DIY: How to Upholster an Ottoman

Hello Friends,

I’ll skip the “Happy Monday” greeting….is there ever really a happy Monday?  Between the rain, the cold weather, and the time change, it has been a rough start.  All I want to do is curl up in my sweats, eat Cheetos, and binge watch HGTV.  Anyone with me?

Okay, so the binge TV time will have to wait, as I know you all are eagerly awaiting some DIY inspiration.  Especially if you got the sneak peek of this project over on Instagram yesterday!

Right now I am in the middle of re-arranging my living area, and Sunday I decided it was finally time to address the large white space in the room.OttomanBefore2

Yep, I am talking about that large, white vinyl ottoman that sticks out like a sore thumb.  This thing has some miles.  My mom and I picked it up at an auction in Kansas City at least 10 years ago when I needed furniture for my first apartment.

Since then it has been used in 5 apartments, my parents house, and now back to our house.  The shape and size are great, but that vinyl is terrible.OttomanBefore

Recently I came across these fantastic 1970s curtains at my local thrift store for $5.99.  The fabric was so unique I bought all 4 panels, knowing they would be perfect for something.  Three of the panels were used to make these fun cactus pillows that have been a huge hit on Instagram.  When I came across the last panel in my office on Sunday, I knew it was perfect for this upholstery project!CurtainPrice

A full supplies list will follow at the end of the tutorial, but I couldn’t help photograph how little you need to get started in upholstery!

Two supplies are not pictured, as I didn’t realize I would need them until I got halfway into the project.  These curtain panels are super thick, much like traditional upholstery fabric.  Because of that thickness, I ended up added a hammer and tacks to my supplies list.  The tacks are optional, but I HIGHLY recommend having them on hand before starting your upholstery project.Supplies


Before the upholstery can begin, I needed to prep my fabric.  The curtain panel I chose to use had 5 pleats across the top, all stitched and secured by the fabric backer you see pictured below.CurtainBack

Using your scissors, carefully cut through the thread tacks and stitch lines securing the pleats.  Once all of the pleats are removed, you are left with a smooth, flat fabric panel to work with.CurtainTacksRemoved

As you can tell in the photo below, I have plenty of fabric on the short ends.  However, I was concerned that the curtain panel may not be wide enough to reach across the long edges of the ottoman.FabricLayout

Before stapling or cutting anything, I stretched the panel across the long edges to be sure I had enough fabric.  Remember with upholstery the fabric must get stretched tightly, so as long as there is enough fabric to staple to the ottoman frame, you are good to go!CheckWidth

Next I cut the excess fabric from the short ends of the ottoman.  Be sure to give yourself enough to work with, but not too much.  Any excess fabric in upholstery will have to be tucked, smoothed, or trimmed, so less is better.CutExcess

Now typically this would be the step where I would tell you to remove the ottoman legs.  It is MUCH easier to do all your upholstery work, and then re-attach the legs at the very end.  In this case, the legs of this ottoman are glued in place.  Because of that small detail, you will see me working around the legs throughout this project.  FabricLayout2

Now that the fabric panel is trimmed to size, it’s time to start attaching it to the ottoman.  I chose to start with one of the 2 long edges.  I start in the center, pulling the fabric taut and putting in the first staple.StapleStart

Continue to pull the fabric taut and staple every few inches.StapleStart2

Once you’ve secured one long edge, hop over to the other side and repeat.  Now the fabric is being stretched across the top of the ottoman so be sure to pull extra tight when securing this second side.  If the fabric isn’t pulled tightly, your finished project will sag and have wrinkles or folds on the surface.SidesStapled

Now comes the fun part– folding and finished the corners.  Start by folding in the edge of excess fabric, almost as if you were wrapping a present.CornerFold

Be sure to keep the fabric edge that is getting tucked in smooth and flat.  CornerFold2

I like to hold that tucked in edge firm with my left hand and use my right hand to bring up the corner that will be stapled in place.CornerFold3

Once the corner is smoothed and folded into place, it is time to staple.  What you cannot see in the photo here is that my fabric layers were too thick, causing my staples to pull right out.  Luckily these photos don’t have sound either, as there were a few grunts and expletives when I realized my staples weren’t going to cut it…CornerStaple

Since the staples were not holding the fabric in place, I chose to secure the corners with 9/16″ cut tacks.  Hammering the tacks in place is more time consuming than the staple gun, but will hold up much better over time.

Don’t worry if the corners look a little messy, as you can see mine are!  We are about to hide those messes!CornerNail

Not only were my corners messy, but my edges were jagged and uneven where I trimmed off the excess fabric.  Since I am trying to improve upon my amateur upholstery skills, I decided to finish the edges in a way that would cover up all those staples and my uneven trim job.

I had a little scrap fabric from the curtain panel so I cut 4 strips of the fabric, each measuring to fit one side of the ottoman.TrimPieces

I laid each fabric strip over my trimmed and stapled edge, then nailed in place.  The staples had already secured the fabric, so there isn’t a need for too many tacks.  I spaced mine every 3-4 inches.

*Be sure to place tacks in between the staples.  Nailing tacks directly onto staples doesn’t work so well…*NailTrim

At first I was regretting the extra time and effort this trim job was going to take.  But seeing the results completely changed my mind.  It looks so much better!  And much more professional!FinishedTrim

The room is still yet to be finished, but I have to say, this newly upholstered ottoman already makes the space look better!OttomanAfter2OttomanAfter

What do you think?  Are you ready to tackle this project on your own?  Below is your full supplies list:

Ottoman Upholster Supplies List:

  • Ottoman or small footstool to recover (Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, and thrift stores are a great place to find starter projects with low investment)
  • Fabric yardage to cover the furniture piece (Again, I prefer using vintage of thrifted materials.  Be sure to select a fabric that is heavy and durable.  It must hold up to the pulling and stretching of upholstery, as well as the wear and tear it will experience in the home.
  • Scissors
  • Staple Gun (I use the Arrow Fastener)
  • Staples (Arrow brand)
  • 9/16″ Cut Tacks (Optional, but HIGHLY recommend if using thicker fabrics)
  • Hammer

One last look at the before and after:

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!  Is this tutorial helpful?  Any additional hints you would add or would like to see?


1 thought on “DIY: How to Upholster an Ottoman”

  1. Your great grandmother would be thrilled that u have inherited her upholstery talent. Turned out nice. Doesn’t stand out in the room so much.

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