For the kid at heart: Build the ultimate cushion fort

When we were younger, many of the Movoto Real Estate bloggers built cushion forts. Some of us used these tiny hidey-holes to fend off aliens. Others among us explored labyrinthine caves. And still others among us stacked the cushions high and watched TV on rainy afternoons.

Just thinking of pillow forts brings back memories of simpler times. Call us nostalgic, but we miss these comfy dens. In fact we missed them enough that we decided to fend off our rainy day blues a few weeks ago by building our own cushion fort (under the guise of a team-building exercise, of course).

We called it Fort Comfort -- and it was awesome!

Like all cushion forts, we designed our giant office hangout on the fly. What you would find inside Fort Comfort includes:

  • Multiple desks
  • A nifty flag mounted on a crutch
  • Near total darkness
  • A swinging door
  • Layers of comfy pillows
  • A secret escape tunnel

It was exactly what was needed to get over our funk and get back to our novelty real estate blogging. Maybe it was because we were working inside the cozy pillow cave, but we couldn’t get the cushion forts off our minds. It didn’t take long for us to ask several questions:

  • How many couch cushions would it take to build a real fort? In this case, the Alamo.
  • How much would this fort cost?
  • How long could a person last in a dimly lit fort without falling asleep?

What did we learn? We estimate it would take about 3,800 sofa cushions to build the Alamo, which includes space for doors. This mighty cushion fort would cost somewhere between $94,050 and $253,365 -- depending on how you come across your cushions.

Read on if you’re interested in how we came up with our numbers.

Why the Alamo?

The country is full of forts (cushion and otherwise), but there are only a couple that are recognizable to most people. Perhaps the most well known is Fort Knox. This legendary fort was our initial choice for our project.

Un-fort-unately, we had trouble finding information about the compound. (We’ll admit that it’s probably a good thing that you can’t quickly access the layout to the nation’s gold depository with Google.)

This led us to our second choice -- the venerable Alamo.

One of Texas’s most popular tourist sites, the Alamo -- a former Roman Catholic mission -- is best known for its pivotal role in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops attacked the Alamo Mission, killing its defenders, which included notables James Bowie and “king of the wild frontier” Davy Crockett. The deaths helped spur the Texas Revolution.

Today the Alamo is a museum in downtown San Antonio maintained by the Texas General Land Office.

How’d We Do It?

To come up with our calculations, we needed to know two things:

  • The size of the Alamo
  • The size of a couch cushion

We’ll start with the Alamo.

Remember the Alamo, Literally

Today’s Alamo isn’t exactly the same as its most famous iteration. To come up with our figure, we decided to use the dimensions of the compound during The Battle of the Alamo. This version of the Alamo had some pretty bizarre dimensions. When we found it necessary, we estimated the width and length of some the Alamo’s rooms.

We used this helpful educational packet, which had the added benefit of making us feel like we were on a junior high school field trip. Thankfully, this type of nostalgia is what we were going for.

We measured two parts of the Alamo:

  • The church
  • The long barracks

After we found each section’s length, width, and height, we needed to know the size of a typical sofa cushion.

Furniture, Meatballs, Fort Material

If you’re in search of cheap furniture, there’s only one place to go–IKEA. This wonderland of inexpensive housing items is perfect for cushion fort enthusiasts looking to save a buck.

There’s a second point to be made as well. If you take an informal poll of your under-the-age-of-30 friends, we are betting more than a few either own or know someone who owns a couch from the Swedish brand. Chances are good they own this sofa -- probably in white.

It came as no surprise that one of our bloggers actually owns the IKEA EKTORP sofa. This made measuring a cushion easy.

One note: We went with a quadrilateral and ignored cushions with the awkward section that juts out around the armrest. This made our calculations easier.

From here it was simple math.

So how many cushions would it take to build the Alamo? Our estimate: 3,800 sofa cushions. This includes the church and barrack, but not the interior walls. We calculated this number by dividing the dimensions of the Alamo by the dimensions of our sofa cushion.

To help you comprehend the amount of cushions it would take, think of it in this light: if a couch has six cushions, it would take about 635 sofas. That’s 635 trips to IKEA for a grand total of $253,365, not including taxes.

Perhaps it would be more practical to skip IKEA and order cushions from an online upholstery vendor. This would come to $94,050, but we’re sure you could get a bulk deal.

Next time you’re feeling nostalgic, remember the Alamo.

Bonus: As Difficult as Breaking Into…

We mentioned earlier that figuring out how many sofa cushions it would take to build Fort Knox was next to impossible. Why? Fort Knox is large, really large.

When most people think of the fort, they assume it is only several buildings that house the nation’s gold depository. In fact, Fort Knox sits on 190,000 acres and is home to the Army Human Resource Center. The fort’s buildings have a combined square footage of 17,574,825 feet, according to this guide.

What most people mean when they refer to Fort Knox is the United States Bullion Depository, a fortified vault adjacent to the fort.

Being the Internet sleuths we are, we attempted to find a layout for the building, but came up short. What we learned was dimensions of the massive two-story vault inside the facility are 105 by 121 feet, which comes to 12,705 square feet.

Our best guess is that it would take 4,366 sofa cushions to build the outside of the vault (four sides and a roof). This number, however, could change drastically depending on the thickness of the vault’s walls.


David Cross is a writer for Movoto and former journalist. The Movoto blog is a service of Movoto Real Estate.

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