Introduction: How to Make an Upholstered Ottoman

About: A wife, mom, and maker, making heirloom quality wood artwork for the bold home.

Recently we changed out the furniture in our livingroom and found that we could really use something to put our feet up on that could also serve as a fun little hang out spot for our little ones. So, I decided to make a 4-foot by 3-foot upholstered ottoman. If you follow these steps you too can make an ottoman and you can adjust it to whatever size fits your space and needs.



8/4 (2" thick) Poplar

20 linear feet of 3/4" live edge cottonwood

Keda Dye

Brush on Lacquer

1.5 Yards Upholstery Vinyl

6" High Density Upholstery Foam

3/4" Plywood

1/2" Staples

3/8" Dowels

Wood Glue

1x2 Pine, 24 linear feet

60, 100, 150, 220 Grit Sand paper


Circular Saw

Miter Saw



Electric Staple Gun

Orbital Sander

All of these tools and materials plus many more that I use most frequently are all listed in my Amazon Store if you would like to check that out.

Disclosure: Freeman Furnishings is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Bear in mind that the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases.

Step 1: Side Frames

Essential the strength for the ottoman structure was designed to come from a frame constructed out of 2" x 2" square poplar. I purchased some rough sawn poplar from a local hardwood store. I broke it down into 2" x 2" square lumber by running one edge and one face of each piece on a jointer. Then I cut it to width on the table saw. I used a miter saw to cut the pieces for the two side frames that would create the legs for the ottoman. Each side frame would be 3 feet long and 13 inches tall. For each side frame I cut two pieces at 13 inches long and two pieces at 32 inches long.

Then I drilled two 3/8" diameter holes at the top and bottom of one face of each of the 13 inch long pieces. I drilled each hole a little over 3/4" depth. Then I drilled matching holes in both ends of the 32 inch long pieces. After all holes were drilled, I put a dab of glue in, put in the 3/8" project dowels and clamped the frame up. Did this process for both sets of side frames.

Step 2: Full Frame Assembly

After the side frames were done being glued up, I cut two more pieces of 2" x 2" poplar to 44 inches long each. I repeated the process of drilling 3/8" holes at 3/4" deep on the top inside of each side frame at both sides and in both of the ends of the 44 inch long pieces. I again used glue, 3/8" dowels and clamps to glue the full frame together.

After the full frame was dry and removed from clamps I used an orbital sander to sand the entire frame through 60, 100, 150, 180 and 220 grit. Next I used a powdered wood dye, called Keda Dye, mixed water with the blue and green powders until I got a teal color that I liked. I used a cotton cloth to apply the dye to the whole frame a total of three times until I got the depth of color saturation I wanted.

Step 3: Breakdown of Lumber for Apron

To serve as both a decorative element, as well as to help create an outside "box" or apron that would help contain the upholstered cushion, I used a cotton wood slab that I had. First I used a circular saw to cut the slab in half with it laid on top of a piece of insulation foam. Then I cut each half into one piece about 38 inches long and one piece about 50 inches long. Then to flatten each piece plus get it down to a thickness of 3/4", I ran them through the planner. However, none of the pieces had a flat surface as the reference surface and they were too wide to run through the jointer first. So, I used a piece of plywood, ripped to 12" wide, glued a stop block on the end that was thinner then 3/4" and placed each of the slab pieces on it to run through the planner. I used this plywood jig until the top of the slab was at least 80% flat and then I could run them through without the jig.

To create the "box" to hold the upholstered cushion plus hide the cross supports, I wanted the slab for each side to stick up above the frame at least 1 to 1.5 inches. So I measured that depth on each slab and drew a line on the inside. Then I lined up the lines on the slab to the top of the frame around all four sides, clamping them in place. Once they were clamped in place, I drilled 3/8" diameter holes through the slabs and into the frame behind. This would allow for dowel joinery later.

Step 4: Frame Finish

With the components all completed, it was time to add a top coat to the frame. I went with a simple quick dry brush on lacquer. I applied 4 coats of lacquer to the frame.

While the frame was drying, I sanded each of the slab sides through 60, 100, 150, 180 and 220 grit sand paper.

Step 5: Final Frame Assembly and Finish

With the lacquer dry on the frame and the slab pieces sanded, it was time to fully assemble. I put glue and 3/8" dowels in the holes on the frame and then dabbed glue onto the dowel sticking out and slid the slabs onto the dowels. I then clamped them in place. After the glue was dry I flush trimmed the dowels with a hand saw and touched up any rough spots by re-sanding with 220.

Next, I applied three coats of the same brush on lacquer used on the rest of the frame to all the cotton wood slab pieces. While that was drying I moved on to cutting the cross supports. I cut some 1x2 pieces of pine into 3 feet long pieces. I made a total of eight pieces. I laid them across the top of the poplar frame, one every foot, and brad nailed them in place.

Step 6: Upholstery

To make the cushion for the ottoman, I started by using a circular saw to cut a piece of 3/4" plywood to 36" x 48". Then I needed to cut the foam. The widest that upholstery foam, or really any high-density foam comes in is 30" wide. So, I ordered a piece much longer then I needed so that I could cut and then use spray glue to create the size cushion that I needed.

Once the foam was cut and glued, it was time to do the upholstery. I laid the piece of upholstery vinyl face down, then batting, then foam, and lastly the piece of plywood. I used an electric staple gun with 1/2" staples to fold up the vinyl and batting and staple them in place to the plywood. As I worked my way around the cushion, I made sure I was always pulling the vinyl tight and ensured I was not creating any wrinkles. Once the cushion was completed in fit perfectly in place ontop of the pine supports and inside the outer box created by the cotton wood.

Step 7: Conclusion

Overall this was a pretty simple build. Especially considering this was my first time making a piece of furniture this big. Check out the video for the full build as well.

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