Introduction: Upholster an Ikea Toybox

Picture of Upholster an Ikea Toybox

Sometimes when other people in the apartment complex move out, they discard some useful things. Someone left an old Ikea wooden box out at the dumpster, so I rescued it and set out to determine what to do with it. My wife suggested we upholster it to make it a bit more living-room friendly.

It sounded like I finally had an excuse to invest in a staple gun, so I was in! It was a pretty easy process, even though I had never upholstered anything before.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Base:
Toybox - Ours was a previously discarded wooden storage box, it looks like it was an APA box [now discontinued] from IKEA.

Consumables:
Fabric - We got 2 yards to be safe, but only used about 1 yard worth
2" High Density Foam (enough for the top of the box)
1/2" High Density Foam (enough for the four side panels)
Thread to match the fabric (not strictly necessary, but it makes the corners look nice)
Staples - 1/4" generic brand staples to match my stapler
Hinges - Cabinet hinges, they seemed a bit more sturdy than the toybox hinges
Screws - To match hinges, but not go all the way through the toybox
Spring-loaded arm [Optional] - keeps lid from slamming shut, see pictures


Tools:
Iron - To make wrinkly fabric flat
Stapler - I used a DeWalt staple gun
Marker - Any felt-tip pen works well
Screwdriver
Drill
Needle - I used a sewing machine, but you could hand sew without much problem, if you even want to do the sewing step

Step 2: Making the Cushion

Picture of Making the Cushion

Use your box lid to measure enough 2" foam to cover the lid of the box. It's okay if it's not all one single piece, mine ended up three pieces, and it is doing fine. A little tacky glue when you put it together should hold it in place.

Once you iron the fabric, lay the foam cushion down on the fabric, and cut out a covering. Give yourself about 4' around each side of the cushion so you can pull the fabric down when you staple it.

Mark the four corners of your cushion, and if you like, you can sew the corners so it fits snugly on the lid and the corners stay tight. I used a straight stitch, and then trimmed off the excess, as in the pictures. For some more discussion of this process, you can check out my tablecloth instructable.

Step 3: Attaching the Cushion

Picture of Attaching the Cushion

If your box has a lid that is attached with hinges, remove the hinges now. The box we used did not have any hinges, it was just a loose lid.

Add a little tacky glue to the top of the lid and attach the foam cushion to the lid. If your cushion is in several pieces, you can put a little tacky glue between the foam pieces, too. I'm not sure if that actually helps, but it made me feel better.

Put your fabric on the cushion, and flip the lid upside down. With some help, pull the edges snug, and staple the middle of one side, about an inch away from the edge. Then, pull the opposite side equally snug, and put one staple in the middle of that side, then the same with the remaining sides.

From there, keep going around the edges, holding the fabric snug and alternating sides so you don't make the fabric lop-sided.

The thing here, is that you want to keep the same amount of tension all the way around the fabric. If it's too loose, wrinkles will show up in the fabric. If it's too tight, the edges of the cushion will be compressed into a curve. If you prefer one over the other, you can really do it however you want. Just keep it consistent across the whole cushion, and it will come out looking good.

Step 4: Making the Paneling

Picture of Making the Paneling

The side panels are a little easier, just cut 1/2" foam panels to exactly match the inset sides.

Lay down the ironed fabric and cut a couple inches around the edges of the foam.

Use tacky glue to affix the fabric to the back of the foam. I used straight pins to keep the corners tight while the glue dried.

Let the panel dry overnight. Some weight on a plywood [or other big flat object] scrap helps the fabric attach correctly.

Step 5: Attaching the Paneling

Picture of Attaching the Paneling

Use wood glue around the outside to attach the dried side panels to the appropriate places on the box. I added some tacky glue to the middle for good measure.

More weight, and more wait. (Add books and let sit overnight.)

Step 6: Adding Hardware

Picture of Adding Hardware

The original box had a loose lid, it was not attached. If your box already had hinges, you can just reattach them and be done.

If you are using the same box as we did, now you can add hinges and the spring-loaded arm. I attached the hinges to the outside of the box, because if the hinge was in the inside, the lid would not open.

If you add the spring-loaded arm, the box will stay open when you open it and not slam down on your child's head. Does that mean it will make your child soft and weak later in their life? Don't think I didn't consider that. I added one, but after a couple months, the board on the back started to split, and it was clear that this box was not sturdy enough for the arm. So, I took it off, and just left the hinges.

The finished box is much more presentable and child-friendly than the original, and much more comfy to sit on.

Comments