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Do you have an old cot bed in storage somewhere that you aren’t sure what to do with? This tutorial is all about how you can turn an old cot bed into a garden bench – and a super summery one at that!
My parents-in-law gifted us a fab solid wood cot that converts to a junior bed and basically does everything you would want a cot to do. Unfortunately, neither of my boys wanted to sleep in it.
So rather than spend time trying to offload it to someone else and have it go unused I decided to repurpose it so that the boys could still get some use out of it – just not to sleep in! Instead they are now relaxing on it as a garden bench out in the sunshine on summer days!
My boys were happy enough to play in the cot – they just wouldn’t stay asleep in it at night!
The boys preferred snuggling in with me and in the end I did too (they now both have double beds in their rooms so Mum or Dad can give them a cuddle when needed and then escape…or fall asleep there as the case may be!).
So, lets just say I turned to upcycling this cot rather sooner than I anticipated.
The great thing about this cot is it is super solid and therefore super strong. It had a short lived lifespan as a playpen for my eldest son and I was even able to get in it with him for laughs and it held my weight just fine.
Materials Needed – Garden Bench
- Cot bed with removable sides
- Paint of your choice (this is optional but it does brighten it up – I used Rustoleum Chalky Finish Garden Furniture Spray Paint in Powder Blue. I would recommend using the non spray paint version in hindsight though!
- Waterproof fabric for your mattress & cushions (see below for how to calculate how much you need based on your cot size).
- Old cushion or pillow filling.
- Bag webbing for ties (optional) – you will need 16 ties in total if you do the same number of cushions I did (see below for how to measure)
- Sewing Machine (or needle and thread and a lot of patience!)
- 4 x Zippers
Step 1: Remove one side of the cot
The cot bed I used for my garden bench is designed to be converted to a junior bed, so it doesn’t rely on the two slated sides (the sides with the cot bars) to hold it up or steady it. I simply removed one side and set it aside for another project.
You then want to test that the cot like this can take the weight of an adult or two. If yours isn’t as solid you may want to cut a piece of thick plywood or similar to reinforce the seated base area. I didn’t need to do this for mine.
Step 2: Paint (Optional)
This next step is completely optional if you like the colour and finish of your cot as it is.
Obviously though your cot wasn’t painted originally for outside use so if you aren’t painting it (and even if you are) make sure you use a garden cover to protect it from the rain.
I wanted my garden bench to be really summery and fresh though so I decided to paint over the wood.
I can be lazy sometimes so I thought I would try a Chalk Paint Spray Paint that I haven’t used before – because I love how quick spray paint can be.
BUT…this wasn’t quick.
I ended up using 4 cans of the stuff!
- My garden is windy – so some of the paint blew away
- There are gaps in between the railings – so again I was spraying a lot of my paint into the wind!
The takeway from this is, unless you have a well ventilated indoor space to do your spray painting it isn’t the ideal method for this project. Use a brush or roller instead and save yourself from wasting paint!
I do like the colour though so that was something anyway! Rustoleum do the same colour in a traditional brush on version – in hindsight I should have picked that!
Step 3: Sew your Mattress Cover
To turn my cot bed into a garden bench I reused the existing cot bed mattress as the seat pad for my bench.
For your cover you will need 2 same size pieces of waterproof or water resistant fabric + 1 zipper that is at least the length of one end of your mattress.
To make the garden bench seat cover I measured two pieces of waterproof fabric that were the size of my mattress plus half the depth of my mattress plus a 2″ seam allowance just to be sure. If you are short on fabric you don’t need to make your seam allowance that big, I just like to be on the safe side!
As you can see from my photos I used a waterproof canvas fabric that has a kind of rubbery feeling on the underside. I thought this would be tough to sew and I was a little nervous about it.
I used a denim needle just to be sure.
But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, this is one of the easiest to handle fabrics I think I’ve ever sewn with…who knew?
I attached the zipper to one of the ends (if you never attached a zipper you do it right sides together – so zipper head down against the right side of the fabric and repeat on the other side).
Placing the zipper on one of the short ends means quite a squishing effort to get the whole mattress in the cover, but it leaves you more options for flipping the seat cover over in future without worrying about the zipper showing.
I then sewed all the way around with my fabric right sides together (leaving my zipper halfway open). You need to leave the zipper open to make sure you are able to turn it right side out when you are finished!
Before turning my seat cover right side out, I added a ‘gusset’ to the corners to give it that boxy corners to fit around the mattress properly. To do this you need to line up your seams at each corner and sew a line across (see image). Make sure to backstitch and then cut off the excess when you are done before turning your cushion right side out.
Step 4: Sew Your Cushion Covers
I wanted a super comfy bench so I decided on 4 cushions. Two for the back and one for either end. I measured my bench and found my pillow measurements from there.
You could choose to do one long cushion for the back and leave the sides or even just use throw cushions.
I didn’t do that because I wanted to leave my cushions outside (under a cover but covers aren’t always 100%) so I wanted to do them out of a waterproof or water resistant fabric just like the seat cushion.
I had also learned a tip from a previous project where I had used a slippy water resistant fabric for back cushions but I hadn’t added any ties to them – which meant they just kept slipping down.
The ties help keep the cushions in place and I think they work really well for this project.
The image above shows all the pieces you need for four cushions.
For each individual cushion you need:
2 x waterproof or water resistant fabric (I used the same waterproof canvas I used on the seat cushions for the back of these cushions and a tropical patterned water resistant fabric for the front).
1 x zipper
4 x ties
I measured on the cot the size I wanted my cushions to be and added a 2″ seam allowance all the way around (feel free to make your seam allowance smaller).
I attached my zipper and sewed the front and back of the cushions all the way around right sides together with the 4 ties sandwiched in at the top 2 corners (2 for each of the top corners) – see photos.
You need to actually measure on your cot how far the distance is from the railing you will be tying these to and the top of your cushion. Add enough to allow you to double knot it.
I made my ties from the same waterproof fabric as the seat cushion but it would be quicker and easier to use bag webbing or similar.
I didn’t add gussets to the corners of these cushion covers, I just trimmed the excess seams and clipped the corners before turning right side out.
More Cushion Cover Zipper Hacks here.
Step 5: Fill your Cushions
I used old cushion filling from some couch cushions I wasn’t using to fill the the square end cushions and regular bed pillows (old guest ones) for the longer back pillows.
If you don’t have anything like this to repurpose you can buy cushion inners fairly cheaply.
Step 6: Sit back, relax and enjoy the sun in your ‘new’ upcycled Garden Bench
That’s it. You’ve transformed an old cot into a garden bench. All you have to do then is tie your cushions on, sit back and relax.
I am beyond happy with how my bench turned out and I am confident it is going to get way more use in this new life than it ever did as a cot bed!
Now I just need to upcycle the side of it I took off! Any ideas? Drop them in the comments!
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Printable Instructions – Cot Bed Garden Bench
- Cot bed with removable sides
- Spray paint (Optional)
- Outdoor Water Resistant Fabric
- Old cot mattress or upholstery foam
- Sewing machine (for making cushion covers) - optional
- Remove one long side of the cot bed to create the bench shape
- Sand or Paint as desired (I used outdoor spray paint)
- Use waterproof or water resistant outdoor fabric to sew a cover for the cot bed mattress if you have it - this will be your seat cushion (or buy a piece of foam to fit).
- Use old pillow inners or upholstery foam to make cushions for the back and sides - see blog for instructions on how to sew cushion covers and how to add ties to your cushions.
- Fill your cushions.
- Enjoy your bench and don't forget to buy an outdoor cover for it if it will be left out in rainy weather.
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