Home furnishings can be tricky. Last year, when I purchased my home, I spent months brainstorming the ideal design aesthetic for the space, which would leverage the unique layout of the home as well as it complemented my current tastes. I wanted a chic – but comfortable – living area that reflected my personality.
While I splurged on a couple of key items, I was determined to seriously scrimp on others by taking a DIY approach. For instance, I fell in love with this tufted coffee ottoman (in indigo vintage velvet) from Restoration Hardware. But the $1,500 price tag was not going to happen, so… I started tossing around the idea of making a similar version myself.
Let me begin by saying: I’ve never upholstered a single thing in my life. My eagerness in tackling this project was entirely fueled by the fact that I had no idea how difficult it would actually be. In my mind, all that I needed was a wooden box base, a bit of fabric and a few hand tools. Easy, right? (Somewhere, stockholders of Jo-Ann Fabrics are evilly smiling and clasping their hands.)
I’ve got to be honest, this ottoman isn’t going to win any awards for precision, but it absolutely works for my needs. It’s comfortable enough to sit on or to rest your feet, and with a tray on top, it’s a perfect place for setting down drinks or snacks. Best of all, because it’s custom and all (cough – I mean, I made it myself – cough), the dimensions are spot on.
So, let’s walk through the process in case you’re interested in one-upping me with a fancier version of my DIY tufted ottoman.
Step One: I started by picking up the longest length of navy “velvet” fabric I could find in the Jo-Ann Fabric clearance rack. It was a measly $18 for five yards (score!), but now, a year after I constructed the ottoman, I wish I would have chosen a much better quality fabric. Lesson numero uno.
Then, I cut a strip off of one end of the fabric to use for matching fabric buttons. Jo-Ann’s only had a couple of packages of these plastic one-inch buttons, but I found a few more metal button packs at Hobby Lobby for the same price. Based on the design I had in my head, I’d need 24 buttons.
Then, I gathered the remaining materials. This included a wooden box that my sweet dad crafted for me using scrap plywood at his shop. Lesson numburo dos: the plywood used for my ottoman was much thicker than it needed to be. While this is definitely a sturdy piece of furniture, it’s insanely heavy, and was a little tough to work with, too.
In addition to the wooden “frame,” I bought enough high-density foam and batting to cover the entire ottoman, spray adhesive, upholstery thread and needle.
Step Two: First, I measured and marked my “button holes,” which would be used for tufting. My version had far fewer than the Restoration Hardware version; tufting was the trickiest part, after all. After marking the entire box with pencil, I broke out a handheld drill to make quarter-inch holes at each mark. The toughest part was figuring out how I would handle the top corners. I wanted a soft look to the ottoman, so I decided to drill holes in each of the top corners so that the accent piece would have a rounded appearance.
Step Three: Next up was the high-density foam. This was the priciest material to purchase; I think that it came in around $80 for enough two-inch thick foam to cover the entire ottoman. I sprayed one piece and satisfactorily stuck it onto the ottoman before realizing that I’d have no clue where the button hole was located beneath it. So… I tore it off, eyed it up and marked it as closely as I could with a felt marker before re-sealing it. (Note: The spray adhesive wasn’t a perfect solution. Some of the foam didn’t seem to adhere too well, but I figured that once the tufting was in place, it would be secure.)
And then, I used a variety of sharp objects (see photo above, and below) to try to cut through the foam so that the buttons would require less pressure, and create a deeper tuft, once pulled through. Lesson numero tres: This was a pain in the a**. But, I don’t have a better solution to offer up. That said, I’m positive that there is one.
Step Four: Another soft spray of adhesive to the entire foam-covered piece, and then I laid batting atop and over the sides of the ottoman. For a cushier look, I doubled up and added a second layer of batting across of the top.
Step Five: Oooh, now’s the good part. You know, where it starts looking less like a complete disaster, and more like the lovely vision I had imagined. (I believe I poured myself a glass of wine at this point. You might note, by the way, the change in natural light in these photos. That’s because this thing took me about 8 hours to complete solo.)
I draped the fabric over the ottoman, and it just. barely. fit. So, I started at the top, in the center, using the upholstery thread to secure the buttons. First, to make sure that the fabric was pulled tightly enough, I used a staple gun and stapled right where I wanted the button to be. Then, after threading the button into place, I used the staple gun again to secure the thread to the inside of the wooden box.
After the top tufts were in place, I moved to the long sides, followed by the top corners, and capped off with the end tufts.
Step Six: I used my favorite tool (read: staple gun) once more to secure all of the remaining fabric to the bottom and inside of the wooden box base. There wasn’t much to secure, since my cut of fabric was hardly generous. But, somehow, everything ended up covered. This was a small miracle.
The total cost? Roughly $200.
And viola, here is what the final result looked like that evening, after the floor had been vacuumed:
And, here is how the ottoman looks today, a year of wear-and-tear later, with a much better-suited tray atop it: