diy projectsUpholstery Basics

upholstery basics: boxed ottoman

by Amanda Brown

The last time we met, we got out our sewing machines and tackled boxed cushions. I have a feeling your pets (and you) have recently found a comfy and fashionable place to perch.  So what better way to finesse our sewing skills than to try, try again. I found this stout coffee table at a thrift store and thought it would look so much better with some padding and this great geo fabric by Lulu DK. With the skills we learned last month, a little elbow grease and a staple gun, this table went from stodgy to stylish in a few short hours. — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • goggles
  • high-density foam
  • permanent marker
  • carving knife
  • foam and fabric spray adhesive
  • burlap
  • Dacron
  • plywood (optional)
  • fabric
  • white or yellow chalk
  • yard stick
  • square
  • scissors
  • t-pins or straight pins
  • 5/32″ welt cord
  • sewing machine
  • single welt cord foot
  • thread
  • masking tape
  • stapler
  • 3/8″ staples
  • staple remover
  • pliers
  • cardboard tack strip
  • dustcover

Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.


When selecting a coffee table, make sure you get something sturdy enough to sit on.

1. Let’s start by padding the table. Since the dimensions of my table are too big to fit on a standard piece of foam, I’ll glue two pieces of foam together. Stack the two pieces on top of each other with the sides that need to be glued together facing the same direction. Spray the sides with foam and fabric spray adhesive.

2. Give the glue about 30 seconds to get tacky. Then flip the top piece over and stick the two sides together.

3. When you have a piece of foam big enough to cover the top of your table, follow Steps 3 and 4 from Dining Chair Do-Over to cut it to size.

4. I like to reinforce the connection in the foam with a burlap band-aid on both sides. Cut a burlap strip about four inches wide and as long as the connection. Place it adjacent to the connection and spray glue on the burlap and the foam.

5. Once the adhesive is tacky, flip the burlap over onto the connection and press to stick. Don’t forget to flip the foam over to band-aid the other side.

I want the entire coffee table to show beneath my upholstered top, so I cut out a piece of plywood the same size as my coffee table and am upholstering to that. You can do this too, or just upholster straight to the coffee table.

6. Spray glue on the bottom of the foam and top of the coffee table/plywood and stick the foam down.

7. Cut a piece of Dacron that is big enough to cover the top and all four sides of the padded top. Leave a few extra inches for wiggle room.

8. Split the edge of the Dacron in half before stapling to the bottom edge of the table top. The top half of the Dacron will cover the dimples created by the staples so they don’t show through the fabric.

9. It’s best to staple the Dacron into the wood at the bottom of the sides instead of underneath the table top. This keeps the bottom edge of the table top clean and free of unnecessary padding. When pulling the Dacron, smooth out the excess but don’t pull it tight enough to change the shape of the foam. Our goal is to keep the padding square for the boxed top.

10. Trim the excess Dacron even with the bottom edge of the table top.

11. In the corners, trim straight down to remove the excess Dacron.

12. Now that we have the table padded, let’s cut out our fabric pieces. We’ll need a piece of fabric for the top, four side boxings and welt cord. My table is 33.5″ x 33.5″, so I need a top piece that is 35″ x 35″, four sides that are 35″ wide x 8″ tall, and about 300″ of single welt cord (enough to go around the top and underneath the table top). To determine the height of your boxing, measure the thickness of the padding (mine is 5″), add the thickness of the board underneath the padding (mine is about 1″) and add an extra 2″ for pulling and stapling. Refer to Steps 2–6 from Boxed Cushion Sewing to draw out pattern-matched pieces.

You’ll notice that I’ve added an extra 1.5″ to the dimensions of the table top for seam allowance when the rule of thumb is adding 1″. This extra .5″ will give us just enough allowance so our boxing isn’t so tight around the wooden frame.

13. Sew the ends of all the boxing pieces together, leaving the last two ends open.

14. Follow Steps 9–14 of Coil Seat Finale to sew the welt cord.

15. Follow Steps 15–22 from Boxed Cushion Sewing to attach the welt cord to the top piece of fabric.

16. Attach the boxing all the way around the four sides, making sure to match your pattern where possible and keeping the seams in the boxing at the corners. Refer to Steps 24–26 from Boxed Cushion Sewing for tips on sewing on the boxing.

