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If you need a place to rest your drink but don’t have a side table nearby, this quick and easy armrest tray table is a perfect fit for the arm of your sofa, couch, or chair.
On a quick trip to Lowe’s for some last-minute wood stain (coughcoughPinterestChallengecough), I also picked up slim pine boards that seemed juuuuuust the right length for sawing into thirds for another scrap wood project I’ve been meaning to try: a DIY wooden couch sleeve, aka a sofa arm table.
Materials & Tools
- wood of your choice (it’s a great scrap wood project!)
- wood glue
- miter saw or table saw
- orbital sander
- measuring tape
- safety gear (glasses, hearing protection, breathing mask)
- stain & poly (this is one of my favorite stains!)
How to Make This Sofa Armrest Tray Table in 3 Easy Steps
1. Measure and cut pieces
All you need to do is measure the width of your chair and cut the side slats and top on a miter saw or table saw. Be sure to add about a quarter of an inch (for an easy fit over the chair or couch’s arm rest) plus the width of the sides to cut the top to the correct length. For the sake of stability, you don’t want to cut the top piece too too wide or it will shift around on the arm (think snug).
2. Secure pieces together
Glue and clamp the sides to secure the bottom two wooden planks to the top in a u-shape, and let dry.
3. Stain and poly
Then, add stain and poly to your liking. You can staple or use a few pin nails if you want to help the glue set, but I chose not to. I didn’t even miter the corners, and it still looks pretty great.
There are lots of options for different features to further enhance it if you want: chamfer or round over the corners, add a slot for your phone, route out a round circle on the top for holding your drink more securely, add a side pocket for the remote, add a hole or channel for a laptop or tablet cord, etc. There are a ton of customization options whether you’re planning to use it for relaxing or work, but the main feature is that it’s easy to use and you don’t need any extra floor space like you would for a side table.
This project takes all of ten minutes to set up and however long it takes to dry (check the back of the can of your stain and poly for that info). I made two of them for the living room, and my dad has been asking me to make some for him ever since! Theoretically, it can work well for even rounded couch sleeves as long as the sides are long enough to steady the sleeve on top of the armrest, but square arms work best. I’ve seen rounded versions for sale online too (especially on Etsy):
The fact that I picked up a perfectly good board for no other purpose than this means that it’s decidedly not a scrap wood project. However, you can still wait until you have scrap wood pieces from other projects to make it. I still call it a pinspired project since I found (and pinned) the idea several months ago. It’s just not technically a part of last week’s party.
I found even more motivation to go ahead and complete this project thanks to Merrypad, who shared her version recently. So not only was I pinning the original, I was now pinning her version which was also based on the one I first admired.
About here is where I stopped trying to make sense of whether this is a pin of a pin of a pin or ehhh …. whatever, my couch arm table (or is it a wooden sofa armrest table? no one seems to agree on an official name for this thing!) is done!
And still useful! Here’s an updated pic of my living space in 2016, and they are still in use! Whether with a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine, the convenience is hard to beat.
P.S. Since this was originally posted, I was also asked whether you could use scrap plywood instead of solid wood: of course! You might have to be a little more careful with spills though if you don’t seal it well (plywood layers will expand if they are exposed to moisture and will look warped and won’t stay flat which kind of defeats the purpose of this simple design).
There are lots of things to do with scrap wood! Check out these ideas below (click on the image or the link to be taken to the tutorial).
Don’t let those cutoffs from bigger woodworking projects and home DIYs go to waste! Here are tons of ideas on how to reuse the scrap — you can make gifts, décor, and more!
Love any project that makes enjoying your drink easier. You also are a champion stainer! It looks amazing.
Thanks, Tracie! That sounds dirty when I read it out loud. LOL. But I appreciate it!
This is fantastic! We have a huge sectional in our living room and nowhere to put drinks down. I can see a few of these being added this upcoming weekend! Thank you!
I love it! I have been meaning to make myself one. This definitely seems like an afternoon project. Cheap & easy… just how i like it.
It's a keeper! Yours looks GREAT. Love the finish.
That is brilliant. I have a chair that is decidedly lacking in places to set down a beverage. I may have to do this exact same thing myself. Awesome!
Okay, this is kind of awesome! Who doesn't have that piece of furniture that is awkwardly out of reach of a table. Problems solved! LOVE IT! Love your finish too!
Any suggestions regarding an all yellow bathroom? It is fairly small so I was thinking about removing the yellow floor tiles (showing their age and the floor is only about 20 sq ft), and repainting the yellow paint but keeping the yellow square tiles around the shower (since they are in good shape and would be the costliest in terms of time and money).
My problem is what colors for the flooring and paint would go with yellow? I want to keep some flexibility so if more money/time is available down the road I could replace those as well.
Could I use some kind of grayish paint?
Being a single guy (computer profession) I know what I like when I see it but I'm not good at figuring out color schemes.
