DIY Mini Upholstered Bench
One of my favorite things about being crafty is not only solving a need in our home, but doing it with supplies we already have on hand! In recent weeks, Henry kept confiscating the mini ottoman from our family room to serve as a short and cozy spot for him to sit, put on his pants and shoes, and occasionally act as a step stool to reach higher things in his bedroom. Off the cuff, I asked Henry if he would like his own upholstered bench for his room…and then I didn’t stop hearing “when are you going to make my bench, Mom?” for weeks! This last weekend, I finally carved out the time to finish it…and it turned out oh so sweet. Best of all, Henry loves it, and I love seeing it used so much!
This ottoman project was inspired by two similar projects I’ve made in recent years. The mini ottoman, below left, is the one Henry kept stealing out of our family room (it did used to live in his bedroom after all). It was such a simple project that has held up really, really well over time…and its petite size was perfect for Henry. I knew repeating my process, just in a different shape, was the perfect route! The ottoman on the right served as our coffee table (and trampoline) for many years in our last house. When I created the wallpaper-covered trunk, however, it quickly got replaced and was put out in the garage to await a second life (or the next garage sale!).
In looking at the dimensions of the big ottoman, I knew I could re-purpose it to fit the end of Henry’s bed! Sure enough…with just a few cuts and some new fabric, our large, discarded ottoman became a snazzy new accessory for Henry’s room!
After watching Henry use the little round ottoman for so many weeks, I knew the exact same design, height, and fabric would be perfect for the foot of his bed. I’m always so impressed with the durability, clean-ability, price point, and color options available in microsuede, so that’s what we went with. I originally wanted orange, but Henry insisted on yellow. “Your wish is my command, little man!”
The size might be a bit hard to judge via pictures so here is a super sweet, almost-5 year old boy for reference. It’s short enough for him to sit on easily and comfortably, but we could always adjust the leg height as he grows!
Supplies for Making a (Mini) Upholstered Bench
To make a similar ottoman, you will need:
- 3/4″ plywood, cut to the size of your desired finished ottoman
- Foam, cut to the size of your desired finished ottoman (The height of your foam and how many layers you use will partially determine the final height of your bench; our foam was 4″ high, and we stacked two layers together to create an 8″ tall bench before feet)
- High Loft Batting, enough to cover the entire ottoman at least once (I used a twin size folded over)
- Fabric, enough to cover the entire ottoman (I used this yellow microsuede)
- Cording (or cord to make your own), enough to circle around the ottoman twice (optional)
- Coordinating thread
- Tools: Ruler, marker, saw, electric cutting knife, staple gun with staples, scissors, sewing machine, pins
How to Make a Mini Upholstered Bench
As I said, I really wanted to make this as inexpensive a project as possible AND get some items out of our garage, so I started by disassembling our ottoman. Below, you can see our old frame (which we didn’t use in this project), two sheets of plywood (that used to be screwed to the top of the frame), the foam, and the batting covering.
Once I had my raw materials disassembled and ready, I could start building the new ottoman! I basically followed the exact process as I did for the little round one, which you can reference here! Please note, I didn’t make a frame for this bench and it is only supported by 3/4″ plywood. Since it’s meant for a child and isn’t that wide, I don’t expect it to bow. However, if you want to make this larger or for heavier people, you may want to add a plywood frame to the base of the ottoman for support.
Start by cutting down the 3/4″ plywood to your desired size/shape. This piece of wood will serve as your base upon which everything else is layered. If necessary, also cut down your foam using an electric cutting knife. After doing several projects cutting foam wit a saw, I finally broke down and bought this one and boy does it make a difference! If you cut a lot of foam, it’s worth the investment! So clean and easy!
Decide how high you want your ottoman to be, and stack layers of foam if necessary. I wanted the ottoman to be nice and firm and high, so I chose to stack two layers of foam. We had no trouble with it before (even with years of bouncing and jumping on it), so we did the same thing: spray adhesive between the layers of foam and then Duck tape to “smooth” the junctions where two pieces of foam met.
With your foam cut to size (and stacked as necessary), place it top-side-down onto at least one (preferable two) layers of quilt batting. Place the plywood base on top of the foam; then carefully wrap the batting around the entire thing and secure with many staples. Take care to ensure all your folds and seams are as flat as possible.
Next, it is time to make a fabric cover for the ottoman. The simplest method is to repeat the above process with fabric: just place the ottoman onto the wrong side of the fabric, wrap and fold at the corners to cover the entire ottoman. I really like the look of welting (piping) along the top edge of the ottoman though, so I had to do a little sewing to get my ottoman cover ready. To add a welting detail to your fabric cover, start cutting out a piece of fabric that is the same shape and dimensions of your foam/wood + 0.5″ on each side.
