Introduction: Custom Coffee Table Ottoman

About: A materials scientist gone electrical engineer my hobbies include experimenting with electronics and making fun and interesting things. I rarely know what I'm doing when I start a project, but learning new ski…

My parents had avoided getting any sort of coffee table for their living room for a long time so I decided I would build one for them. I decided an ottoman style coffee table would be perfect so I designed and build this one. This coffee table ottoman is constructed from oak and the top cushion is a beige, suede-like material.

Step 1: Design

The design of this ottoman was inspired by looking at other ottomans on the internet. I like the idea of a rectangle and a shelf in the base. Once I had an idea in my head I used SketchUp design the base.

Step 2: Gather Supplies and Tools

This project required a lot of supplies and tools which I'll try to list out here. I'm sure I'll forget something, so I apologize in advance.

I used redwood oak boards purchased at Home Depot. They are sold by the foot so I tried to be economical and plan out the lengths to buy. Below is a list of the sizes and lengths I purchased:

  • 2x - 1 1/2x1 1/2x3
  • 1x - 1x4x4
  • 1x - 1x4x7
  • 1x - 1x3x4
  • 1x - 1x3x7
  • 4x - 1x3x8
  • 1x - 1x1x8 Pine Strip
  • 1x - 4x2 MDF Board
The tools used for this project included basic wood working tools combined with some more specialized tools. Important tools are listed below:

  • Miter Saw
  • Circular Saw
  • Power Drill
  • Brad Nailer
  • Tape Measure
  • Sanding Block
  • Pocket Hole Jig
  • Paint Brushes/Foam Brushes
  • Staple Gun
The supplies need for this project are mostly for the upholstery stage of the project.

  • Large Foam Cushion
  • Fabric
  • Cotton Batting
  • Fabric Button Kit and Tufting Needle and Thread (optional)
  • 8x Right-angle Brackets
  • Gorilla Glue

Step 3: Base Assembly, Part I: Cut the Wood

The first step in the assembly of the base is to cut the wood to length. Using a miter saw, cut the boards to the lengths and quantities listed below:

  • (4x) 14" Long 1 1/2" x 1 1/2"
  • (2x) 21" Long 1x4 using the 1x4x4
  • (2x) 37 1/4" Long 1x4 using the 1x4x7
  • (2x) 21" Long 1x3 using the 1x3x4
  • (2x)37 1/4" Long 1x3 using the 1x3x7
  • (14x) 22 1/4" Long 1x3 using the 1x3x8
Also cut the pine strip into two pieces of length approximately 37 3/4" long.
Use the circular saw to cut the MDF Board to a 2' by 40".

Step 4: Base Assembly, Part II: Assemble Base Sides

Assembling the sides of the base is pretty straight forward. The top 1x4 bands sit flush to the top of legs. The bottom 1x3 bands sit 1.5" off the bottom of the legs. Pocket screw holes should be drilled according to the jig instructions and then the side bands should be screwed to the legs. I found the assembly process was made much easier by laying the parts on the floor (flat surface) before screwing together.

Step 5: Base Assembly, Part III: Install the Slats

The first step in installing the slats is place the pine strip on the sides. This is what the oak slats will rest on and be attached to. To install the pine strips I took the base frame and propped it on two saw horses with scrap boards supporting the bottom side boards of the frame, then I placed two the slats on top of the scrap boards. Since I want the slats to be even with the top of the 1x3 side board I could use this set up to easily place the pine strip exactly where it needed to be. This is easy to see in the images. Put wood glue on one side of the pine strip and then slide it into place. Then place a few brad nails into the pine strips to hold them on place while the glue dries. Do this to both side.

Now place the base on the floor or work surface right side up. The slats are made from the the 14 22-1/4" 1x3 boards. They are spaced 1/4" away from each other and 1/8" away from the base frame on either side. Notches will need be cut into two of the slats on either sides so that they can wrap around the legs (see images for clarification). I found some spare tile spacers lying around that just happened to be the right size and found that they worked really well to achieve the proper spacing and I recommend using them. Glue the slats along the pine strip and place a brad nail on each side to hold them in place. After the slats are placed, the spacers can be removed.

Step 6: Base Assembly, Part IV: Finishing

The base is almost complete! The final step is to put the finishing touches on it. At this point there are many options to choose from, but I chose to stain it. I should mention that at point I was thinking it may have been better to stain the slats prior to installation as it was very difficult to get the satin into all the narrow areas on the sides of the slats. It ended up turning out fine because of the dark stain color.

The very first step is to prepare the wood. Fill all the holes from brad nails with wood filler. Once the filler dries, sand the entire base with 100-grit sandpaper. Then wipe down or vacuum the surface and sand it with 220-grit sandpaper. Again, wipe down the base using a tack cloth to ensure all the dust is removed.

Now it's time to apply the stain. First apply a coat of pre-stain following manufacture's instructions. Once that dries apply the the stain*, again following the manufacture's instructions. Then finally apply the polyurethane in your choice of sheen.

*A note on the stain color I used: I had originally planned to stain the base very dark, almost black, so I went with Minwax Ebony stain. After putting a first coat I arrived at the color shown and really liked it so I just left it with one coat. It's a chocolaty brown that is further enhanced by the polyurethane.

Step 7: Make the Cushion, Part I: Prepare the Foam

Now it's time to make the cushion. The first step is to cut and mount the foam. Measure and mark the foam to 37-3/4" long and 2' wide (my foam already the proper width). Next, cut the foam along the mark using a large serrated carving knife (or fancy foam cutter if you have it). Now prepare the MDF backing for tufting (optional) by drilling holes. I made a 2x3 tufting pattern, so I marked the MDF with a chalk line in a pattern that made a 3x4 grid and drilled holes at the intersection of the chalk lines. Lastly, glue the foam and backing together with Gorilla Glue and let dry.

Step 8: Make the Cushion, Part II: Upholster

It is now time to upholster the cushion. I apologize in advance to those who know how to upholster well; this is probably going make you cringe, but it worked out fine. Take the batting and cut it to a size that can wrap around to the bottom of the cushion. I used three layers of low loft batting. Next, cut the fabric the same way, ensuring it can wrap around the foam and backing.

Lay the fabric face down, then place the batting centered on top of it. Then place the foam with the backing face up centered on the batting and fabric. Folder over the long sides and place a couple of staples on to hold the fabric. Choose one short end to start with. Fold the fabric over the short end and attach with a staple in the center. Choose a corner and tuck the fabric and batting from the long end in and behind the short end and then fold the short end over. Once it looks even, secure the corner with staples. Repeat for the remaining three corners. Lastly, secure any loose fabric with staples.

Step 9: Make the Cushion, Part III: Add Tufting (Optional)

Tufting is easy to add and can be done at almost any time. First use the fabric button kit and any spare fabric to make buttons. Then using a tufting needle and heavy twine, thread the twine through the cushion starting from the back where the drilled holes are located. Put the thread through the eye of the button and then thread it back through the cushion. Take a scrap piece of tufting and place it in between the two pieces of twine and pull tight and tie a knot. Repeat for all the buttons.

Step 10: Combine Base and Cushion

Now that the base and the cushion is complete, all that's left is to combine the two. Center the base and the cushion on top of each other and secure them together with right angle brackets. This will make it easy to take apart in the future if necessary.

Step 11: Enjoy

All that's left to do now is enjoy your new coffee table ottoman.

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