The No-Sew Way To Recover An Ottoman

The subtitle to this post should be “The Laziness Edition”. Because despite the fact that I sweated and groaned throughout this ottoman reulphostering, I did not have to break out my sewing machine. And that spared me at least a few hours of stitch-ripping and self-deprecating narrative. 

I used my good friends, Staple Gun and Elbow Grease. And I think the final product is pretty darn snazzy. 

Recovering Ottoman 16 - Suburble

The “before” picture of this ottoman ain’t pretty. It was purchased about seven years ago from a fairly decent furniture store. This means that we paid far more for it than we would now – mostly because we have children. When we bought this piece, we were ensured by the staff that it was genuine leather.  

Ottoman Recovering - Suburble

Genuine BONDED leather. Sigh. 

Ottoman Recovering 1 - Suburble

The leather peeled up from its backing in a horrendously ugly fashion. It looked like my ottoman had a very contagious and incurable skin disease. (Quick Suburble tip here: we’re pretty sure that it was the use of baby wipes on the surface that destroyed the leather. Don’t wipe things off of your leather surfaces with baby wipes. Heed my warning!)

Mr. Suburble could barely stand the sight of our peeling and horrifying ottoman – and this became especially apparent when we had guests over. “Can’t we just get rid of it? Can you go out and buy a new one…. like… before dinner tonight?”

No! I can’t! My inner hoarder won’t let me throw away an ottoman that we paid hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for. The frame was sturdy, the closing mechanism still working – it was storage, for pete’s sake! In a house with no storage!

So I decided to save my ottoman. I was going to make him beautiful. 

Ottoman Recovering 3 - Suburble

I gathered my tools. Using pliers and a flat-headed screwdriver, I plucked out all of the staples from the lining of the ottoman. It was perfectly good – no reason not to save it. 

Ottoman Recovering 7 - Suburble

Lazy Ottoman Recovering Tip #1: If there is hardware attached to the lining, do not remove it.

Instead, leave it as a guide for re-attaching the lining later. Just remove the staples that are at the edges of the lining, and then move it to the side (or gather it in the middle of the frame) when you attach the new fabric. 

Ottoman Recovering 9 - Suburble

 On the bottom of the ottoman, there were two staples that attached the liner to the middle of the box. I left those attached as well, so that I didn’t have to guess where the liner should be placed over the new fabric. Instead, I just bundled it up in the middle of the box and got to work on the leather.  

Ottoman Recovering 4 - Suburble

Using my handy-dandy scary-sharp box cutter, I cut off all of the leather from the ottoman. It was very daunting making the first cut. There was no going back now. 

Recovering Ottoman 11 - Suburble

 This was the part where I started to panic a bit. And I also regretted doing this by myself in the middle of the day with only my children as my encouragement. They mostly tried to play dolls within a three foot radius of me, or they asked incessant questions, “Why are you cutting the ottoman, mommy?” “Ohh… are you doing to tell Daddy that you did that?” “That’s really ugly NOW…”

Ottoman Recovering 6 - Suburble

Remember how I mentioned that I have children and that their baby wipes managed to destroy my ottoman? And did you know that overall, children are pretty messy – quite possibly the slobbiest of all –  humans? Well yeah… I must have had some sort of failure in common sense when I was standing in the aisles of fabric in Joann (with my children running around me like wild jungle cats, I’ll have you know) – because I grabbed a bolt of cream coloured fabric and confidently headed to the cutting table.

Screw it. I like this fabric. I can’t deny myself this simply because I procreated.

Stupidity: I have it sometimes. 

Anyways… I saved the foam from the frame of my ottoman so I just had to stretch the fabric over the lid and body and staple it down. Using a fabric with a pattern was helpful in this case, as I could use it as a guideline for stretching and stapling. 

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Lazy Ottoman Recovering Tip #2: Don’t sew the seams.

The original leather on the ottoman was stitched on the corners. And that looked nice. But it didn’t look easy – and this mama likes the easy way to do stuff.

So, I created my “no-sew ulphostery corner”. I cut the fabric into lengths that were about six inches longer than the fabric frame. Then, I folded the fabric onto itself and stapled it into the frame. Honestly, it took about a minute to do, and the end product looks pretty tidy! I deftly avoided a “sobbing over the sewing machine” moment! 

