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How to: Reupholster an Ottoman

reupholstering an ottoman

It’s been quite a week over here. Landon has been going through his 18 month sleep regression, which has been the toughest one yet. He was waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake for hours or waking up between 4am-5am and would not go back to sleep. I think what has made it so much tougher is that he’s also in that crazy toddler phase of asserting his independence but yet not being able to communicate what he wants, which makes for some awesome tantrums. Couple that with being extremely tired and you’ve got a recipe for some long nights and even longer days! There’s been an excessive amount of coffee consumed over here, just in case you were wondering 🙂

The good news is, I think (fingers crossed) we are one the other side of the sleep regression. Today he didn’t wake up until 5:30am with no middle of the night wake-ups, so that was a win in my book. The bad news is, now he is coming down with a cold 🙁 Poor guy can’t catch a break. We are now in operation “get baby better before he goes to Nana & Papa’s for a week” and “do everything possible to keep mom and dad from getting sick the week before vacation”. Please send reinforcements, stat!

I’m pretty excited about how this ottoman turned out! It’s the first time I’ve reupholstered anything. You might remember the toy box that I added padding and fabric to the top of (click here to see that post) but there is something different about ripping the fabric off of an existing piece of furniture that is a little scary. You don’t really know what you’re gonna find or what kind of shape it’ll be in.

old fabric covered ottoman
Philips head screwdriver
needle nose pliers
measuring tape
upholstery fabric of your choice
staple gun and staples

I found this little gem at Goodwill for 99¢. Crazy, right?!?! I didn’t really need it but I couldn’t pass it up for pocket change!

Step 1: Remove feet from ottoman. This can be easily done with a basic Philips head screwdriver. Each ottoman may be a bit different but on mine, the feet were attached with 2 screws on each side. Once the screws were removed, I was able to simply unscrew the leg from the ottoman that was held in place by those bolts you see on the end of the feet.

Step 2: Remove fabric. I had to first remove all the nail heads, which was a bit tedious but I got it done with some needle nose pliers and the claw end of a hammer. I then removed the black fabric that was covering the underside of the ottoman. This part you will want to be careful with, because you can reuse this fabric once you have recovered the main part of the ottoman. Since the fabric was stapled, I used the needle nose pliers to carefully pry up and remove each staple securing it. Finally, I removed the main fabric off the ottoman. I had no need to preserve this fabric so I just yanked it up, not minding if it ripped. Again, this fabric was stapled down so occasionally I used the needle nose pliers to pry it up.

Step 3: Cover ottoman with new fabric. When you are determining how much fabric you need, measure the top of the ottoman’s width and depth plus the height of the cushion on the sides. For example: my ottoman is 37″ wide x 23″ deep x 6″ tall. A bolt of upholstery fabric is typically 54″. I suggest giving yourself an extra 4″ of fabric to work with around the edges of your measurements. For the width of my fabric, I needed 57″ (37″ across + 6″ on each side + 4″ additional fabric on each side) and for the depth, I needed 43″. If your larger measurement is less than with width of the bolt then you can ask for the amount of fabric of our smaller measurement. For me, 57″ was larger than the width of the bolt so I needed ask for 57″ of fabric. Did that make any sense? I had the lady cut me 2 yards (72″) just to be safe, in case I messed up. I ended up having a ton of leftover fabric but I’m sure I’ll find a use for it 🙂 Here is the fabric I chose, from Joann’s. I would also pay attention to the pattern on your fabric, if the design is going to be impacted by where it lays on the ottoman. Since mine was a floral, it didn’t really matter which direction the print laid or if I got it a little bit crooked. Lay your fabric print side down, place the ottoman on top and begin stapling the fabric in place. Working on one side, pull the fabric over the edge of the ottoman and secure with staples leaving about 4″ unsecured on each end near the corners. For the first side, don’t worry about pulling the fabric tight, just keep it lined up with the edge of the wood to help keep the fabric straight, if you have something like that to work with. Once you are finished with the first side, move over the side directly opposite and continue the process, this time you will want to pull the fabric tight. I found it easier to stand the ottoman up on its side for this step. I pulled the fabric tight and stood it up on the side that I had just completed. This allowed me to be able to see the pattern as I was stapling side #2 and make any necessary adjustments as I went. When you are pulling your fabric tight, you don’t want it to be so tight that it ripples against the cushion but it should be tight enough that you don’t see excess fabric when you move your hand along the cushion with some pressure applied. Again, leave 4″ unsecured at each end, we will go back to the corners in the next step. Once you have secured sides 1 and 2, you will repeat those steps for the remaining 2 sides.

Step 4: Securing the corners. Working on one corner at a time, pull the fabric together at the corner of the ottoman. With your scissors laying flat against the surface of the ottoman, cut away the excess fabric so that it forms somewhat of a triangle. You also want to make sure that you don’t cover up any of the holes for attaching the feet so as you go, cutting and stapling, pay attention to those holes and make adjustments if necessary.

Next you will pull the fabric directly over the corner of the ottoman. This is going to create the pleat on each corner. When you pull the fabric over the corner, there will be a lot of extra fabric. You can trim most of that away, you only need an inch or so. I just used the hole for the feet as a guide and cut straight across the fabric where it would meet the hole and secured with a few staples.

Now you are going to tuck the extra fabric in to create the folds. You may need to play around with this part. I had to remove 1-2 staples here and there so that I could tuck the fabric in further. The biggest thing is you don’t want any bulky waded up fabric, it needs to lay flat, otherwise it will look funny. Once you have the fabric tucked in, you can line up the edge of the fold where you want it. I brought my edges almost completely together at the corner which still left pleat open about an inch at the top. Once you are happy with the pleat, secure with more staples, still paying attention to any holes that need to be exposed.

Step 5: Add the black fabric backing to the underside of the ottoman using staples.

Step 6: Reattach the feet to the ottoman. I painted the feet on mine with 3 coats of white chalk paint, Amy Howard One Step Chalk Paint in Bauhaus Buff. I also decided to add nail heads to give the ottoman a little extra detail. This isn’t necessary, purely a decorative detail. I used these 5/8″ round nickel nails from Joann’s. I placed the nails 1″ apart and it took 120 nails (7 packages) to complete.

And that’s that! Reupholstering is certainly a process but if you are getting an old piece of furniture for a good price, it can be totally worth it. Not sure I’m up for reupholstering anything big like a wingback chair! But, who knows, maybe I’ll be more brave in the future. Here’s a few more shots of the ottoman, including my little guy climbing all over it because if he sees something he can climb, he won’t hesitate to try 🙂

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