hardware foam thickness of 8″, I went with 6″ foam.  Instead of having two back cushions on the sofas, I went with one long one, which is cheaper.  I cut costs by using the cheaper foam, but made sure I had really good fabric for them. I had the cushion covers made with an “envelope wrap” instead of welting which is also cheaper. Plus I like it better, so …

If I had bought the original Restoration Hardware set with an L shaped sectional, one chair and one coffee table the total cost would have been $20,409.  Canadian.  That’s $15,801 US.












Last week I showed you how I started to prepare the wood by hacking it up a bit and Friday I’ll show you how I’m assembling the arms.



  1. Kelly says:

    Hi Karen, I’ve been visiting and revisiting (okay… stalking) these posts for a couple of years now. Thank you so much for the countless inspiring posts!

    I’ve finally found a local sawmill in central Alberta that just got started and can provide me the lumber! I am very curious about how you attached the back and bottoms to the arms. I know you’re probably pretty busy, and don’t have time to provide detailed instructions but could you toss up a few photos of the attachment points? I thought maybe you attached cleats to the arms at the perfect 100 degree angle (thanks for that!) and then attached the boards for the bottoms and the back to the cleats but I can’t see cleats in the photos. As soon as we’re done, I’ll post photos of our hack of your hack!

  2. VReddy says:

    Hi Karen – I really love your post on the restoration hardware project. I would love to replicate it. It would be great if you shared how the rest of the furniture was put together (apart from the arms)

  3. VReddy says:

    Hi – I really love your post on the restoration hardware project. I would love to replicate it. It would be great if you shared how the rest of the furniture was put together (apart from the arms)

  4. Alan says:

    Awesome! Thanks for the quick response, Karen. I’m think 2×10’s will work!

  5. Alan says:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m about to embark on building this furniture set myself. Im struggling to find a mill that will supply the wood I want (French oak). I have got my design sketched out but I was curious what the dimensions (thickness) of your seat and seat back are? I want to make sure what I’m actually sitting on doesn’t flex.


    • Karen says:

      Hi Alan. It’s 2″ thick lumber which works well for me. The span of the chair is so narrow that there’s no chance for flexing and I haven’t noticed any in the longer couch pieces either. ~ karen!

  6. Tania says:

    Karen, the furniture you made looks amazing! Could you let me know more about this part-time private sawmill?
    Love what you do!

  7. Jules says:

    All I can say is wow!
    I can’t wait to see it Karen.
    I thought about doing something similar with pallets (as seen on Pintrest) but this is soooo much nicer looking! Best part is we have a sawmill – we live on Gabriola Isl, BC so wood is plentiful on our 5acre lot.
    Oh, and I want to build that pizza oven…that is so cool. There’s a restaurant on island called Woodfire Pizza…and their pizzas are the best. Just another thing I thought about building…a cob oven (same thing?)
    Your blog inspires me Karen…thanks!

    Ps. I have hens too…so loving reading what you have to say. We started this season with 2 hens and 1 rooster after losing three to a neighbours farm dog and ended up with 19 after two broody hens this spring/summer (three broody sessions). I just gave my 5 ‘teens’ away!

  8. Kelliblue says:

    Ooooh, those are (and will be) gorgeous pieces. So…guess you won’t be moving anything around much after it’s all said and done, huh? :)

    “Wiggeldy niggeldy.” Hey, is that a racist thing? *hands on hips*

    In Wisconsin, et al, there’s actually a grocery chain called “Piggly Wiggly”? NO idea where that came from, but it’s fun to say!)

    • Karen says:

      I know about the Piggly Wiggly from Driving Miss Daisy! And no, lol. NOT racist. *stomping foot and shaking head*. ~ karen!

  9. Stephbo says:

    Good Lord!! Who in the world has $20,000 to spend on outdoor furniture?!?!? Somebody with too many dollars and not enough sense, that’s who. I’m looking forward to seeing your much more reasonably priced set. It’s going to look fantastic with that oven.

  10. Heather Sykora says:

    Thank you for sharing all this info!! I thought my husband was the only one who took a tape measure to measure the depth of a sofa!!! We’ve had a hard time finding an indoor sofa that isn’t too deep!! And we’re above average height. My back needs full support so a sofa that is too deep will not work……….. Also, Thank you for explaining the difference in foam!!!!!! We want to get out door furniture next year and I knew there was something different about the stuff the fancy hotels have!!!! They’re not running out there every time it rains and bringing all the mountains of cushions in!! I always wondered about that! Finally- an answer!?

    • Karen says:

      It isn’t quite as comfortable as regular foam heather, but it really, REALLY drains superbly. If I could have stomached the price I would have bought it but it was SO much more to do this whole sectional and chair. :( ~ karen!

  11. Cathy says:

    OK, who wants to pile in my van and head to Karen’s for pizza?