Rich, I think gray is an excellent choice with yellow. I'd keep it very pale, though. Search for “yellow tile” on Pinterest for some great examples of modern bathrooms with yellow tile. I'd also go with a maybe medium gray floor like this (see the middle of the page): http://www.sasinteriors.net/2012/03/sensational-standard-sized-bathrooms/
blue on the wall with light gray floor would look great with yellow
try painting the floor with wide stripes of dark gray and a narrow one of yellow so it doesn’t show the dirt. light gray walls in shower then you need a pop of color. go to lowes and pick up paint chips of colors you like and tack on the wall to see what you might like. then buy townes or shower curtain soap dishes etc in that color. that way you can change those colors until you get time and money to do it all up right. happy painting.
Cobalt blue, white and yellow make a great look together painted in some sort of scrolly design pattern!
This is SOOO brilliant!! I can't wait to do it!
That is a very good idea! I have sofas with very wide chunky arms but think this could work.
Love it! I saw one to buy on Pinterest but it was $200!! I am definitely going to make this. Thanks!
I saw it too. Who would pay that when they can be made for less than 10 dollars?
Great idea! My husband is a carpenter so now I am going to have him make me some for my couches.
My jaw dropped when I saw the price tag on the etsy version, especially knowing I could make something like that myself! I think yours is gorgeous–thank you for sharing!
-Rachael from The Rehomesteaders
I made one of these 2 Pinterest challenges ago (or was it three?). Anyway, they are so freaking handy. I wish I had more friends with square armrest-ed couches. I would be making them for everyone!
Nikki Kelly @ the ambitious procrastinator
You did a great job!
I would add some recessed cup holders!!
How did you attach the pieces of wood together?
Heavy duty wood glue. You can use pin nails or brackets, but I thought each of those would impact the look (I wanted any connections to be as invisible as possible). So far, with just wood glue on the bare wood, it’s held up very nicely.
As anyone tried using a kreg jig to attach the pieces? I wonder if that would work great or possibly snag the couch fabric. Any ideas?
It would probably work just fine as long as you use a thick enough piece of wood. I just used wood glue because it required less effort. Holds up nicely without screws, fyi.
Did you have to clamp the wood together until the glue set?
Honestly, no, though it’s not a bad idea. I essentially just let gravity do the work and let it dry on its side, then connected the third piece and let it dry too. I had several small cans of stain on hand that I used temporarily to weigh the top piece down onto the side while drying, which is not as good as a clamp but works when you’re lazy (like me). Thanks to some recent features, this project has popped up on people’s radar again, so due to some renewed requests I’ll put another one together next week and write up a tutorial so that there are in-progress pictures. It’s really easy to make!
Love the color of the sleeve, what brand and color stain did you use?
I’m I missing your step by step guide on how you put this couch sleeve together? You are the first DIYer that I have seen build a nice professional looking version. I would love to have more details on your step-by-step! I really want to build four of these this week!
I didn’t really put together a tutorial for this, though I always meant to. It was simply 3 pieces of wood that I cut and then glued together with a little bit of wood glue (measured to the appropriate width of my chair’s arms). I then stained and sealed it with a coat of poly. I meant to do a tutorial a long time ago, but it was a really simple project and was literally just 3 pieces of wood, then glue to secure (simple, straight cuts). You can secure it with finishing nails or do a fancier join if you prefer, but as you can see, it looks just fine without angled cuts. Thanks for the reminder though that a tutorial would still be helpful though! I’ll put it on my to-do list for next week.
hi Sarah i juss came across this website and am new,i liked what you did on that couch. Well am a talented guy easly learner especially on field,am handyman in who have just started,but the problem is am not registered and have no tools can u you help me please. i would appriciate your understanding
I don’t have a comment so much as a question- I studied French for years so I love the ‘A Votre Sante’ glass that’s pictured and was wondering where you bought it. I’ve looked online and couldn’t seem to find them anywhere. Thanks!
That glass was part of a gift set from CB2 that each said “cheers” in different languages. Unfortunately, they are no longer available for sale, but here’s an image so you can see what each one looked like. I also took a quick look online, and there is a set of champagne flutes with similar toasts here. Hope that helps!
I’m new to the blogging world and have just started to post the DIY projects that I do. I love, love this idea. I have so much scrap wood that I just may have to make one of these this weekend! It will also save my couch arms from my 13 year old! Thanks for the wonderful idea!
i love this i could see this with a rack on the side to hold remote control or a magazine this is going on my to do list
Your idea is so great! We always put our cups on the couch arms. I just finished two of these tables and we are no longer getting crazy if someone puts a hot cup on the couch.
I have written a small article – I’m sorry to say that it’s only in German :( – but you can look at the pictures and see my result as you like.
Thank you so much for this great idea!
Love it, great job!
This is such a nice idea. It looks clearly simple which ofcourse explains why you didn’t put up a tutorial for this one.. :D
It gives a nice edge to the sofa and looks really good. Thanks for sharing this DIY post, gonna share it on our FB page of DecorNation. :)
love your wooden couch sleeve “great idea’