Sweet DIY Dorm Furniture

Reader Contribution by Instructables
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This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Caleb Smith.

A month before school started, I thought it would be neat to have some old car seats as my dorm furniture instead of the bad futons that everyone else has. After a week of planning, I started searching for old car seats and found some for a decent price — $25 a seat. I bought two bucket seats and a bench seat out of a wrecked Grand Prix. 

I learned a lot from this project and went into it knowing very little about building furniture. I think anyone should try this if they’re tired of plain old furniture, have some extra cash and like to impress their friends. I managed to complete this project for under $100, but I could see it running up to $300, depending on how expensive you want to go.

Here are the materials I used:

  • Car seats — $75
  • Angle aluminum — Free
  • Wood — Free
  • Drawer slides — $10
  • Welding — Free (knew someone)
  • Miscellaneous hardware (drawer rails if you want to attach a bottom drawer) — Free or $5

My total cost was around $80.

Now, if you choose to build something as cool as this, you can use any materials you feel comfortable with. I chose aluminum because we had some extra lying around, and it’s sturdy when it’s all welded together. Plus, it was free.

Step 1: Make a Plan

After finding the seats that satisfy you, start measuring so you know what you’ll need to attach below them.

I got my seats out of a totaled 2007 Grand Prix. You can reuse car seats of any kind. Older seats are generally cheap and new ones, of course, are pricier. But it all depends on who you get them from. Fortunately, the place I got them from charged me $25 a seat, equaling $75 for the three of them.

Step 2: Finding Pieces for the Frame

I decided to make my frame out of aluminum because I had dozens of pieces from some bleacher seating. You can use wood, but that would add a lot more weight to your DIY dorm furniture.

After you’ve measured the dimensions for the seats, start cutting and/or welding your chosen materials for the frame.

Here’s how mine turned out (see photo at right): a simple rectangular frame.

Step 3: Mounting the Backrest

You’ll need something to mount the backrest to. There are several ways to do this, but I figured the one I used would be the best. I used two pieces of aluminum: A shorter one that would attach directly to the bottom frame and a longer one that attached to the short piece.

The short piece of aluminum I happened to have was already pre-drilled with holes. You can just drill holes in yours where they’re needed.

I cut off each end of the short piece at a 25-degree angle. That way, when I attached it, it would rest on the bottom frame at this angle and put the back rest at a 65/125-degree angle.

After these pieces were welded onto both sides, I clamped the long angled aluminum piece to the frame so I could drill the holes in the correct locations. Next, I bolted them on because I wanted the backrest to be removable for storage.

Step 4: Mounting the Bottom Seat

Next, you’ll need to make something to support the bottom cushion of your DIY dorm furniture. My solution was to drill holes along the sides of some 1-by-4 boards and attach them across the length of the frame. Then, I wove some rope through the boards to act as springs. I used a bent nail as a needle in order to thread the rope through the tight holes.

Step 5: Mounting the Backrest

At this point, your DIY dorm furniture looks like it’s done, but it’s not.

I set the backrest against the vertical angled aluminum pieces. I set a car jack underneath to support it and so I know how high I would need to bolt it, but also so it would rest properly on the bottom.

There should be four holes in the long angled pieces when you fold the seat down. I cut the vertical pieces down to the right height and welded a horizontal piece across the top of them and bolted the back seat to the horizontal piece.

Step 6: Building for Storage

This step is optional. I thought it would be neat to install a big sliding drawer underneath my DIY dorm furniture for storing what-have-yous. My drawer measures 4 feet long and 20 inches wide. For the bottom, I just stapled some Masonite on the slots.  For my first time building a drawer, I thought it turned out great. 

Step 7: Attaching the Drawers

Basically, I welded aluminum pieces onto the bottom of the frame to support the rails for the drawers. I attached the rails to the drawer first, then clamped that to an angled aluminum piece and welded everything down so I would have the exact spacing and wouldn’t have to measure anything. The drawer fits perfectly, but it slides a little rough because it’s so wide. I would suggest putting a slide in the middle as well as the two outer ones.

Step 8: Finished (But Not Really)

I ran out of time before school started and could not finish it off by putting some exterior plates to cover the holes and ugliness, and to also hide the drawer. I was also going to put on some arm rests but have not figured out how I am going to do that. But, because I’ve tucked my DIY dorm furniture under my bed in a corner, you can barely tell it’s not finished.

I like having my sofa on the floor because it’s comfortable as a set of gaming chairs. If you want a nice desk chair, I think you could take a car jack to a single seat and mount some wheels on the bottom. It could be a low-to-the-floor gaming chair that you could raise to be a desk chair when needed.

I hope you enjoyed this project to build simple, inexpensive DIY dorm furniture that’s comfortable and will impress your friends.

You can see more images of this project on my original Instructables post.