17. Stop sewing about two inches from either side of one of the back corners. I leave this last corner open because it is nearly impossible to sew/cut so perfectly that the boxing is the exact length to extend all the way around. By closing up the boxing right at the end, we’re able to adjust the length of the boxing so we have a perfect fit.

18. Place the ends of the boxing together.

19. Determine where the seam should be by pinching the fabric at the corner. Using the tips of your fingers as a guide for where the seam should go, carefully place that point under the sewing machine needle.

20. Now sew the ends of the boxings together.

21. Once the ends are sewn together, we need to close up the last corner.

22. Here’s what it looks like when it’s nice and tight. Sewing complete!

23. Slip the cover over the padded table top and adjust the fit so the corners are lined up and the pattern is straight.

24. Follow the same principles from Step 10 in Dining Chair Do-Over to attach the fabric with sub-staples.

25. Sometimes I add a little puff of Dacron in the corners before I staple it all down. This makes the corners look full and crisp instead of deflated.

26. After you’ve gotten your fabric in place with sub-staples, replace them with permanent staples. If you have a lot of excess fabric in the corners, cut out some of the bulk.

27. Once the fabric is permanently attached, let’s staple welt cord to the bottom edge to finish it off. Start at the middle back and staple the welt cord on the bottom of the table top all the way around. Keep the edge of the welt cord lined up with the edge of the board as you go by using your thumb and forefinger as a guide.

28. Cut out excess fabric in the corners to minimize bulk.

29. We’ll connect the ends the same way we did in Steps 18–22 from Boxed Cushion Sewing, except we’ll staple them down instead of sewing them.

30. If you upholstered straight to your coffee table instead of a piece of plywood, follow Steps 23–25 from Coil Seat Finale to attach the cardboard tack strip and dustcover.

31. If you upholstered to a piece of plywood, attach it to the coffee table by screwing it in from the bottom.

Check it out!


  • Since different fabrics may stretch, making it difficult to keep the pattern lined up, pin your fabric together before sewing.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have a saw to cut a piece of plywood. Hardware stores like Home Depot will cut wood to the dimensions you need for a very small fee.
  • If upholstering to a piece of plywood, clamp the board to the table top and pre-drill pilot holes for your screws. Be sure to mark the front edge of the table and the plywood so you can easily line up the holes when you assemble in the end.

Meet me back here next month for an upholstery project of large proportions! Happy V-Day!

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  • SO awesome. Once again, I don’t usually have much to say on these DIY how to posts, but I LOVE them. (And save them all for future reference.) Thank you!

  • Sorry I did’t see this until today after I had already bought one online at great expense…and I still have to cover it!

  • I have 4 square pillows that I tried to make and they turned out all wrong. I think I’ll try to turn them into ottomans like this instead.

  • Beautiful and easy to follow. Truly amazing :). But as luck would have it, I broke my arm and will simply be of no use on a project like this. And I’m afraid I cannot fool my husband into undertaking it. I did also wonder about the platter on your Ottoman. I do love blue/white sort of delft tile feeling. May I know where you purchased the fabric and the platter please?

  • I love that in addition to being fantastically precise in your work, you are wearing a super cute red dress while constructing your ottoman!!! Well done – this is beautiful work!

  • fantastic piece, thank you. I am planning on reupholstering an old ottoman I found at a car boot sale, so I’ll definitely bookmark this page for tips!

  • I LOVE this series! So much useful information, like the nifty little tip about separating the Dacron to hide the dimples from the staples…

  • Thank you so much for this how-to! I have some lovely silk/cotton fabrics which are just BEGGING for this treatment. Thanks for showing me the way…

  • Beautiful! But where do you get such thick foam for a good price? I would love to upholster an old bench I got at the thrift store, but I don’t want to spend $100 on materials.

  • Would love to know where you purchased the Lulu DK fabric. I would like to do a similar project but using her rope design and can’t quite figure out where to buy it online. Thanks!

