DIY Home · Outdoor Space

Building Outdoor Furniture

Between Dan’s time spent working on projects, and the rec space we’ve made with the bar, we  sure spend a lot of time out in the garage. In the summer months, we likely spend more time on our patio and in the garage than we do in our own living room. So it only makes sense that we make it a bit cozier by adding furniture to our outdoor living space. Plus, Dan’s has had a chair designed in his mind for a while now, and this was the perfect excuse for him to bring it to life.

Mission-Inspired Furniture

The design that Dan’s been working on plays off of mission-style furniture, which originated in the late 19th century and incorporates simple vertical and horizontal lines that accentuate the grain in the wood. The original inspiration for this design came from an old school woodworking book, giving Dan a starting point that he customized along the way. The irony behind mission-style furniture is that we later learned that it first became popular during the 1901 Pan American Exposition in good old Buffalo. Our projects always seem to come full circle, whether we know it or not.

Mission-style inspiration.

With Dan’s design in mind, we ended up stumbling upon a mission-style recliner that wasn’t necessarily salvageable, but was used as additional inspiration and worked as a template to double check measurements. It was especially helpful in building the arms, which was the first step in building these chairs.

Tangible inspiration that fell into our laps.

One design feature of a typical mission-style chair are their long, wide arms that have a slight curve in the front. A bit of custom work was required to add this feature, which involved a trip to one of Dan’s favorite workshops – my Nana’s basement. My Papa was quite the woodworker himself, and has a huge collection of tools that makes Dan feel like a kid in a candy shop.

Game face. On.

The reason I call this project mission-inspired rather than being true to the mission-style design is because Dan purposefully left out the trademark wooden posts between the open-framed arms, giving it a custom, open-framed design.

Open-framed arms

With the arms built, the next step was to form the base of the seat by using front and back slabs to join the arms together. One feature of a mission-style chair is the width and depth of the seat itself. It may be hard to see now, but once complete, you’ll notice the extra cozy room these chairs offers.


With the base of the chair now built, Dan moved on to building the back of the chair, which would follow more closely to the mission-style design. Another fun feature of the chairs are the higher backs and ability to recline at three different levels.

With the wooden frame built, Dan brought the chairs to life by adding a dark walnut stain and finishing them off with a few coats of semi-gloss poly.



Close up on the reclining feature.

A Complementary Couch


Close up on the reclining feature.A Complementary Couch

With the two mission-inspired chairs built, the next phase of the project was to build a couch that worked well with the design. In mixing a few different designs, Dan was able to add a mission-style twist to the couch. He used vertically stacked wood that gave the couch frame a simple yet complementary design.

The chair frame was also finished off with a dark walnut stain and semi-gloss poly, one of Dan’s favorite combinations to use.

Bringing It All Together

With nearly all of our projects, Dan does most, if not all, of the work. When projects are in Dan’s hands we know that they’ll always turn out well, as he transforms piles of wood into works of carpentry art. And while the mission-inspired chairs and couch were one of Dan’s most impressive projects yet, they couldn’t get to the finish line without custom cushions being made.

That means sewing.

Katie. On. Deck.

Oh boy.

Wooden slats to hold the cushion. 

The only other project we had that involved sewing was our window seat cushions, which were mostly made courtesy of my mom 🙂 But with the work needed on this furniture, I had no choice but to learn how to sew myself. Once again, my mom was a big help, not only in helping to start the first cushion, but also in gifting me with a sewing machine of my very own for my birthday. Luckily, it only took a few YouTube videos and a few mistakes before I started to get the hang of the whole sewing thing.

Case in point, when I accidentally folded the corner under and sewed across it. 

For the chairs, we used five inch foam as the basis for both the seat and the back. Mission-style furniture was typically finished off with leather cushions. And while leather posed a few issues for us (not practical for outdoors, pricey, and a tough material to work with), we chose a soft, shiny fabric that closely mimicked it (at least from far away).

Spending all day every day at Joann’s.

I also included a zipper on each cushion, making it easy for us to remove and wash, or remove and replace with an updated design if we ever want to change things up in the future (which, given our track record, is very likely).


So many cushions.

The cushions for the chairs proved to be a bit difficult, especially for a beginner. Luckily, making the cushions for the couch was much easier. We used five inch foam for the base of this one as well, but instead of sewing the base, we added the foam to a six foot piece of plywood, wrapped the fabric around that, and stapled it down.


So many cushions.The cushions for the chairs proved to be a bit difficult, especially for a beginner. Luckily, making the cushions for the couch was much easier. We used five inch foam for the base of this one as well, but instead of sewing the base, we added the foam to a six foot piece of plywood, wrapped the fabric around that, and stapled it down.
Plywood, foam, batting, fabric. Staple and done. 

For the back of the couch, we went with three over-sized pillows and added zippers to these too. Because they were much less bulky than the five inch foam, they were also much easier to work with. I probably should’ve started with these to build my confidence in sewing rather than diving into the hard stuff first. But I guess Dan and I have always jumped right into everything we do, so it’s only fitting that I saved the easiest for last. 

Couch pillows. 

With the sewing finished, Dan’s outdoor furniture was now complete. And I know I say this when Dan finishes just about every project, but this one is truly the most impressive yet. I’m just glad I was able to do this one justice and help to bring one of his projects to life.


Close up. 
Take two. 




5 thoughts on “Building Outdoor Furniture

  1. Since you 2 enjoy Mission Style be sure to visit the Roycroft Inn in East Aurora. The food is pricey and good and the lobby & fireplace room have wonderful atmosphere. Be sure to visit the Inn lobby, too. If its slow, they;ll let you look at and salivate over 1 of the suites.
    Another of my favorite stops is at the Eastview Mall in Victor, NY; near Eileen’s house.
    I scored catalog there several years ago & check it often for inspiration.

    Sawdust Forever…………..Have Fun
    Uncle George


    1. We’ve been to the Roycroft for brunch and got lost in all the woodwork and furniture on the first floor. We’ll have to stop back and snoop around a bit more! They have an antique shop across the street from there too where we found parts for one of our Victrolas!
      We’ll have to check out Stickley Audi next time we’re in the area. Dan’s always looking for inspiration for his next project!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s