DIY: Modern Outdoor Chaise Lounge

This beauty is the very first outdoor furniture that I designed and built (with my father’s help) for my back porch.  My husband and I have a love of Frank LLoyd Wright’s Prairie Style. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of architecture, homes designed in this style have bold, horizontal lines that echo the prairie landscape. Pictured here is his famous house, Falling Water. It’s about simplicity and creating interesting compositions with shapes that seem to jut out and float above the ground magically.  I love that my chaise lounge is as beautiful from the back as it is the front.  Learn how we built this outdoor sofa chaise!

How this chaise lounge was born!

This Prairie style chaise was designed and planned in SketchUp.  I like SketchUp because I find it super easy to use to model 3D objects.  It’s also a free program – anyone can download and learn to use it. I modeled this chaise in 3D and then figured out the sizes and lengths of wood to actually build it. In fact, I used SketchUp and InDesign to create a complete set of step-by-step instructions to build this beauty.  

Modeling in SketchUp was the fun part!  It’s a chance to be creative and model whatever comes to mind.  I love starting with an inspiration, like Prairie Style architecture and then creating whatever my right-brain imagines!  I actually modeled a whole collection of Prairie Style furniture!  Creating in 3D – it is literally the best feeling! And the best part – this chaise is exactly what I wanted, exactly what I designed, and only cost me a day to build and the cost of the materials (less than $250)!  C’mon, something like this in a catalogue would run you at least $1200!

List of Lumber Purchased:

(2) – 2x2x8′ cedar planks

(1) – 2x4x8′ cedar plank

(1) – 2x6x8′ cedar plank

(14) – 1x4x8′ cedar planks

(2) – 1x6x8′ cedar planks

Getting Started - set the stage

So, like my other designs that I’ve built, I took my instructions to the lumber store to purchase the sizes and quantity of cedar needed.  Then I cleared the driveway and set up shop.  I like to have a setup where the uncut boards are stacked to one side, the miter saw is set up in the middle, and plenty of space on my other side to lay out my cut and labeled pieces. I think it’s best to make most of your cuts first and then begin assembling the parts.   Some pieces will need to be test-fit before cutting and can wait until you’re ready for them.  

With this particular design, the biggest challenge for me was really just the size of the pieces. Laying such long assemblies, like the seat frame, out on those saw horses was not easy.  If I had a giant work bench on which I could lay out the pieces, I think it would have gone a bit smoother.  Next time, I’ll just get a giant plywood board to set on top of the saw horses as a make-shift work bench and save myself a lot of headache.

Up first - assemble the seat frame

The seat frame was pretty easy, after all it’s just a big rectangle.  I added the triangle cuts to the corners for stability.  They were glued and screwed in.  Also since this build was done with the bare minimum of tools (a miter saw, a drill, a sander) I have a lot of exposed screw heads.  These can be avoided if you have fancy joinery tools or a pocket hole jig.  Learn more about that in my article, A Proper Screwhere.


Keeping it simple, but modern

This piece is really just 3 assemblies that come together to make the chaise lounger: a side arm panel, a back panel, and the seat frame. 

I love how the components have elements that are offset, or intentionally not aligned.  The foot that holds up the corner of the seat is offset from the edge so the edge of the seat frame juts out and cantilevers out above the ground.  The back panel and the side arm panel supports are offset and leave an open corner.  Design elements like that were planned intentionally to celebrate the prairie style.

Finishing touches

Also, with this piece I ordered a custom seat and side panel cushion to the specific dimensions of this chaise.  I could have gone with 3 pre-made seat cushions but really wanted the crisp, clean look of just one cushion.  Sounds more expensive than it is.  There are plenty of places online to buy custom cushions at reasonable prices.


Like the look of Prairie?

The Complete Instructions Are Available For Purchase.
They Are Made For Beginner DIYers!

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2 thoughts on “DIY: Modern Outdoor Chaise Lounge”

  1. Very distinctive; the set is beautiful and unusual. Best feature: it’s one of a kind that you won’t find at a furniture retailer.

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