Beauty and the Budget: Project Ottoman

Who doesn’t love an eye-catching and functional ottoman? It’s a nice first project because it feels like a real piece of furniture.  It serves as a bench or a footstool; it holds a tray of tea; and it brings a splash of color into a (pre-furnished) room instantly.  Since I don’t have a car, I carried the below ottoman on top of my pram (stroller) from the outdoor flea market to the bus stop and then onto the bus with me.  It was only £5 and I couldn’t resist.

Now I am not gonna lie, if we were living the states almost every part of this posting would have been easier.  I miss easy access to massive stores like Michaels’ Crafts or Home Depot.  When I first moved overseas I had no idea where to find any equivalent to the above, and so I decided to take things into my own hands.  I needed to get some lovely things into our sterile flat and I needed them fast.  The completion of this project was a few months back, and I have since come across the UK equivalents.  However, I decided to share the original process below. On some of the steps I have listed 2 options: one for those with limited access to large craft/home decorating stores (unless you order online and that gets really pricey-or take a bus or cycle to find them!) and a second set for those who do.

Here are the essentials:

  • Ottoman      
  • Fabric      
  • Scissors      
  • Screwdriver      
  • Sand paper      
  • Acrylic Paint or semi-gloss (or low lustre) latex paint or spray paint
    • (Acrylic Paint-300ml/3 oz.      semi-gloss paint-1/2 quart     spray paint-one can)      
  • Glue gun/sticks or staple gun

Let’s Begin:

  1. Remove the ottoman cushion by unscrewing the screws underneath.  Unfortunately, the ottoman I found didn’t have screws fastening it, thus I had to just leave the cushion on and work around the frame.
  2. First, sand the legs to strip away the shinny finish.  Just a light sanding, to remove the gloss.  (100 grit Sandpaper in UK-Boswells/Robert Dyer/Wickes/Home Base)
  3. Now you’re ready to paint!  I used white acrylic paint since I didn’t have spray paint.  I let it dry for a few hours and applied 2 more coats. Since we live in a complex, I was camping out in the stairwell, but if you don’t have little hands to worry about just lay down a tarp in your living room with an open window.  The only downer with this impromptu acrylic finish is that it won’t be glossy and it won’t be able to protect the piece from scratches, the way that other paints would.  I am fine with this since I know I am only living here for 3 years and won’t be carrying it back to the US in my suitcase. I let it dry over night. (White acrylic paint in the UK-The Works for £2.99 and brushes for 99p) (Spray Paint/Semi-gloss latex paint in the UK-Wickes/Home Base)  If you have access to a home improvement store choose a spray paint or a semi-gloss latex paint. Don’t be afraid of bright colors!  If using paint, do at least 3 coats with a brush and a 24-hour dry. If spraying, do at least 2 coats and a 24-hour dry.
  4. I found this lovely fabric sample at the same outdoor market for only £4 pounds! I made sure it would cover the ottoman and snatched it up.  After ironing out the creases, I measured the area of the ottoman and then measured that same amount plus 2” on every side of the fabric and cut it.  If your fabric piece is a bit tight, you don’t have to get exactly 2” on every side, just make sure there is enough for you to tuck under the cushion and secure it. If you are in the UK (does anyone know a great place to find fabric?) and you don’t have any fabric scraps handy, I’d look at places like markets and charity shops.  If no luck, I’d look at these same spots but in the clothing section.  You are bound to find a bright pattern you like, just make sure the material is a thicker weave than cotton.  A tablecloth would also work.
  5. Since I don’t have a staple gun handy in my tiny flat, (I’ve since spotted one on Amazon UK for £8!) I decided to just use a glue gun to secure the fabric to the underside of the cushion.  If you’re using a glue gun, don’t worry if the fabric doesn’t seem secure enough — once you screw the cushion back in, it will be even more secure. (Glue gun and sticks in UK- from AmazonUK for £2.99)
  6. When securing the fabric make sure you keep it taut and straight.  If your husband isn’t in the library :-) it might be nice to have another set of hands, but you can also do it yourself.  Lay the cushion (or entire ottoman in my case) upside down on the fabric and make sure it is centered and straight.  Start slowly pulling the fabric tight and wrapping it around the cushion and gluing it in place. For the corners just cut the excess fabric out like I did below, and then tuck under and secure with glue.  Think: wrapping a present. Check the front of the fabric periodically to make sure it is still straight and wrinkle free.  If you are able to get a staple gun (Home Depot for around $15) the process is very similar.  Just continue to work your way around the piece pulling the fabric taut and stapling slowly as you go.  I’d staple about 2” apart. 
  7. Secure the cushion back into the seat and voila!


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4 thoughts on “Beauty and the Budget: Project Ottoman

  1. Hi,
    I enjoy reading your blog. I have a website question, what program do you use to format and write in your pictures? I love the format of this post and have been trying to figure out how to do similar things, thanks!

  2. Thanks for your comment Pamela. I use Photoshop for photo editing and InDesign for the layouts. If you don’t have them, you can download a free month trial of both on the Adobe website! There area also loads of great free online tutorials if you just google them. Enjoy!

  3. I am coveting your ottoman MC. Seriously.
    Also I have decided that we need to go fabric shopping together. Unfortunately, Oxford’s fabric scene is sorely lacking. The best/closest place (with reasonable prices and selection) is Mason’s in Abingdon. A little like how I would imagine an old hobbit bookstore… it’s packed from floor to ceiling with everything you can imagine. And while it’s not particularly user friendly or well organized, if you dig deep and long enough you’ll probably find the little treasure you’re looking for. I’ve been once on my own but would love to return with a friend sometime!

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