How we made a custom ottoman for $47!

I promised a tutorial for our ottoman, and we finally pulled it together. The entire process was actually pretty easy, and not even that time-consuming. Rick built the plywood frame several weeks ago and we upholstered the entire thing in a few hours. And did I mention that it was only $47? For a giant ottoman in which I can cram a whole bunch of junk and myself? Here’s the cost breakdown:
  • 4 yards of fabric: $12 (it was $3/yard red tag clearance at Joann’s—see why I love that place even though they think I’m crazy?)
  • 1 ½ sheets of 3/4" plywood: $22
  • Polyester batting: $11 for a giant roll, and we have plenty left over to...build an ottoman for every room of the house
  • 3” needle for tufting: $2 for a 4 pack
  • Thread: yanked from the fabric itself
  • Tack strips: left over from another project/free with purchase of Shredded Wheat (this will make sense as you continue reading)
Aaaand here is the step-by-step for how we used all of these items to make this, which we may have high-fived over a few times. :)

1. Build the frame. Rick used 1 ½ sheets of 3/4" plywood to build a box that was the size we wanted (60" wide, 18" high, 22" deep), and then supported the inner corners with scrap wood. He didn’t bother making the joints all fancy with the Kreg Jig since we knew we would just be covering up the ugliness. We could have chosen a nicer grade of wood, too, but it didn’t make sense since, well, we would just be covering it up. The lid is loose so that we can use the ottoman for storage.

2. Wrap the sides in batting. We stapled it to the underside of the box and then just smoothed the rest into place to avoid lumps around the upper rim. We used one layer of batting on the four sides and four layers on the lid so that our tufts would be more prominent.

3. Bring on the fabric! A box like this is really the easiest thing to upholster, especially if you’ve ever worked on a chair or something with temperamental curves. We find it helpful to start from a corner (as opposed to the middle) and smooth the fabric along as you staple. Pull the fabric tight but not so tight that you create little upholstery “love handles.” Here's a close-up of my fabric, which sort of looks like burlap but is much softer.

We upholstered the front and the back of the ottoman first, then used two kinds of tack strips to attach the sides. The first kind is this really exotic tack strip called Old Cereal Boxes Cut Into Appropriately Sized Strips manufactured by Company of Your Choice.

The second kind of tack strip that we used we bought from the store (for an earlier upholstery project), and looks like either super goth jewelry or a weapon with which great torture could be incurred:


Basically, it allows you to nail down the very last edge of fabric so that the raw edge of the fabric is hidden. You fold the fabric under the tack strip and then gently whack it from the outside with a soft mallet to attach it. This step occasionally brings on mild bitterness when being completed in our household can be tricky. See this video for a helpful visual about using tack strips.

4. Tuft your lid. This step is optional, of course, but we like the extra dimension the tufting adds. I actually pulled the thread from the fabric itself and used three strands for each tuft. This not only created a nice thick thread that blended in perfectly with the ottoman, but also didn’t force us to go buy some expensive thread.

We were going to use washers as our anchor for the tufts, but were cheap—again—and ended up using pieces of a cardboard box (slightly thicker than a cereal box). The picture says it all.

So that’s it: our custom ottoman! The inside isn't that great looking, but it is still a good place to store clutter. And cats.

This room has come a long way since April!

Oh--and see those frames above the window? That's our love letter art, which Heather from Dollar Store Crafts was very sweet to feature yesterday!

Hope everyone's having a fabulous weekend! :)

UPDATE: Go here for an improved version of this with new fabric, tufted buttons, and a brace for the lid!


  1. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhmazing! i'm pinning this so I can force the hubs into making one with me later! <3

  2. I also "pinned" this. You make it look easy. I'm trying to figure out if I need one anywhere...because it's so pretty!!!

  3. It turned out GREAT! Love the great tip about tack strips, and using the thread from the fabric for tufting. Genius!

  4. Love it! You guys are so resourceful. Cereal boxes? Really? If that isn't home decorating ingenuity I don't know what is :)
    And too funny, I used that same fabric to have a wingback upholstered recently. Only I paid $6 a yard. Boo :(

  5. You guys are so creative and talented. Love the DIY ottoman. Wonderful blog by the way, a new follower!


  6. Fabulous! My husband and I are making a (non-box) ottoman because I wanted an oversized one and could not find one anywhere...now we are looking for the right legs...hopefully we'll get it done before next year ! :-)

  7. totally AMAZING ottoman! I've been planning to make one for our living room, and I definitely like this style... hmm... so maybe I'll just have to do it on a giant scale! :)

  8. I LOVE the ottoman! And what an awesome before and after for your room! I'm so glad yo stopped by and checked out my DIY Stripe art!

  9. I just found this post and I am sooo glad that you shared this project! We've been wanting an ottoman to sit at the end of our bed and this is going to be perfect!

    Thanks so much!!

  10. Anonymous1/10/2012

    Oh I love this!! Thanks for the tute. I want an ottoman and I really just have to get the hubs to help me out... thanks for sharing!

  11. WOW I love it! Very inspiring!


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