DIYdiy projects

DIY Utility Bucket Ottoman

by Grace Bonney

I love a clever DIY project, especially when it uses an unexpected or overlooked material. This project uses a humble orange utility bucket as the base of an amazing upholstered ottoman. The product of a collaboration between Liz and Rachel of Commonwealth Vintage Rentals and Leland of Revive Upholstery & Design, this utility bucket ottoman was inspired by a trip to Home Depot. Looking for materials to build their own furniture, Liz and Rachel stumbled upon this bucket and explained that they were “hesitant and a little embarrassed to even think of using a plastic bucket,” but they were swayed by the (low) price and decided to pick up a few and team up with Leland to create something custom. Using Pendleton fabric, Leland upholstered the bucket (I never thought I’d write that sentence) and created a project that proves, without a doubt, that even the simplest and least expensive materials can be turned into something beautiful with a little hard work. Thanks so much to Liz, Rachel and Leland for sharing this how-to with us! xo, grace

Photos by John Fitzgerald and Braden Spotts

The full how-to continues after the jump . . .


  • yardage for fabric
  • chalk
  • scissors
  • spray Glue
  • stapler
  • 5-gallon utility bucket
  • ruler
  • turkey carver
  • sewing machine
  • tape measurer
  • piping foot (The cord we used is 5/32 and is sold by the yard.)
  • foam (20′ square of 3” high-density foam and 60” x 1” of foam)
  • Dacron
  • square ruler



1. Take off the bucket handle and measure the top of the bucket (38″) — the bucket tapers at the bottom, so you need to measure the top and bottom — measure the bottom (33”) and measure the height (17 1/2”). You can also wrap the foam around the bucket and cut accordingly.

2. Mark out the foam with your ruler. Draw out 38”, mark the middle of it and split from the center 33”. Measure 17 1/2” for the vertical foam with the height of the top layer of foam. Cut foam.

3. Spray glue on the bucket and foam, and wait a few seconds for the glue to set and get tacky.

4. Take the lid and trace the top of it onto 3” high-density foam. Spray glue the lid to the foam. Take your turkey carver and cut around the edges of the lid. Snap the lid back onto the bucket. Bring the 1” foam around the lip of the 3” foam.

5. Trim any extra pieces.

6. Take Dacron and spray it with glue to the top of the bucket. Cut off the remaining pieces. Continue to wrap and spray glue the bucket with Dacron. Trim the top but leave extra Dacron on the bottom for finishing.

7. Measure and draw out the longest side of your pattern and mark the center. Take your square and line it up with the edge of your fabric and the center mark. Draw out the height of your pattern on your square. (Note: It is always smart to add 1–2” of extra fabric to your height for fitting; it can always be trimmed down later.) Once the height has been drawn, use your square again to mark the length of the opposite side (remember your height line is at the center, so measure half the length on each side of your center mark). When the two lengths have been drawn out, use your ruler to connect the ends, giving you a nice straight taper.

8. Cut the piping fabric 1 1/2” wide and the same length as the top 46”. Cut the top piece in a 16” circle (allows seam allowance) either by tracing the top or using a string and pencil.

9. Fold the fabric in half and clip the middle top corner. Do the same with the circle piece.

10. Sew in the piping with welt foot. Extend the fabric a small amount past the piping. Sew a 1/2” from the needle. When you start to sew piping on the circular piece, start just in from the cut edge. Cut relief cuts around the perimeter so that the fabric doesn’t pucker when sewn into the side panel. Note: Sew fabric on the piping first, then line up the edge of the piping and the edge of the circle fabric and begin sewing. Make small relief cuts in your piping so it is easier to sew.

11. With side panel folded, sew from the top down with at least 2” at the bottom open, so that it fits over the top of the ottoman.

12. With the seam of the side panel laid flat and the seam of the top panel, start to sew the two pieces together.

13. Test-fit the fabric to make sure it fits smoothly over the ottoman. This requires a little finessing of the fabric to get a snug fit.

14. If fit is smooth, remove the fabric and cut the extra fabric around the edges so the end product has a flush, smooth surface.

15. Pull the fabric over the ottoman again. Rotate it, pulling downward on each side. After the fabric is smooth and in place, staple the fabric to the bottom of the bucket. Start stapling in sections around the circle and then go back and staple in between. If you just went fully around the first time, you would end up with extra fabric at the end and the pattern could be crooked.