Next, buy or make your own welting using more of your fabric and cording. (Pssssst – don’t know how to making welting? It’s actually one of my favorite DIY skills, and I will be showing you how to do it in my upcoming Home Decor Sewing 101 series – stay tuned!!!)
Pin the welting all the way around your top piece, right sides together and raw edges facing out. Using a zipper foot, sew the welting to the ottoman top as close to the cording as you can get.
The top of the cover is now done, let’s make the sides! Measure the height of your ottoman (foam + wood) and then add about 4″. This is the hight of the strips you need to cut to go all the way around your ottoman. To determine how much length you need, measure the circumference of your ottoman plus about 4″. Depending on how big of an ottoman you are making, you may need to sew several strips together to make one long strip. Since I was going to have to use several different strips to wrap the entire circumference of the ottoman, I chose to make seams at each corner.
I didn’t take pictures of the next step, because honestly, I was just trying to get it done and it’s kind of tricky. Essentially, you are going to sew that long strip of fabric all the way around your top piece (the one with the welting on it). Work slowly, use lots of pins, and use a zipper foot to sew as tight into the cording as you can. When you are finished, you should essentially have a 5-sided box (four sides and a top) that fits perfectly around your ottoman. Carefully slide your ottoman into the cover and align any edges/seams as necessary!
To secure the fabric cover, pull the fabric taught toward the base and staple in place.
To give the bottom edge a finished look, add more welting along the base. This time, there is no need to sew! Just staple it in place all the way around the base of the ottoman.
I’m going to cover this in my DIY welting post coming up, but to join your two ends of piping together, here is what you do:
- (Upper left) – use a seam ripper to pull out about 1″ of stitches on the left-side welting
- (Upper right) – cut off the 1″ of cording from inside the fabric and then insert right-side welting into where you just cut out the cording
- (Bottom left) – before stapling it all in place, fold under the raw edge of the left-side welting to create a clean edge
- (Bottom right) – staple the two pieces of welting together and into your ottoman base
With the entire ottoman finished and the final band of welting added, the last step is to add a fabric panel to conceal all the raw edges and foam on the underside of the bench.
I dug out the fabric I used on Henry’s bed quilt to finish off the base. Trim down the fabric to a size that will cover the base of your ottoman (inside the welting) plus about 2″ on each side. Next, iron over a seam allowance on each side to create a finished look.
With your panel ironed to the perfect size to fit the bottom of your bench, secure it in place with more staples placed as close to the edge of the welting as possible.
Lastly, add mounting plates for feet and twist on any feed you like! (Note – if your bench isn’t quite as high/low as you want it, adjust the height by picking either shorter or longer legs!)
Originally, I put the feet from the large ottoman onto this bench, but the proportions were a bit off. I pulled these legs from the small round ottoman for these pictures, but Henry wanted the short feet put back on afterwards. Who knew 5 year olds were so particular!?!? Although I like the look of the skinnier legs, the chunky feet do make it more study.
Although the bench was designed to fit the end of his bed, I actually liked it along the side wall where we keep Henry’s shoes and coats.
But Henry really likes it at the end of his bed (it does make a great place to jump onto his bed from!). Plus, it’s right across from his drawers in this arrangement, so he can easily pull clothes out and get dressed!
Henry has really started to connect that Mommy can make things on request. It’s been really fun to hear him randomly ask, “will you make that for me, Mommy?”…and it’s even more fun when I can actually deliver. Henry sat in my office with me the entire time I made this bench, and seriously thanks me every day for making it for him. Seeing him sit on it all the time fills me with a lot of pride and joy…and Henry knowing I made it specially for him makes me feel like Super Mom!
All told, this ottoman cost us about $25 to make: new batting (since the old batting was really worn down), and ~2 yards of the yellow fabric (which was 50% off). Admittedly, foam and furniture legs/feet can really add up, so if you’re making this from scratch, be prepared to spend closer to $50-$75. I strongly recommend shopping for foam on holiday weekends (when there are big “total purchase” sales) and/or when it is half price.
While it’s not perfect (don’t look too closely at some of my corners ;), I am so happy with how this little bench turned out. It’s vibrant, sturdy, Henry uses it all the time, and it got the big ottoman out of our garage…so I’d say that’s a win on many fronts! Working on this also gave me the idea to launch a Home Decor Sewing 101 series (which some of you have asked for!), so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!
I hope you all are having a great week! On Saturday, I’ll be checking in with a list of my favorite organizing baskets, so if you have some sorting and cleaning out to do soon, don’t miss it! See you then!