Ottoman Recovering 12 - Suburble

Lazy Ottoman Recovering Tip #3: Use the holes in the liner as your guide.

Once the fabric had been stapled to the frame, I then un-crumpled the liner (which was still attached to the frame in its center) and aligned it to where it should be. This was VERY helpful, as the liner already had holes for the ottoman legs, hinges, and closing mechanism for the lid. My new fabric didn’t do a good job of showing where those holes were (of course, as it covered all of the pre-drilled holes), so the liner was my guideline. I simply had to screw everything back into where the liner told me to, and it was a cinch! 

(Granted, by now I was a sweating mess – having wrestled fabric over a hulking ottoman while two children practically pressed their faces against mine: “What are you doing, Mommy? Why? Whyyyyy…..?”)

Ottoman Recovering 13 - Suburble

 The liner also helps to make the upholstering  job look more professional. It adds a finished look to the piece. 

(Do you see the legs of a LaLaLoopsy in this picture? Look closely… CinderSlippers’ glass shoe is hiding somewhere! Told you they were playing dolls practically on top of my project.)

 Recovering Ottoman 14 - Suburble

 In its completed glory: my gorgeous cream-coloured fabric ottoman. No longer contagious with some sort of rashy leather-virus.  

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I think that it looks quite nice – and the lighter colour really does brighten up the room. I have always gravitated towards darker, autumn colours, but suddenly, I’m loving my flashy little ottoman and its “look at me” fabric!

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And for you parents who are tsk-tsking me and saying, “Lady, you are going to regret that fabric when some sticky-handed monster leaves marks all over that ottoman. You will cry. Like… ugly cry…”, I say, Yeah. I will probably be disappointed. But, I bought the fabric on super-duper sale (in total, I paid $34 for all of the fabric), and I’ve learned how to reupholster this ottoman in a no-sew lazy way. If it’s destroyed, I can fix it. If I hate the colour one day, I can change it. 

And when we have play dates at our house, I put a towel over it. I’m not kidding. I don’t take unnecessary risks. 

If there is an ottoman who has been aching for a bit of a makeover in your house, I encourage you to try my Lazy Reulpholstering trick. If I can do it with two preschoolers as “helpers”, then you can most definitely do it! 

Check some of the other makeovers that I’ve tackled:

 

Patina Bench and Pillow - Suburble.com (1 of 1)
Creating a Blue Patina on a Metal Bench

Chalkboard Serving Tray

A Chalkboard Serving Tray

Refinished Twin Bed 13 - Suburble
Using Plaster Paint to Antique a Bed 

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, Tara! You are amazing. Upholstering really intimidates me, but you break it down in such a way that even I feel like I could tackle this. And I think it’s great that you chose a fabric you really loved…despite the fact it might get dirty. That’s what spot cleaner is for…AND like you said, you’re a pro at this method now, so you can always change it up down the road. Well done, girl.
    Lauren @ The Thinking Closet recently posted…My New MOO Business Cards & Giveaway for 3!My Profile

    • Tara says

      Thank you so much, Lauren! I need more people to tell me that the colour is worth the occasional “covering-up with a towel” move. Most moms are pretty understanding, I have to say. Nobody wants to be responsible for me ripping off all of this fabric and starting again! (Though I will… It’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be!)

    • Tara says

      Thank you, Shari! Yes – it feels great to finally have the ottoman re-covered. I let that scabby peeling mess exist for a pretty long time… I don’t know why I waited so long!

  2. Jenny says

    Wonderfully inspiring……you can buy spray 3M scotch guard and give it some extra protection, makes me think I might consider tackling this project

    • Tara says

      I’m so glad that this was inspiring to you, Jenny (despite my moaning and groaning throughout the post). Please let me know if you try this! I’d be thrilled to see pictures!

  3. says

    Your ottoman looks perfectly lovely, and if worst comes to worst you can always paint it!! No need to wrestle with dolls, kids, fabric, staples, etc. Just a simple paint job and you’re done.

    You are one very patient mommy. Good for you xox
    Anne@DesignDreams recently posted…The Shabby Chic LampMy Profile

    • Tara says

      Anne – that is such a practical idea. I didn’t even consider painting it before. Tell me, if I paint this fabric (eventually), will it crack?