  12. brenda says:

    Waiting for Friday with bated breath!!!

  13. maggie van sickle says:

    You are one ambitious and clever cat. U go girl!

  14. Barbara says:

    My son recently built his own outdoor furniture & is now on the look out for cushions. Could you let me know where you purchased the outdoor foam from & your source for fabric. We live in Oakville so I’m assuming you hired someone in the GTA. Thanks Karen.

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      There’s a store, The Foam Centre, on the south side of Fairview in Burlington between the Factory Shoe place and Value Village, just west of Guelph Line. Just google them for their website.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Barbara. Everything was from Ottawa Street in Hamilton. Foamland for the foam and having the cushions made, and European Textiles for the really good quality outdoor fabric. :) ~ karen!

  15. Julie says:

    I’m definitely following this…hubby is building a deck and I’m one of the lucky ones with a dad who has a wood stash :)

    If I remember correctly, there’s a foam store on Ottawa Street…is that the one?

    • Karen says:

      Yes Julie, that’s where I got my foam and had them make the cushions. Tell ’em Karen sent ya. They’re VERY familiar with the couch I’m making, lol. It’s called Foamland I believe. ~ karen!

  16. Linda in Illinois says:

    Wow, I say… Wow.. they are going to be beautiful.. I can’t wait to see the results..

  17. Toby Earp says:

    “…Ikea was sold out of ALL their outdoor cushions by the beginning of July when I started this ridiculous venture.”

    Don’t think it’s ridiculous, myself. Fascinating, instructive, practical, inspired and in its own way, cheap-ass and for that reason alone highly commendable. Not ridiculous. :D

  18. Arlene says:


    Want to make an outside dining table for the cottage…any ideas???

  19. Alexandra says:

    You are impessive! I am exhausted thinking about it all though so I may need to come over and plop down on your beautiful new outdoor furniture.

  20. Katie C. says:

    AH! A cliffhanger! I was so ready to keep reading and see the final product!

  21. Mary W says:

    Sure is comfy looking and sooooo beautiful. I got Blue Apron and EVERY meal has been so good – so many new tastes and food I’ve never heard of that is delicious! DELICIOUS! We are eating eggs one night, hot dogs the next, and cereal the 3rd night just to be able to get this GOOD food. The recipes are so easy, the vegies have been fresh and really tasty, but the meals are quick and just plain good food! Thank you from the bottom of my plate!

  22. Phyllis Kraemer says:

    Brilliant! You are
    Simply brillianr!

  23. Denise D says:

    You are amazing. Will you marry me?

  24. Grammy says:

    That is the most beautiful outdoor furniture I’ve ever seen, and it does look like it’s a perfect complement to the pizza oven. I’m excited to see your version.

  25. Kirsten says:

    I’m sure it will be beautiful and cannot wait for the pictures. What caught my eye is that you found a private sawmill? My husband has been promising to make me a new coffee table (with a fire feature) because I, like you, refuse to pay 10Xs as much for the one I found online. Can I ask where you got your wood? We are near you and have not found any where close by that has what we are looking for.

  26. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    This is going to be so awesome!

  27. Melissa says:

    Holy cow, building outdoor furniture?? You never cease to amaze me! Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  28. MrsChris SA says:

    Oh my impatient soul!!
    I want to see the furniture now!!
    but I will have to wait……………………………
    You are one brave woman tackling a task like that! I cannot wait to see the end result.

  29. Elaine says:

    You just amaze me, Karen! You’re so talented (and brave!!). Can’t wait to see the final result and just look at the money you saved!! Wherever did you get this talent for making anything and everything under the sun??

    Oh by the way, can I ask a question not relating to the outdoors …. I recall you once had a “skirt” under your kitchen sink area. I’m thinking of doing the same in my condo kitchen. Do you still have it and do you still like it? I’ve always liked the look but haven’t got up the nerve yet and wonder if I’ll regret it.

  30. Catt in Kentucky says:

    Love the clean line rustic style of the furniture. Fun project.

  31. JulieD says:

    I cannot wait to see!

  32. Kathleen says:

    Such a clever, useful woman you are growing up to be! :)

    I also dislike sitting on a couch or furniture where my feet don’t touch the floor. Even some beds are too high!

    I am looking forward to seeing the finished product and the fabric!

  33. Mark says:

    If DIY was at Rio you would have the Gold Medal!

  34. Marna says:

    Wow! You are amazing! Can’t wait to see the finished piece! You sure are saving a lot. :)

  35. j says:

    You go girl!

  36. Paula says:

    Can’t wait to see how they turned out!
    Getting cushions made or reupholstered is soooo expensive. I had some made with material that I supplied for my ‘couch’. When I picked them up and after I paid I mentioned that they were for our boat. The man exclaimed “Oh, you didn’t tell me that!” Of course I didn’t because if I mentioned the word, ‘marine’ the price would most likely have been double what I paid.

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