Wednesday, October 3, 2012

how to - save an ottoman's life

I've mentioned that our family is moving soon.  Recently I have given subtle hints to my husband that I am hoping to buy furniture for our new home.  Not really new furniture, because we don't have much to begin with, so we won't be replacing anything.  And not new because for most things I don't mind buying used furniture.  I'd rather buy nice sturdy old furniture that I can fix up, than cheap new things made from cheap chipping fake wood.

Anyways, my point is that I've been sort of hoping that I can start purchasing nice things to pretty my home with while not spending bunches of money.  So the other day while I was passing through the thrift store I meandered down the furniture isle.  I really wasn't expecting to find much, but luckily I stumbled upon the little ugly old ottoman pictured above.  It was priced for $10.  I kind of stood there rocking back and forth.  I've never impulse bought stuff like this before.  But when you are thrifting, can you afford to think it over?  I knew in my mind the potential this thing had, but could I recover it?  I  grabbed it and brought it home, convincing myself the whole way that I'll just fix it up and put it in the kid's room.  So what if I mess it up?  $10 for something the kids can climb on.

Welp.  I did it.  
I dropped everything and just got it over with because I had to prove to myself that it wasn't $10 gone wrong.  And now that it's finished, I am so glad that I risked it.  For the sake of this tutorial I am calling it a Child's Reading Bench, for it will go in the kid's room.  But just between you and me, whenever I pass it, I secretly call it My Chicken Bench in my mind.

So let's get to it!  Mind you, I didn't know it was going to work, so the photos reflect that I wasn't sure I was going to be sharing them with anyone.
Also, this isn't the best recovering job in history.  Not only were there a million staples underneath the ottoman that I didn't fancy pulling out, but the piping on the sides was stuck down tight.  I couldn't get it off.  So I just covered right over it.  I believe that it would have been easier if the legs were stuck back under a little more.  They were on there sturdy and I was afraid that if I disassembled them then I would never be able to get it as tight and sturdy as it was to begin with.  So the staples around the legs are a little visible.  Oh well, it doesn't bother me and it really isn't noticeable.

First I had to get some fabric to cover it with.  I went to Joanns and looked through the upholstery fabric.  Luckily it was 30% off, because that stuff isn't cheap.  I wasn't really sure what I was looking for.  I wanted it to look nice, but I didn't want to spend money on something stuffy.  I began by looking through the big flowery stuff.  I love flowery stuff, but flowery patterns can also get annoying when I see them too often.  It's a love / hate relationship.  I also wanted it to be a little more gender neutral.  As I was perusing I thought, 'man, if only they had chicken fabric'.  I was a little shocked when I found not one, but two different chicken fabrics further down the isle.  I chose the big white chickens as opposed to the pretty little brown ones.  The brown ones were nice, but something about these big red and white ladies just squawked at me.  Also, I think it almost looks flowery from a distance.  I know it's not gender neutral, but oh well, I'm a girl.

And then guess what happened?  There was a mark on the fabric.  A light feathery black mark that was not supposed to be there.  Marks I can take care of.  I asked if they would take a little money off because the fabric was marked up thinking they may take off 5%.  They offered 40% peoples!  40$ + 30% off!  YES!

I bought 2 yards worth.  1 1/2 for the ottoman, and a bit extra for the pillowcase cover.

Okay, here we go.

First I wanted to put a layer of batting down.  This served two purposes.  To give a clean white surface so that the original blue would not show through my chickens, and second, to reshape and give it a little more fluff.
I folded my batting in half and it was just about the right size, I liked that I was getting two layers of it too.  Lay the batting on your ottoman and wrap it around the sides.  Put a few staples on each side.  When you get to the corners kind of pull out the corner like in the photo above and trim off the excess batting.  It should look like this:

Now pull the ends so they overlap a bit and staple them down.

It should look like this when finished.

Now take some nice sharp scissors and trip the batting right along the bottom.  You want it to just barely reach the tip of the sides.

Next I ironed my upholstery fabric and laid it over the batting.  Be careful to keep the pattern straight and make sure there is equal length of fabric hanging over on all sides.

Very carefully turn the ottoman over and lay it on it's seat.
Now we will begin stapling all four sides.  Begin with the widest sides first.  Pull tight and fold the fabric under so that there are no exposed edges of fabric.  I pulled mine as tight as I wanted, and then decided to trim a bit on all the sides so that the fabric that is folded under isn't too long.  You don't want it to be visibly bunched up under there.  Once one side is trimmed perfectly, pull tight and staple it down.  Then do the same thing to the opposite side.  Now finish up with the short ends.

You should have four staples in all the way around.  

Next I stapled the tips of the corners, and then sort of worked between the sides and the corners inward.  Does that make sense?  
I'll show you.

First, trim the corner so that when pulled tight and folded under there will be just the right amount of fabric.

Now staple it down.

Continue to pull tight around the corner and staple every inch or so.  When you get around the leg of the ottoman, wrap the fabric over itself towards the leg so you can hide as many wrinkle-folds as possible.

Now continue to pull the sides tight and finish stapling all the way around.
Yes, it looks like the staples are really visible, but they are sort of hidden under in the crevice there.  You really can't see them from above.

Once I had finished stapling I turned it over and scrutinized the tightness all the way around.  I noticed a few areas where I had pulled the fabric a little too tight, so I pulled them out and re-stapled.

Yay!  See how easy?  I got this part over with in one night.

I had an old feather pillow that was drool and pen stained.  I used Heidi's (from Honeybear Lane) Ten Minute Pillowcase Tutorial to use the rest of my fabric and make a matching pillow.  Great tutorial!

Now for the legs.  If you look back at the original photo you'll see that they were oddly scuffed up.  Those are pretty deep gouges and they go all the way around.  I'm a bit lazy.  I used an electric sander to buff off all the big surface areas, and then used a metal file to get the small sides on the back.  I left all the dark finish in the crevices and corners, and I think that it gave it a nice worn look.  After a few coats of clear finish, I called them good.

And there you have it!  A chicken bench!  Or a recovered ottoman.

Hope it helps!


  1. This makes me want to go and buy old furniture and make it amazing! I don't know if it's as easy as you make it look, but it's certainly inspiring. And I love the chickens!

  2. Wowwwwwzers! Awesome! I love the fabric! PS I posted those self portraits today.



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