      • says

        Apparently not. I personally haven’t tried painting upholstered furniture but so many bloggers have and say it just feels a little more stiff than the original fabric. Can’t see why it would crack. Then again, it’s such a small piece that if the painting doesn’t work, then you do the reupholstering! Easy peasy – well sort of… :)
        Anne@DesignDreams recently posted…The Shabby Chic LampMy Profile

        • Tara says

          This is a VERY cool revelation. I’m going to be keeping this in mind as I peruse garage sales and thrift shops. Potential abounds! :)

    • Tara says

      I totally throw a towel over it during play dates. It has a towel on it right now. I know… it’s crazy. But I love the fabric, too. I just wanted it, so I bought it (in a fit of “Let’s pretend that we don’t have children!”). I even had my children in tow with me when I bought it…

      The heart wants what it wants. :)

    • Tara says

      That’s what I say – I can always just re-do it. And if I chose every piece of furniture according to the potential of destruction that my kids could inflict on it, then I’d end up with plastic couches. ;)

    • Tara says

      Thank you Danni – I really loved the fabric too. I hope that it lasts a year. That’s my ulimate goal (plus, I can only see myself recovering this hulking beast of an ottoman once a year).

    • Tara says

      Shut up. Really? You used that exact fabric? Crazy kismet, no?

      I can’t ever quiet my inner-hoarder. She is quite the force. I often have to duct-tape her mouth shut when we go garage-sale-ing. It keeps me from being on A&E. ;)

        • Tara says

          They’re incessant, all right, especially if I’m doing something as interesting as sweating all over an ottoman. I’m so glad to gain you as a reader! I’ll definitely return the favour and visit your space in the interwebs! :)

    • Tara says

      Thank you so much, Marilyn! It was work the sweat and grunting (and swearing inside my head).

      I, too, love the fabric. Which is why there is a towel over it right. this. very. second. ;)

    • Tara says

      Isn’t it almost unrecognizable? It’s amazing what a bit of fabric can do!

      I am really happy that I went with fabric that I love. Of course, I have moments of dread when the kids have dirty hands or when we’re eating a messy appy in the living room. But the thing is, I don’t want to live in a land of plastic and berber carpet all of the time… It’s so hard to strike the balance!

  4. says

    I admit, that was my first reaction – uhoh white? But whatever, I have a white sofa, so yeah, I’m not one to talk. I do put blankets over it and I’m too lazy to pin it down. I use blankets and an old sheet because we never have guests anyways :-). Your project looks super professional! Use the towels but definitely show it off when people come over!

    • Tara says

      You have a white sofa!?!? Love it.

      I do make use of the towel-trick – that’s for sure. I think that the biggest challenge was re-training the girls not to use the ottoman as a snack table of sorts. Because it was originally a giant hunk of junk, I didn’t care. Now that it’s cream and beautiful, I had to spend at least a week hollering, “Don’t touch the ottoman!” while they stared at me, shocked.

      It is nice to “unveil” it when guests come over, though. I feel like I have a grown-up space. It’s awesome (and weird).

    • Tara says

      I’m glad that yours has held up well! I was appalled at how quickly our ottoman disintegrated before our eyes! I agree – the fabric choice was a tough one. I considered a bold print, but the ottoman is pretty big – I didn’t know exactly how it would look. Plus, having my children by my side in the fabric store rushed everything. Hence – cream coloured fabric! :)

    • Tara says

      You are so right, Krista – it was sweaty work. Hauling that frame over here and there and trying to deal with incessant questions…. it was definitely a workout! :)

    • Tara says

      Oh Bronwyn, I’m glad that you got a chuckle from the tutorial!
      If you do recover that bench, let me know! I’d love to see pictures!

    • Tara says

      Terri – But you are! You just don’t know it yet.

      When I started taking apart this ottoman, I was sweating bullets. Partly because I was wrestling a giant wood box around the living room, and also partly because I had no idea what I was doing. I think that creativity lurks inside of all of us. You’d be surprised what you could create if you started a project! :)

    • Tara says

      Thank you so much, Bethany! I was strutting around – pretty proud of myself – for a while after finishing this project!

  5. says

    WOW! I love what you’ve done with your ottoman. The fabric is FAB, and I’m so with you – it’s easy to cover up when necessary. That’s not such a tough thing to do. But to opt out on great fabric, or live with the peeling ‘leather’ is like living in a constant state of half in, half out – kind of like leaving the plastic wrap on lamp shades. Why do that? Good for you!!!

