How to Make a DIY Storage Ottoman with a Small Bookshelf

I know – that’s not something you see every day! But when Continental Window Fashions asked me to make something with finials, I immediately thought that the cute shape of a pretty finial is perfect as feet for a DIY storage ottoman. And well, the bookshelf was standing around doing nothing and waiting to be useful.

west elm essex ottoman

And when I saw this lovely little ottoman from West Elm, I knew exactly what I wanted to do!

ottoman and Chinese lady cushion

Here’s how to take an old bookshelf and turn it into a DIY storage ottoman with finial feet.

ottoman materials

You Will Need:

An old bookshelf (for a sturdy ottoman, it’s best to use a bookshelf made out of solid wood and not chipboard)

  • 16mm thick chipboard, cut to the same size as the face of the bookshelf (this is for the ottoman lid)
  • 100mm medium density foam, cut to the same size as the face of the bookshelf
  • 22mm coverable buttons (we used 18)
  • Upholstery thread
  • Batting to cover the top and sides of the ottoman
  • Fabric of your choice (we used about 2.5m linen)
  • Thin cotton lining (we used 1m)
  • 4x curtain rod finials to use as feet. You can use regular wooden ball finials or go for more decorative Chaucer finials.
  • 4x  44mm x 44mm wooden corner blocks to support the feet
  • Wooden screws, filler, and touch-up paint.
  • 2x 40mm brass hinges

You will also need:

  • Staple gun and staples
  • Extra long upholstery needle
  • Electric drill with a variety of wood drill bits
  • 25mm hole saw bit


foam template

Create a grid on both the foam and the chipboard lid. We made a 4 x 3 button, or you can create your own grid based on your ottoman’s dimensions. Then mark where the buttons will go.


grid and drill

Use a 4mm drill bit to drill holes into the chipboard lid.


foam grid drill holes

Next, use the hole saw bit to drill holes into the foam carefully.


linen and batting and foam

Place the foam onto the chipboard, making sure that the holes line up. Then cover the foam with the wadding and lay over the fabric, taking care that the centre of the fabric is in the centre of the foam.


how to cover buttons

Now you’re ready to start with the buttons of the DIY storage ottoman! Cover the buttons with your chosen fabric – a button covering tool makes this really easy. The lid of a spray paint canister works perfectly as a template!


how to do diamond buttoning

Thread 20” of upholstery thread through each button, and then use your extra long needle to thread the button through the fabric, wadding, foam and lid.

ottoman art nouveau book


Start from the central button and work your way outward, finishing with the buttons on the edges.


thread and screw driver

Use a screwdriver to get a better grip on the thread at the back, and pull until you are happy with the depth of the button at the front. Then apply staples in a zig-zag way to secure the thread. Repeat until you have secured all the buttons.


fabric and staple gun

First, fix the wadding and then proceed to secure the fabric at the back of the lid. Make sure that you tuck the pleats as you go!

linen and staple gun

Take special care with the pleats around the corners to ensure that they are tight and even.


chinese floral fabric

Add a lining to the inside of the lid to finish it off – we used a colourful floral for a fun twist!


upholsery gun

Cover the sides of the base with a layer of wadding and fabric, and use your staple gun to secure it. Be sure to tuck the edges in on the top edge to finish it neatly.

cotton lining staple gun

For a professional touch, add a layer of lining to the bottom as well!

Chinese floral brass hinges

Then secure the lid to the base with the hinges.

STEP 10:

ottoman support blocks

To attach the legs, first add the support blocks on the inside of the base. Then drill holes big enough to take the dowel that’s attached to the finial.

finial leg

Add a drop of wood glue to the hole before you push in the finial.

open ottoman

Place some boxes inside and use it for storage!

ottoman storage boxes

Congratulations on making a DIY storage ottoman!


Happy DIY-ing!

Keeping it loose

In my recent Living Room Make-over post, I showed you my “new” ottoman after I made a simple loose cover for it. I’ve decided that life is just too short for ugly, worn-out furniture but of course re-upholstering is quite the expensive endeavor. 20140218_094824 (600x450)My deep-buttoned leather ottoman has a lovely shape and a great size – perfect for extra seating – but the leather was starting to look horrible.

IMG_7744 (700x467)This cover took me about 4 hours to make and the results are amazing – it looks like it’s brand spanking new! At first I was going to try my hand at full re-upholstery, but after I unscrewed the legs I realized that I am completely mad: this is a white fabric in the most-used room in the house and I have two little boys who are going to want to climb on it! So I promptly screwed the legs back on and proceeded to figure out how to make a loose cover. IMG_7403To be honest, I haven’t done this before, but I always trust in my practical mind when it comes to things like this. I first carefully measured the top and 4 sides, keeping in mind that it is bulging slightly at the sides so I need to allow an extra 20mm or so on the width and height.

IMG_7405 (467x700)Then I cut the fabric according to the measurements, making sure that the pattern is positioned evenly (with one flower in the middle) of the ottoman.

IMG_7415 (700x467)Placing the fabric back on the piece of furniture I folded the excess fabric over on the line of the existing seam and cut my fabric 20mm away from that line.

IMG_7413 (467x700)I started pinning the sides on (fabric inside out) and then proceeded to sew it together. It’s easier keeping it on the ottoman when pinning to get a good fit!

IMG_7418 (700x467)After pinning, I used a clear acrylic straight edge to draw a pencil line along the pins for sewing.

IMG_7421 (700x467)Once all the seams are sewn, you can still tweak it if it doesn’t fit properly. Only after being absolutely happy with the fit, I cut away any excess fabric along the seams.

IMG_7425 (700x467)I didn’t trim any fabric along the bottom so that I could fold it over underneath. Next, I put on the cover (fabric right side out) and turned the ottoman over for working underneath.

IMG_7430 (700x467)IMG_7431 (700x467)I cut away any excess fabric around the legs and then pinched the corners so that it creates a nice snug fit around the base.

IMG_7435 (700x467) (2)A simple roll-seam along the entire hem works very well, at the same securing the pinched corners – it will be underneath so it doesn’t have to be perfect!

IMG_7668 (700x467)  I used the off-cuts to put together enough fabric so that I could pull the cover tight underneath and fix with Velcro.  Pin it in place, cut Velcro strips and sew them on.

IMG_7437 (700x467)Since I really like the buttoned effect of my ottoman, I wanted to keep it even with a loose cover. I made little fabric covered buttons, making sure that they more-or-less match the print where they will be placed (plain on plain and print on print). I marked their positions with a black marker and then sewed them into place on top of the fabric with industrial thread.

IMG_7439 (700x467) I used pants-hooks to keep them in place, with the hook-part sewn into the ottoman using a curved needle and the bar to the underside of the fabric underneath the button. I have to say that it felt a little bit like performing surgery, curved needle and all! I used pliers to close the hooks tightly so that the buttons won’t pop out accidentally.

IMG_7449 (700x467)Make sure that everything is hooked into place before you secure the cover underneath with the Velcro. before

After I absolutely love it and considering I paid R80 (USD8) for the 2 meters of fabric, it was the most cost-effective face-lift I could’ve dreamed of!