Backless couch from The Price

Sofa from The Price

We recently closed Arthur Miller’s The Price at Triad Stage (preceding the Broadway version by a few weeks). With a week before tech, a concern arose that the “Biedermeier-style” sofa blocked too many sightlines. We needed a backless version, and since nothing like that exists in our stock, I had to build one.

Tracing the profile
Tracing the profile

The designer, Fred Kinney, found a research image he liked. The photograph was taken straight on from the front, so I was able to trace it directly onto some plywood with an overhead projector.

Cut outs
Cut outs

I made each front and back piece out of three pieces of plywood and doweled them together. I have some temporary blocks attached in the photograph above to help clamp them. They will also be held together in the back by the cushion frame.

Building the base
Building the base

The base for the cushion was just a simple platform frame.

Cushion
Cushion

The cushion for the couch was a separate piece made of high density foam on top of a sheet of oriented strand board (OSB). The whole thing can be removed from the couch at any time. The plywood from the home improvement stores is so prone to warping; I’ve switched to OSB for my upholstered pieces because it is one of the flattest sheet goods you can buy there. It is really cheap too, though it does add a bit of weight and you have to build a good frame underneath it.

Armrest
Armrest

The armrests needed to be long pieces of solid wood shaped into a rolling curve. I traced the curve onto several smaller pieces of lumber, and cut away most of the waste with several passes through the table saw. After gluing the pieces together, I smoothed all the angles into curves using a belt sander.

Unpainted piece
Unpainted piece

I routed the edges of the front and back to give them a decorative profile. The armrests were screwed in, but I also ran a large through-dowel to help support them since actors were going to be resting there. I also doubled up the plywood on the legs and arms to make them appear thicker and to give more structure.

Backless couch from The Price
Backless couch from The Price

The inside panels of the arms were covered in fabric, while the outside panels were capped with a piece of wiggle wood. The whole thing was painted and covered in amber shellac. I found two rosettes in stock and added them to the center for that final decorative touch.

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