IKEA sofa with genius armrest storage

Bet you never knew your sofa armrests were prime storage

Ok, so the guys at IKEA are the masters of
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


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

This is the final result:

Full space design, right of chaise lounge

sofa armrest storage

Left of sofa, a pull out drawer

sofa armrest storage

On top of drawer, a flip open storage compartment for chargers,

IKEA items used

Other materials and tools:

  • KIVIK chaise lounge seat cover
  • IKEA BESTÅ hinges
  • 15mm plywood
  • Upholstery lining
  • 5cm wide foam
  • Adhesive spray
  • Stapler
  • 1000mm rails
  • Wood-like plastic corners
  • Sewing machine

How long and how much did it cost?

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

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.

  • The original modules,
    from the hole side (notice the lack of full trim, since that side
    will be against the sofa)
  • Nothing more than useless
    MDF, staples and glue on almost all sides, except one
  • A total waste of empty
    space! (aka “the vision” or “the inspiration” 🙂
  • The hole side, flat
  • the original top curved
    foam (you can reuse it if you wish, but no rollback then if
    anything goes south!)

Creating the armrests

So, I went and reproduced the modules in 15mm plywood:.

armrest plan

armrest plan

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

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:

armrest plan

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:

armrest plan

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.

KIVIK chaise lounge

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

Don’t go under 200g/m^2, maybe even 300, and also grab a can
of 3M adhesive


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

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

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):

armrest plan

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

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

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:

upholstery stapler

Don’t worry too much about the staples, you can cover them
beautifully later 🙂 (or not)

armrest sofa storage

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!

sewing machine

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:

Place your

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
IKEA sofa with genius armrest storage