  • Too funny, I’m in the middle of reupholstering a giant ottoman at the moment! Mine has springs, so I’m actually following the coil seat instructions in this Upholstery Basics series – but if it turns out half as sharp as the one above, I’ll be psyched!

  • Beautiful job! If you haven’t written a book, you need to! Your directions, images and process are so well-done, I would love to have them all in book form as a reference. You are incredibly inspiring. Thank you so much for all the hard work it takes to do this!

  • This turned out so pretty! I’ve been meaning to make an actual cushion for our entry way – former – coffee table. Currently I just have some extra seat cushions sitting on it, but this might just be what I needed to inspire another project.

  • I upholstered my old headboard, but when I went to buy foam, it was SO expensive. At JoAnn Fabrics they had on clearance a queen size eggshell mattress topper. It was way cheaper than foam. I cut it in half, put the “egg” sides together, and then the outer edges were smooth and perfect for a headboard.

    Also, I clicked a few links and they didn’t work.

  • Beautiful job… I’m in awe!

    I’m a little worried that you weren’t wearing a mask when you used the spray adhesive, though.

  • This is absolutely wonderful and you did such a professional job. I would love to try my hand and making one of these for my living room.

  • THAT. FABRIC. IS. A. DREAM. I LOVEEEEE IT, oh my goodness.

    I’m speachless, inspired, and thinking of ordering that fabric. I don’t have space for an ottoman in my home but maybe i need to get rid of things and make one anyway. Fabulous tutorial. Thank you!

  • Gracias por todos los proyectos de tapicería que posteás. Son de excelente calidad en los resultados, realmente profesionales. Se puede aprender muy bien, las explicaciones son clarísimas y las fotos muy adecuadas. Pocas veces se encuentran instructivos que tengan tan buen nivel en los blogs de DIY.

  • Oh thank you, thank you! You have given me confidence (i think) to do this same thing! Oh i just need to learn to sew better! Eeks!

  • what type of foam do you have ? googled high density foam and came up with so many choices…beginner here not sure which one to get

  • Thank you for your tutorial! Your step-by-step instructions walked me through re-doing our piano bench!

  • You are amazing. I wouldn’t have thought that ottoman was handcrafted when I saw the first picture. I don’t have the skill to do that so I’m going to have to stick to buying one like it :x

    • I agree…getting the piping on and straight – is advanced. Working with stiff fabric demands exact measuring. I’m going to give it a go w/ stretch fabric. Stapling and drilling I can do –

  • This is the best tutorial for an upholstered ottoman I have seen. I have wanted to make one for a long time, but all of the tutorials seemed so complicated. This one is very simple and straightforward. Thanks. I think I can do this!!!!!

  • Hi, I stumbled on this posting… looks awesome!

    On step 14, you had “Coil Seat Finale” link… it doesn’t exist. Can you kindly correct the link?

    Thanks so much! more power to your blog!

  • I hv bn thinking to convert my t.v console into a seater with a cushion seat like this. Thanks for sharing this fantastic idea.

  • You said to add 1.5″ to the dimensions of the table/height of the foam but what is your seam allowance when you sew it? Are you using the standard .25″ seam allowance or more?

    I’m halfway through upholstering two matching tables at the moment but wanted to clarify that before I start sewing.


  • This is a perfect idea for my coffee table that was scratched up by my grandkids & dog!

  • This is just fantastic. My birthday is coming soon, this could be a beautiful present to myself.

  • This is absolutely gorgeous! Do you have any idea about how much this project would cost? I have a coffee table I could use…

  • Thank you so much. I loved it. I to do upholstering. Always great to get other ideas. cheers

  • Thanks for all the photos – you didn’t leave anything out — great tutorial; kudos for idea and explanation!

  • I love your tutorials – thank you!

    One question – if your Dacron is not wide enough to completely cover the piece, can you put two pieces side by side? Should they have a “bandage”?

  • I have a Queen Anne coffee table and would like to do this but the edges of table are shaped, would I straighten the edges or leave them curved and cut foam to match or possible leave them but put the foam on with straight edges?