16. Take a razor blade and cut off the extra fabric.

17. The last step is a dust cover for the bottom. Voila!

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  • As clever as it is handsome. Just goes to show you can wrap anything in foam, batting, and fabric. This is the upholstery equivalent of the magic of spray-paint… but a lot more time-consuming (and likely every bit as rewarding to the DIYer).

  • I think that I would add sand or something to the bucket to give it a little more heft.

  • It is very clever! And wonderfully inexpensive, letting you go more for fabrics you couldn’t otherwise get in a reupholstery.

    I wonder, how well would it stand up to some one sitting on it.

  • This is AWESOME! I’ve been on the lookout for an ottoman that will not overwhelm our petite living room. This is perfect – there may even be room for 2 of them! Thanks smarties :)

  • @UrbanCholita Yes! That is a great idea! We thought of that towards the end of the project…and think of making one with a top off lid in the future!

  • This is a fabulous idea- agree with Urban Cholita- the only thing that would improve it is an option for storage. Still, would be quite easy to adapt. Storing things inside would also help with the weight issue and make it a little heavier. Can’t wait to give this a go!

  • I freaken LOVE this tutorial. I lvoe everything about it-including the Navajo fabric and the unusual base material choice!

    Where is the source of the fabric?

  • If the bucket is 17 1/2″ tall, wouldn’t the 1″ foam need to be cut at 21″ tall to fit around the 3″ high-density foam? Not sure why you’d say to cut a piece of foam to the exact height of the bucket when the photo shows the 1″ foam extending far beyond the top of the bucket.

  • Hi Sarah, that’s a really good catch. When we did this the first time we did 17 1/2″ and cut the 3″ foam the diameter of the bucket with the foam around the bucket. Either way you do it it will turn out fine (the dacron will smooth it all out) . We have done it both ways..but all the less, sorry about the confusion.

  • I love your blog!!!!!

    I decided to start one myself- but a very different topic

  • AWESOME. This is my next project! I’ve been waiting for the inspiration for a textile I picked up in Jersusalem this summer.

  • I was thinking the same as UrbanCholita – when my kids were small, this would have been an absolutely PERFECT ottoman – no sharp corners, padded, easy to move – if only it had been usable for storage (for Legos or other small toys that never seem to get put away because “I’m STILL PLAYING WITH IT, MAMA!”). If you come up with a tutorial for one with a still usable lid, I’m so doing this – my kids might be older (21 and 18) but I can still think of things that need to be stowed in my family room!

  • Wow, this is awesome! By turkey carver I think you mean an electric knife and. Since I. Am not a sewer, what is Dacron, thanks.

  • Great project! What about adding some kind of weight inside the bucket prior to enclosing in foam? Maybe a couple of strap/wrist weights? Not sure if this would be necessary in the end for a sturdier ottoman.

  • Think it is great. I like that it is lightweight. Believe it would work great in my RV. Thanks so much.

  • In my misspent youth, I logged many hours sitting on a 5 gallon pail ice fishing. I am going to have to make one of these just for the sake of nostalgia. These look much more comfortable (and stylish!). Thanks!

  • I agree with Morgan about the sand. Awesome project! But I think it would get knocked over easily without a little weight to anchor it down.

  • @39972, Sande, I was a bit confused by “Dacron” too, but in the picture they appear to be using some quilt batting. A quick Google revealed that Dacron is a brand name for a polyester fabric or fiberfill.
    I’d never heard of batting being called Dacron, but it’s amazing what Google can teach you. ;)

  • About the sand, keep it in a super tough ziplock and wrap that in something to keep it from being punctured by items being stored. I would say get a flat lifting weight from a barbell set cheap at a yard sale and use that instead.

  • As someone previously suggested, I would add some weight so it is less likely to tip. I wonder if it couldn’t be used as for storage if you made the top (lid) detachable?

  • Love everything in the picture but dying to know who makes the wood/leather chair?! Stunning!

  • Very creative and resourceful. I agree that it does not look easy. But it’s really amazing how a bucket like that turned out to be a nice and comfy footstool. We have lots of buckets here that we no longer use and this just gave me a great idea for a DIY project. Okay wish me luck. I am going to try this out myself. Thank you for sharing this post. This is very inspiring. I just wish I could make mine look as good as the one in this post.

  • I love craft PROJECTS . . . crafts that involve more than a few simplified steps and are relatively low-cost, so this is ridiculously genious! Ya’ll should post more of these!

