Sunday, April 24, 2011

Restoring a 1950s Mattel couch

Poppy Parker, relaxing on her restored Mattel couch.
My friend, Kathie, recently acquired a wooden couch, made in the 1950s by Mattel (even before they started manufacturing our beloved Barbie). As you'd expect with something a half-century old, the foam inside the couch cushions had disintegrated into dust. The fabric was still intact, though, so we decided that all that needed to be done was replace the foam inserts. Here's how it was done:
Step 1: Find the end of each cushion that was hand-sewn closed and open it up with a seam ripper.
Step 2: Carefully turn each cushion inside out and shake out what was left of the old foam. (I recommend eye and mouth protection for this - it can get dusty!)

Step 3: Vacuum the rest of the disintegrated foam off the inside of the cushion, holding on VERY tight to make sure the fabric doesn't get sucked into the vacuum!

Step 4: Cut out cardboard templates for the cushions, based on the couch (NOT the fabric covers), leaving a little room between the cushions for the extra bulk once the fabric covers were added. When making the templates for the back cushions, take into account that they will be sitting on top of the bottom cushions, not the wood of the seat.

Step 5: Lay your cardboard templates on a piece of 1/2" foam (this can be found in the home decor section of your local fabric store). For a nice smooth edge, cut around the template with a rotary cutter. You can also trace around the template with a marking pen/pencil and then cut with scissors.

Step 6: With the cushion covers turned back to right side out, slip each piece of foam into each cover, making sure the edges and corners all line up.
Step 7: Hand-stitch closed the opening.

Step 8: Wipe down the wooden furniture to remove any remaining "foam dust."

Step 9: Add your newly restored cushions and maybe even a few throw pillows to add some color and personality!


  1. Be very careful cleaning up disintegrating foam as the author of this post said.In the vintage clothing biz where it is found in coat and boot linings and some fabrics we call it devil dust and it is really,really bad for your lungs if inhaled.Great couch!

  2. Thanks, Anonymous - good confirmation about protection from "devil dust."


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