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When a San Francisco newcomer tapped designer Erin Roberts to furnish their future living room—and by the day they moved in—Roberts enlisted a small workshop in Los Angeles to bring her custom renderings to life. But the wait times associated with one-of-a-kind pieces (we’re talking five months, at best) weren’t going to work with the homeowner’s tight schedule.

Roberts searched high and low for an in-stock, testable sectional, but there weren’t any in the exact L-shape she wanted. So, she decided to hack a couple of Söderhamn sofas to combine the budget-friendliness of IKEA and the streamlined minimalism of the Japandi aesthetic. Her vision: two love seats connected by a matching corner table, all encased in a cherry wood frame. Despite hiring out the actual construction, Roberts insists the base is totally DIY-able. “I didn’t have the space nor the bandwidth to do it on my own time,” she says, but she told us exactly how to achieve professional-level results.


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Drop It Low

The key to determining what style sofa works for this type of project is all in the height. The low-slung seat of the Söderhamn was already platform level at 5.5 inches high. “You need to know it won’t look weird when you take the legs off,” explains Roberts. When it comes to the upholstery, Japandi’s signature elements are calming colors and sleek lines, so keep it neutral and the tufting to a minimum.

Roberts opted for a cherry base to warm up the cool-white upholstery without taking away from the light and airy atmosphere. (The wood was also readily available at her favorite workshop, so supply chain worries begone!)

Don’t Give Yourself Any Wiggle Room

“IKEA is supposed to be an exact science, but the reality is, no two measurements are the same,” says Roberts. Don’t trust the online descriptions and measure for every wood piece yourself to avoid redoing your work. 

Keep the frame as snug as possible, with only 1/8 inch of leeway on all sides to allow for the sofa to slot perfectly into place. “If the frame is too loose, it ruins the look,” says Roberts. “An estimated fit takes away from the idea of one cohesive piece.” A few screws at each seam will hold the wood foundation together.


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Fake the Built-In

Luckily for renters, the sofa is secretly free-floating. By setting the Söderhamns inside platform bases that are half an inch taller than the legs, you get the illusion of a built in—without any additional holes in the wall (or the upholstery). Plus the all-around frame means that the configuration possibilities are endless; Roberts knew it wasn’t sustainable to have to source another new sectional when the client moved in a year. “If a room has a more open layout, I want the back to be just as streamlined as the front,” she explains—and the effect will be instantaneous.

white loveseat
SÖDERHAMN Sofa, IKEA ($749)
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