Hunt Press

Boat Refit — The Three Couch

TresChicThe only thing on this whole boat that I hated, was the couch.

It was original to the boat, which means 1991 French chic. Pink, blue, and green, in what I think was intended to be sort of tropical stripey coolness… but really just ended up being ghastly. I have hated this couch literally since we saw the original pics on YachtWorld. I had one upholsterer look at it, pause slowly, roll her words around in her mouth for a moment, and then gently say, “well, yeah, I can see why you wanted to talk to me…”

When we first brought the boat back to Emeryville, I priced getting the couch replaced. And almost died when it was going to be roughly $5K, give or take a little. We decided to put that off. As long as possible.

But but but… it was ugly. I mean, really ugly. I covered it up with blankets and pillows and after a while, I just sort of pretended I didn’t see it. It really didn’t break my heart when three kids ravaged it. At first it was babies and baby splatter, but then it was toddlers, and those messes, and then they got energetic and started running back and forth, and smearing peanut butter on it, and… you know. Kids. Upholstery. Ew.

I took the covers off and washed them a few times. The water was utterly black and grody and disgusting and… three washes later, the gunk was gone, but the fabric was clearly suffering. I was reminded that there were twenty years of salty (literally; sweat and spray) sailors on those cushions before my kids got to them. And the zippers and the careful and ornate construction of the cushions really weren’t meant to be taken apart and cleaned multiple times. Like many boat things, it’s not assumed you’ll make daily use of it, let alone live on it.

The result? This:


And this:


 …because the fabric had disintegrated down to bare foam in those two high-traffic spots, and then I’d patched them, and then the patches wore through. I finally gave up. The rest of the couch looked like this:


It was so awful, I was actually not letting people come over.  Because when you first stepped into the salon, that was what you were facing. Ew ew ew. Vain of me, but there you have it.

This couch, which Rowan named “the three couch” for its shape, stretches the whole width of the salon. It’s curvy, which makes it more complicated to create covers for, and there are a gazillion different cushions, because the table drops to make a sleeping space on passage. It’s an awesome design but, as I said, not cheap. And a bunch of people got all DIY on me… except that this was the kind of job that really, really ought to be done by pros. Did I mention, fiddly? Thoroughly fiddly. This was really not a job for a first time amateur with questionable equipment (keep in  mind, I rebuild the winches on this boat, but that kind of fiddly doesn’t give me the wiggins the way fabric does). I was pretty sure we were looking at all new foam too, and the dollar signs were racking up in my head. We contacted Mike at 5-Star Upholstery here in League City. He came highly recommended by a few people. not the least of whom being our former neighbor, Steve at Alternate Latitude. Mike did his (nicely straight and not curvy, sigh) salon cushions, and did a great job.

Mike was awesome. We took up a ton of his time, he and his assistant Shel came out to the boat, took measurements, poked around. We went back to the shop, and pored over fabric samples, with Mike throwing in his $.02 about durability, stain resistance, and the hideous things kids and salt water could do to simple cushions. We picked out our fabric, and waited for the crew.

Because the project was so huge and, y’know, the center of my living space, they suggested that they do it in stages. First up, paper templates of the seat cushions.


Marco, who did the actual sewing, was amazing. Mike’s son (whose name I never did catch) mostly did the heavy lifting, and was very personable.


Then they left with the paper. A few days later, they were back with the cut foam.


and more


A few days later they came back, so happy, because they’d finished my seat cushions. Mike’s son was so excited, “Here they are! They’re done!”

And they were wrong.

Somehow Mike had written down the wrong fabric ID number, and instead of the gorgeous stuff we picked out, there was this… other… stuff. Same color, but wrong. Mike asked me if I could live with it. I told him I’d think it over. I talked to a few friends. Most of them agreed with Lilia, who said, “You will be looking at the wrong fabric every day for the next twenty years and it will be pissing you off. So, no, go with the stuff you picked.” So we talked to Mike, and he reluctantly, and painfully, agreed to reorder the right stuff, rip the existing cushions apart, and start over. Customer service win.

A week passed, and then another, and then… cushions!!!!! The bottoms, which were awesome, and then the tops, and then, my oh my, it was done.


Tell me that doesn’t look soooo much better. And as a nice gesture, Mike even threw in a few throw pillows.


The half-moon cushion on the floor is going to be the topper to a cabinet that Jason’s making to go in that spot. For now, though, it’s a great sprawling spot for the kids.

Here’s the fabric:


You can see that the pattern is very much like Chinese clouds, or Japanese waves, or quite like the tattoo on my arm… it’s perfect for us, it suits us, and it makes the salon a far more pleasant place to sit in, now that I don’t have to pretend to not see the largest feature in it.

All the cushions are solidly done, comfy, well-built, and in subtle ways improvements on the old ones. I am deliriously happy with them, and I look at it every day and smile.

Now, on to redoing the headliner, and insulating, oh, and the curtains… it’s going to be a busy summer.