Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Make an Ottoman

Overview: You'll upholster a piece of plywood and attach it to a wood base made of 1x4s and wood legs to make this ottoman. 


- 1 - 36" x 36" square of 3/4" plywood - you can adjust your sizes to make a larger or smaller ottoman 
- 1 - 12" x 34" x 3/4" plywood
- 4 - 36" x 36" x 1" wood
- 4 - wood legs - available in limited styles at Home Depot or Lowes - I used 9" legs from Van Dyke's Restorers
- wood stain or paint
- 1 - 36" x 36" x 4" piece of foam
- high loft batting
- 2 yards of fabric
- 13 buttons with shanks covered in your fabric
- waxed upholstery thread - you can find this at Hobby Lobby or Hancock Fabrics
-  288" welting/cord covered in your fabric

- Drill/Driver
- Saw
- 1 1/2" wood screws
- 8 - 3" wood screws
- Upholstery Needles
- Heavy Duty Staple Gun and Staples


1.  Paint or stain your legs

Unfinished Legs
2.  Cut a piece of 3/4" plywood into a 36" square.  You will attach foam and batting to the top of this piece.  You can make your ottoman smaller or larger, just be sure to adjust all your measurements accordingly. 

3.  Cut two 36" long 1 x 4s pieces.  Then cut two  (approximately) 34" long 1x4 pieces so that you can form a 36" square.  Did you know that a 1x4 isn't really one inch by four inches?  That's the nominal length.  The actual length is less.  To determine the exact length you need, measure the width of each of the 36" pieces you just cut.  Add the two widths together then subtract that from 36" to determine the length you need.

4.  Screw the four pieces you just cut to form a square (see picture below)

5.  Cut a 4x4 into four approximately 4" inch tall pieces.  Again, 4" dimension is the nominal length.  You'll need to cut it to match the height of the 1x4s you used to create your square. 

6.  Attach the 4x4 pieces to the corners of the square with 3" wood screws making sure that the top of the 4x4 is flush with the top of the wood square (see picture below)

36" square frame with 4x4 enforced corner

7.  Cut a 12" wide piece of plywood to fit flush inside the square.  Use wood screws to attach this piece to the top of the frame.  Make sure the top of this piece is flush with the top of the square frame (see picture below).

8.  Attach legs.  My legs had tenons so I had to drill holes for the tenons into the 4 x 4 side pieces.  I then applied wood glue to the holes and attached the legs.  The holes for the tenons should be tight.   Most of the legs available at Home Depot or Lowes were attached by screwing the legs into a metal plate.  If you have this kind of leg you'll need to attach the plate to the bottom of the 4 x 4 side pieces and then screw the legs into the plate.

Drilling holes for tenons.  You're not really supposed to use a power drill for this sort of thing,
but I used one because that's all I had.  My legs are pretty firmly attached to the frame.
9.  Drill holes in the 36" plywood square for tufts.  I used 13 buttons.  You can use more or less.  I drilled the holes in a diamond pattern (see drawing above). You can use a diamond pattern or square pattern. Its just a matter of preference. 

10.  Cover the 36" plywood square with 4" thick foam.  I could only find foam that was 24" wide so I had to piece the foam together to make a 36" square.

4" thick foam pieced together to make a 36" square

11.  Cover the foam with batting and staple the batting to the back of the wood.  See picture below

Batting stapled to the back of the 36" plywood square.

12.  Cover your buttons with fabric. I initially used a button covering kit from the fabric store but I found that it didn't really work very well with the fabric that I was using.  I ended up just cutting fabric that was slightly larger than the button and sewing it on the back of the button.  Make sure not to cover the button shank.

13.  Upholster your ottoman!   There are lots of tutorials on the internet that describe this process so I won't detail the process.  I would suggest you just look through these tutorials and see what works best for you.  I don't think that DIY tufting is an exact science so it may take some trial and error to achieve the look you're going for.  I definitely did a lot of erring.    This tutorial form Censational Girl  is pretty similiar to the process I followed.  A couple of hints and suggestions though:
 - Double thread your buttons with waxed upholstery thread.  You don't want to risk your thread breaking. 
 - Many bloggers recommend that you cut holes in the batting and foam to achieve a deep tuft but I didn't   
- If you do not cut holes in the batting and foam for each tuft, it really helps to have someone to help push down on each button while you'll the thread through and staple it tightly from the bottom
- If you do not have someone to push down on the button, you can use my (patent-pending) method of turning the ottoman top bottom side up on top of a small bottle or shot glass on the floor so that the button is resting on the top of the shot glass/bottle.  Then you can kneel on the back of the ottoman to put pressure on the button and leave your hands free to pull and staple.

14.  Cover your welting/cording in fabric.  Here's a great tutorial from Curbly  on how to cover your cording.  To cover the cording/welting I cut four 37" inch long pieces.  I sewed these (with a 1/2" seam allowance) end to end to create a loop.  Then I used the fabric loop to cover the welting.  I did this so that the seams in the welting would line up at the corners of the ottoman.   

15. Cover the sides of the frame with fabric.  Staple the fabric on the inside of the frame so that no staples show on the outside of the frame.

Fabric covering bottom of ottoman frame

16.  Staple the flat edge of the welting to the bottom edge of the upholstered top. 
Welt stapled to bottom of upholstered top
Close up of welting

17.  Screw the upholstered top to the frame.  To do this, place the upholstered top on the floor bottom side up.  Place the frame on top making sure that your welting is even along the outside edge.  Use wood screws to screw the plywood cross piece of the frame to the plywood upholstered top. 

Upholstered top screwed onto the wood frame. 
Yes, the bottom of this ottoman is a hot mess.
If you want really professional results, you'll cover this fabric decking.

18.  Turn over your ottoman, pat yourself on the back, and put your feet up!

Put feet here!


  1. Hi Christy!

    Thanks so much for your visit to my blog and for your very sweet comment!

    This tutorial is really ottoman is actually next on my project to-do list, so I'll definitely be back for your helpful tips! Your ottoman looks great!!!


  2. A fantastic DIY project and a fantastic ottoman!

  3. Really nice, love the material. Been wanting to make one for ages and this one ticks all the boxes.Can't wait to get started.