    • Tara says

      Sheila – Thank you so much for the vote of confidence! I don’t want to be the lady who leaves the plastic on her lampshades!

      I’ll just be the lady that covers her lamps in towels when children come nearby! :)

      Thank you very much for your compliments! It means so much coming from a stylish gal like yourself! :)

    • Tara says

      Thank you so much, Heather! I love the fabric too! (Well, that fact is pretty obvious as I chose it even though I’m risking its demise with every sticky-fingered child who walks into the room!)

    • Tara says

      You’re so right, Dani! You can’t always get hung up on the child-proofing part of your life (especially when it’s just fabric, it’s not tumbling down two flights of stairs or something). Sometimes I shake my head at myself though – there are many other things – dents in walls, knicks in my table legs, stains on clothes and accent pillows – that have been collateral damage to the Child Raising Experiment in our house. I circle over my ottoman like a hawk these days! ;)

    • Tara says

      Oh man… a sectional is going to involve SOME sewing. It is a boxy shape? Or is it more complicated than that?

      One thing that might work in the meanwhile are some incredible throw pillows with lots of great colours and patterns. If you can’t reupholster the couch, you can distract people with your style!

  6. says

    Someone else probably said this but if that gorgeous ottoman was in my house with kids, I’d head back to the fabric store for some muslin (or to the hardware store for a new canvas drop cloth) and cut a generous rectangle to plop over. I might even sew a simple slipcover for it.

    It can easily be taken off and stored inside for grownup nights.

    I think it’s great you chose the color you love. The kids can learn to be neater (and they will). Meanwhile the worst that can happen, is that you’ll recover it again some time in the future.

    You did great!!
    Mary recently posted…Drive Free Cars: 2013 – Week 33My Profile

    • Tara says

      That’s a great idea, Mary. Right now, my ottoman is wearing a big gray beach towel. I can’t take risks with sticky fingers. I like the idea of a muslin covering, though. That might be a teensy bit more attractive than a terry cloth towel!

      You’re so right – I will inevitably recover it again, but I’m glad that I stayed true to my taste and picked the lighter fabric. It was a risk, but it was worth it!

  7. Dineen says

    Your first re-upholstery job looks great. You were so smart to keep the lining. That’s something that I would have thrown away and then decided to pull out of the trash after realizing my mistake. The cream color fabric looks great in your room. Scotchguard fabric protector can go a long way to keep it looking nice. (Even from grown-up wear and tear.)

    • Tara says

      I’ve definitely been considering Scotchguard (though we did have a little “salsa incident” – by a grown-up, no less – that cleaned up well on the fabric! Thank goodness!) – as it’s inevitable that someone will get something on it.

      I’m glad that I left the lining on – it made my project that much easier. And yes, I had a moment of, “Should I just chuck this?”

      It was just dumb luck that I realized at that moment that I could use it as a template for all of the legs/hinges, etc!

  8. Jen says

    FABULOUS! I can’t stop looking at the before and after. Great job :) We have an ottoman that doesn’t match our new furniture; thanks to your post, I am thinking about changing it up!

    • Tara says

      Thank you so much, Jen! You should give it a go – honestly, it’s not that difficult. It’s just a bit of manual labour! :)

      Please let me know if you decide to tackle your reupholstery project – I’d love to see pictures!

    • Tara says

      Cassandra – I used 3 yards of fabric. My ottoman is a larger one, about 4 feet long. I’d say err on the side of caution and more rather than less. (If you have leftovers, you can always make a couple of coordinating accent pillows!)

  9. Erin says

    Thank you so much for this post. I stumbled upon it with a Google search and it was exactly what I was looking for. We used your instructions and recovered our ottoman. It looks amazing. We also replaced the wooden block legs with casters. Now it is so easy to move around to vacuum!

    • Tara says

      Erin – thank YOU for leaving a comment and sharing your success story! Do you have any pictures? I’d love to see them.

      Casters are a brilliant idea! I know that I’m constantly dragging my ottoman around to vacuum – or let’s face it, sometimes I just shrug and say, “Welll… looks like that part isn’t seeing a vacuum today!”

