Saturday, 23 March 2013

My ottoman empire

Or, how I turned an abandoned coffee table into an ottoman. Warning, this post might run a little long. Run, get it?

I absolutely love browsing other people's design and DIY blogs, one of my favourites being Young House Love. From time to time they issue Pinterest challenges where you're supposed to find a Pinterest inspired project and actually implement it instead of just pinning it. Alongside this I had seen another blogger's project about turning a coffee table into an ottoman, and since I have always wanted a zebra upholstered ottoman and never been able to find one I liked, or afford it for that matter, I finally decided to have a go.

Like many of my best ideas, it all started on a run. It was council clean up time, which means a lot of the local residents had put out unwanted household stuff and I quite literally almost stumbled across this abandoned beauty on the verge.

It was in pretty bad condition. The varnish had cracked and peeled off years ago, and the top was bowed and buckled beyond any redemption. But that was okay. Because it had good legs and really, that was all I was interested in.

The first step was to remove the drawer, which I didn't need, clean the table, tighten the wobbly legs (turns out, the girl can rock a socket wrench!) and apply a couple of coats of stain and varnish.

Once this was done, I decided to add some timber around the bottom of the table so that I would have somewhere firm to stretch the fabric over later, that would be parallel to the edge of the coffee table lip and allow the ottoman to retain its rectangular proportions. Adding the timber involved a trip to Bunnings, buying some $2 pine planks and sawing them to size before nailing them on. All done by a girl who doesn't normally know which end of the screwdriver to hold!

I make it sound like this was a breeze but really, the whole process to this stage took about two weeks. In between shopping for the necessary bits, (which I was determined would cost next to nothing) finding the time and energy to do it all and panting for breath between sawing etc.

Once the timber base was securely in place I covered the scabby old table top with wood glue, and added a foam cushion. I had originally tried to use part of an old foam mattress (also found on the side of the road) but it turns out this was too thick and would have made the top of the ottoman too high, so I buckled an ordered the foam from a warehouse in Perth which cost about $30. It was worth it though, because it was the perfect size and totally clean and pretty.

Then I covered the whole shebang with $6 batting and discovered the fabulous therapeutic benefits of wielding a staple gun.

And with the batting more or less in place, it was time to add the zebra upholstery fabric. Initially I had wanted really 'fat' zebra stripes but this proved really hard to find. And anything even vaguely suitable online ran to hundreds of dollars. So I was more than prepared to 'make do' with this $11 upholstery from Spotlight which I stumbled upon by happy accident. Just like the batting, I cut it to size, stretched it tight over the frame and thumped it into submission with my all-powerful staple gun.

The corners proved to be a little tricky. I couldn't figure out how to make them look fancy and 'upholstered' so in the end I just 'gift-wrapped' the table top. It looks okay but if I were ever to do this again I would probably spend the time figuring out the fancy corners.

Then I brought the whole thing inside and tried it out in my living room. It looks good, but not as wonderful as I had hoped. I think the stripes are too narrow and 'busy' and fatter, glossier ones would have been better. But hey, for a free coffee table and my first ever DIY attempt I reckon I deserve to be reasonably happy. And I am.

Just to finish it off I hammered in upholstery tacks along the base of the frame. I used a piece of string to help keep me in a more-or-less straight line and placed the tacks about 2.5cm apart. I had hoped this would give it an upmarket, store-bought finish but in fact, its not all that easy to spot them in the higgledy-piggledy zig-zagging craziness. Still, it adds something and was definitely worth the effort.

And here's the finished product.

And as for the budget breakdown, I'm pretty happy with that too. The table was free, the timber cost $6, the batting cost $6 and the fabric cost $11. The upholstery tacks were about $25 and the most expensive part was the foam which ran to around $30. So for around $72 I think I can afford to be happy with my not-quite-perfect ottoman. Perhaps its the start of my ottoman empire?

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