  • The cost of the project was pretty inexpensive. The most we spent was on the fabric (Pendleton), which was about $50. Overall it cost about $70 with supplies.

  • Haven’t actually started construction yet, but the costs are a little higher than expected. $5 for the bucket and lid, $18 per yard for the 1″ foam (you’ll need a little less than 2 yards), $35 per yard for the 3″ foam (you’ll need about 2/3 yard, but we purchased a chair pad instead for $11), haven’t purchased the quilt batt or fabric yet. So price-shop and use coupons if you have them!

  • Wow! The Sante Fe tribal pattern in the thick woven black and white textile makes that bucket look like a million dollas!

  • I love this BUT having used these buckets as seating, they WILL crack if used by anyone other than kids. I’m not talking about 250 pound people, I mean like 100 pound teens.
    That said, it’s a good height for casual seating.

  • I have done this with a cowhide- it’s a great DIY project, add a few railheads and it looks like a million bucks
    NY Interior Designer Jared Epps

  • I have been thinking about using a bucket to make an ottoman myself, but wasn’t quite brave enough to tackle it. It seemed like such a strange material choice, but I am so glad it really works and I didn’t even have to figure out how to do it!

  • We did something similar when I was in Girl Scouts. We upholstered the lid and painted the bucket part. This looks far more professional than my 1st grade attempt. Love the fabric! Even buying an old camp blanket and utilizing that would cut down on cost. Having a few holes wouldn’t bother, you can work around that.

  • not to create an ottoman, but to take off the same idea, I wonder if you could spray the bucket with adhesive, attach your fabric, and then super glue a coordinating tray from someplace like Target to the lid. You would have a storage side table. Might need some refining, but I think I know what my next DIY project is going to be…much more affordable too!

  • Very great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to
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  • Very inspiring! We currently have access to a lot if these buckets, and could use this as a fundraiser for the Appleton Makerspace, powered by DHMN! I’m wondering how we might include bit of tech in this. Perhaps black fabric and Tron light-piping for some interesting glowing circuitry look. Better: we could build a remote control roomba robot base out it that could be voice controlled to come to the source of talking. That way you could call it over to you!

  • once all these supplies are purchased, you could just buy an ottoman for the same price.

  • Where can I BUY this (I am not crafty and don’t have the patience to make myself, lol)?:

  • We been doing this craft for years! Our girl scouts do it we leave the handle on to carry it but we call them sit upons. We use them for our campouts, the girls have storage and seat for the campfires. Some put a blanket inside or their jacket, writing material, books etc. We reinforce the lid with rounded 1-2 inch thick and cushion and cover. Girls decorate the outside. Most even use it in their rooms when not camping.

  • Previous upholstery experience definitely recommended. Getting the fabric to mold nicely around those curved edges is no joke!
    A few tips:
    – The listed measurements weren’t all accurate for me. Take the extra time to double-check before you cut.
    – Make the lid your “top.” Otherwise squeezing your finished cover over the bucket will be like trying to put a full-size fitted sheet on a king-sized bed.
    – A 2″ chair pad works fine in lieu of the 3″ foam on top, and will save you ~$20.
    – Cut your fabric for piping on the bias if you can. It seems like a huge waste, but it’s soooo much easier to work with. Despite my better judgment, I didn’t do this and ended up ditching the piping because it wouldn’t behave.

  • I think I will try this with big popcorn tin have several thanks for the idea

  • I saw this on Pinterest and went nuts! This is so awesome. I think I will make a couple for my so ‘s new place. He’s a assuage therapist and holistic health practitioner. This would look great ever just to fold clothes over in a massage room. Or sit them with a few plants, very cool. And of course with my artwork on the walls and he’s all set!

  • This is gorgeous. I was actually looking for some tips on covering one of these buckets. This is beautiful and a lot more elaborate than I had in mind, but wow!

  • very nice. Is it possible to cover the top separately, so that you can store in the bucket? I was thinking this would be great for a camper. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • I wonder if there was some way to make this leaving the top removable so you could also use it for storage. Looks like a great and fun project. I do have some left over fabric from doing my stools…. And some memory foam someplace…… LOL But that fabric is fabulous.

  • Thank you for sharing! I work from home and have a stand-up desk due to a strained back, but I also like to sit sometimes and not let my feet dangle. This is exactly the DIY project I was looking for!