  10. HarLee Jaye says

    I had an ottoman that did the exact same thing…never used a wipe on it. If it was the wipes they’d do similar to baby bums. I’d spray it with a few coats of ScotchGuard, too, then NOT worry. A home where kids can’t be kids is just a house. For those who think Upholstery is difficult, it isn’t…IF U can wrap decent Christmas or birthday presents, U absolutely CAN upholster! A trick I’ve learned, in the land of smart phones, is take step-by-step pix as U break pieces down, so you can see them, in reverse, IF U need to when putting back together. Now U have me wanting to upholster something…LOL! Nice job.

    • Tara says

      That’s a great way of thinking about it, HarLee: “If you can wrap a decent present, you can re-upholster”. That would surely boost peoples’ confidence!

      And I love that trick of taking photos step-by-step in order to put it back together! Genius!

      • HarLee Jenkins says

        Thanks much! If in doubt, find a free/cheap ottoman somewhere and go buy some fabric @ a big box store, 99cents/yd and ” go for it” as practice. We learn from doing. I probably wouldn’t choose a complicated sofa with huge pillows as my first, but it really is like wrapping presents. There are different type corners for different pieces. Who knows, you might just design a new upholstery “style”…and become famous/rich!

        • Tara says

          HarLee – I need to keep you around – you’re full of fabulous ideas! I love the idea of practicing upholstery on cheap/thrifted pieces. And if I can design a new style and become rich and famous, well then… I’ll take it!

  11. MCN says

    Hi Tara! Thank you for the tip! I will be trying this on two mini-ottomans this weekend with my 2 year old and 11 month old as my “helpers”. I will probably have wine chilling for afterwards, just in case! This is so easy to follow and I am super excited to try it!

    • Tara says

      Oh, I’m so excited for you! You can do it!

      If you get the chance (and once you’ve poured yourself a celebratory glass of wine), please snap a picture and send it my way! I’d love to see how they turned out!

      • MCN says

        Hi Tara! Will do! Going to buy fabric tomorrow, so am pretty excited about my weekend project!! Thanks again for the steps and tips! (I will most likely be pouring the wine either way! lol)

  12. Bernadette says

    This is super great!! I have a storage ottoman as well. While there is nothing wrong with the fabric, the color totally does not go with everything else. I also have young children. I also will be using a cream color!!!

    Thanks for this DIY. I will do it myself :D (especially after I was quoted $450 to have it reupholstered professionally!)

    • Tara says

      Go for it, Bernadette!

      I got brave and took the towels off of the ottoman, and you know what?!? It actually cleans up really well! (And the most glops and gloops of stuff that have fallen onto it have been from men, not children – go figure!)

      Let me know if you need any help. I’d love to see the finished project!

      And that cream fabric is still at Joann right now (if that’s the look you want). Such a great price! (And $450 for new upholstery?!?!? Gah!)

  13. lovelyduckie says

    We also fell prey to accidentally buying bonded leather, it was our first couch (reclining too). We ended up just sending it to the dump after a few years, it was SO AWFUL that no one would even take it for free on Craigslist. I wasn’t ambitious enough to challenge re-upholstering it, especially since the mechanics of it were never quite right and it didn’t fit the space. Well lets just say we learned a valuable lesson…enough on that :)

    We bought a nice little faux leather ottoman (ironically much sturdier than bonded leather) but when my 2nd dog was a puppy he chewed it up at the corners, I did a half decent patch job with some fabric I found and he chewed it again. I’m going to be doing exactly what you did with my ottoman as well. My material choice is brown denim, I’m hoping the denim will easily stretch over the foam. I’m going dark because my couch is a bright green (sivik green from ikea) and I recently bought a bright blue rug to go with it. I’m going to use the ottoman to better pull in the dark brown side tables and curtains.

    So anyway, thank you for this post.

    • Tara says

      Oh, let me know how it turns out! It really isn’t half as hard as it seems.

      And yes, bonded leather is such a horrible “fabric”. I can’t believe I lived as long as I did with that peeling atrocity!

  14. Candice says

    Just a thought. Have you thought about using Velcro instead of staples for the same effect but make more than one cover and that way you can always have one in the wash and one on the ottoman so it’s easy clean when grubby little hands touch it or something spills on it. If you had cover slips you could have different colors to suit your mood fabrics even leather or vinyl if you want it spill resistant for a purpose. Wouldn’t have to worry about stains or rips. Just put on a different slip.

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