DIY: Couch Arm Tables


Hello All! It’s been awhile since I posted as a result of a lovely new job. I’m so thrilled to be working full time and managing a pretty kick-ass lifestyle in NYC, but it has dramatically cut into my creative time. I finished a DIY for wooden couch arm tables at the dawn of man several weeks ago, but never got around to posting it. Ah well, better late than never!

I bough an Ikea Kivik couch as part of Operation: Apartment a while back for my new living room specifically because of the large armrests. Having a tiny living space, I needed something that would allow a table without needing side-tables. Having seen many wooden armrest covers all over the place, I figured I could save myself a few hundred bucks and make them myself. You can find other DIYs for the same thing here and here, but the first one requires a fancy saw I don’t have access to as well as brackets that I was afraid would hurt my couch, and the second only uses glue which seems like it might not last as long as I would like. This DIY will allow anyone with a hand saw, a drill, and some time to make an arm table that is sturdy, professional, and lovely.

Read past the jump for supplies and instructions!

TOTAL TIME: 2-3 hours, not including drying times.

TOTAL COST: ~$25 for two, more if you use fancy wood.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Medium to difficult. It’s simple for a woodworking project, but if you don’t have experience with heavy-duty DIY it could be challenging.


-Wood Boards. Size and type is a personal choice here, but make sure to measure your arm rest for width of the board. You want your top board to be just a little bit wider than the width of your armrest, and your side boards to just reach the top of your couch cushions. Measure these lengths before hand since you may need to buy two different widths like we did. Also take into account how much you’ll need. Decide how long you want your tables, then remember you’ll need double that for the top (if you are making two) and quadruple that for the sides. As for material, we used some decent but still cheap pine, but feel free to splurge on nicer wood. Just keep in mind – anything too hard will be difficult to cut by hand, anything too cheap may splinter. Use your best judgement here.

-Hand Saw. The exact type of saw will depend on what type of wood you are using. Your average classic hand-saw will likely work perfectly, but ask the guys at your hardware store if you aren’t sure. If you don’t want to use a saw, have your hardware store cut the boards to the length you chose for your table.

– Some system for cutting the wood: If you are cutting the wood at home, you’ll need a system. You don’t need a fancy miter box or anything like that, but you do want a sturdy way to suspend the board while you cut it. We had two chairs that we could clamp the board to, but two folding tables or anything like that would work too. Think DIY sawhorse.

– Sandpaper: Get the mixed pack so you can sand from rough down to baby’s butt smooth.

– Electric Drill

– Wood Glue

– Screws: Again, make sure you get the right kind. Not too long or they’ll go in crooked, not too thick or they’ll split your board. Again, ask your local hardware guy if you aren’t sure.

– Wood Putty: This is technically optional, but it makes a huge difference. You can cover up the ends of your screws to hide them and make the table look nice. We were going for an industrial worn-away look anyway, so we just filled them with a bit of sawdust and woodglue, but if you want it to look like the Etsy one, you’ll need some decent wood putty.

– Stain of choice: Any color you like. If you like the industrial look like us you can buy an all-in-one stain and call it a day, but for a sleeker look you’ll also need a finish, a lacquer of some sort to seal the wood and the stain. You can also keep the natural wood, but you should still use some sort of sealant or an oil finish to keep the tables looking good.

– Old rags: For applying the stain.


1. If you haven’t already, cut your boards to size. If you measured before you went to the store, you’ll have one board about the width of your arm rest, and two about the width to your cushion. For the Kivik we needed a nice wide board for the top and thinner boards for the sides since the arm rests are not very tall. All the boards will need to be the same length so the table is consistent. Use your sawing set-up and a whole lot of elbow grease to cut those suckers down.

DIY Armrest Tables DIY Armrest Tables

2: Sand down the edges that will meet when you screw the boards together. You don’t need to sand the entire surface of the boards yet, but sand the edges so they meet nicely. Note: If your top board is just a bit wider than the arm rest you will attach the side boards to the edges of the board. If it’s more than an inch or so wider than the rest you will attach the sides to the bottom. Further pictures will help explain this a bit better.

DIY Armrest Table

3: Mark where you will need to drill holes, than drill your pilot holes. You’ll want to use a drill bit smaller than your screws to drill pilot holes in your wood. This makes the screws go in much smoother and straighter. As mentioned earlier, our sides were attaching to the side of the top board, so we marked and then drilled pilot holes every 4 or so inches into each side of the top board and every all the way through the side board every 4 inches. Make sure these pilot holes are nice and straight to avoid splitting your wood with crooked screws later.

DIY Armrest Tables DIY Armrest TablesDIY Armrest Table

4: Apply wood glue, then screw your boards together. The wood glue will make sure that your boards are evenly attached and stay that way. When screwing your boards, carefully line up your pilot home and your your screwdriver bit to slowly ease them in. Don’t rush this or you may split your board. If you have the ability to clamp the board down this will make the process that much easier. We used a 90 degree clamp to ensure perfect attachment and stabilize the boards together while we screwed, so if you can spring for one of those it’ll make a big difference. If you don’t like the look of the screws, overdrill the screws a bit into the board to make a little space you can fill with wood putty, allowing the screw to hide. Fill them with wood putty if desired, then leave overnight to seal the glue.

DIY Armrest Tables

5: After the glue has cured, sand the shit out of your tables. You want these to look smooth and gorgeous, and sand off any glue gobs. We sanded for a ridiculous amount of time and still have areas where the stain didn’t take right because of glue. The better you sand, the better the stain will take and the nicer your piece will look. Start with your coarsest grain sandpaper and move to the lightest.DIY Armrest Table

6: Stain your piece according to your stain’s instructions. Seal if needed once stain totally dry. Our stain required a coat, a wipe, and a dry period inbetween coats. We stained the whole table, including the inside, so it would look nice. an old t-shirt makes a fantastic stain rag. You my need multiple coats depending on what color stain you are using, but make sure the stain dries to the touch between coats for optimum coverage.

DIY Armrest Table

Let your stain or sealant cure overnight, and you’re done! 

DIY Armrest Table

These are quite possibly THE BEST thing we have ever made. We put food on them, drinks, use them as temporary project storage, etc. We have since moved our couch around and found room for a small coffee table, but for the month or two where we didn’t have that the arm tables provided the only way to drink or have a hard surface while on the couch. We’ve had them for a couple months now and they still look great. The finish hasn’t worn off at all, despite lots of use. Anyone with a small apartment and wide couch arms NEEDS this.


Sorry again for the long hiatus! I can’t promise I’ll be positing regularly, but I will be posting. If you like this post check out the archive for older DIYs, and check out my links above to find me on other social media. I use pinterest and tumblr avidly and constantly. Almost obsessively. Whatever.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season so far! Try not to bury yourselves under too much holiday DIY, and remember:


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