Lessons Learned: Dumpster Save Turned Upholstered Ottoman

Is spring here yet? I mean, seriously…. On Saturday night I got to go to show off my pasty legs because it was warm enough to sit outside wearing a dress and sandals – GORGEOUS! But then on Tuesday we had ice. Blah. At least today is pretty! Maybe Spring has FINALLY arrived…. 

Do y’all ever dumpster dive? I mean I can’t say that I’ve technically ever gotten into our dumpster, but I’ve definitely rescued some items that have been left next to our dumpster. I picked up two chairs that we still use around the condo but the best thing I’ve rescued was a little brown rolling table. I’m not really sure how I saw potential in it, but I brought it inside, painted it white, and turned it into an upholstered ottoman that’s served me well for a few years. This guy needed a makeover – if the lumpy top and chipping paint weren’t enough, we’re also really moving away red and towards more soothing colors in the condo.

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Trash to Treasure - MrsBomb.com

The table had a wood grain texture but it’s a hard molded plastic, not wood. I covered it with off-white paint and then distressed it before I did the upholstered top.

I want to walk through this second makeover process because I learned a few things and I hope that someone out there in the blogosphere can learn from my mistakes. 🙂

So to start with, I used a flathead screwdriver to pull up staples on the underside of the ottoman and I removed the padding so I got back to this –

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Any ideas on what this table would have been used for? The bolt on top is baffling.

Gross, right? I had originally glued the padding to the top so that’s what you see still stuck to the top. I didn’t bother removing that since I was just going to cover it up again.

Now the next step involves my biggest mistake. On the first time around, I decided to try to save money on supplies by using some egg crate foam (a mattress topper cut into smaller pieces to layer) rather than using solid foam. I don’t recommend this. I don’t know why I got it into my head that this would work as well, but it really doesn’t. The egg crate foam isn’t solid and smooth like solid foam, and it creates an uneven top. Anyway, I hoped that the lumpiness on the first go-round could be corrected on the redo, so I tried it again this time around.

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When I had the layers of eggcrate stacked how I wanted them, I pulled out some batting to cover it and try to smooth it out. I had gotten a fresh bag with a coupon from JoAnn’s so it was only a few dollars.

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I laid the batting out and made a ghost ottoman.

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Then I turned the ottoman over on top of the batting. I laid out the batting and determined how much I should trim off.

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Once the batting was trimmed, I started stapling the batting onto the underside of the top of the ottoman. I used the same staple gun that I used on my memo boards and I used a similar method too – I started in the middle of the long side and then did the middle on the opposite side to keep the batting straight and tight. I did the same thing with at least three more staples on each of the long sides and then repeated the whole process on the short sides.

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I saved the corners for the very last. I took pictures of the corners specifically, but I knew they were going to be covered up so I was focusing on getting them folded smoothly.

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Here is the corner when the ottoman is standing up –

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See the fold in the batting from the packaging? It runs along the edge of the ottoman and unfortunately it was still noticeable when I got the fabric on it. If you try this at home, you may want to look at trying to steam or iron the batting? I don’t really know how to treat it but please don’t do what I did and just trust that it will work itself out.

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After the batting was done, the next step was to add the fabric on top. I’m a big fan of canvas drop cloth – I’ve used it for curtains as well as some memo boards, so I decided to use it for the ottoman too. It’s durable and it goes with (almost) everything so it’s a go-to for me. I washed, dried, and ironed the cloth before I laid it out on the floor and set the ottoman on top of it. The canvas obviously doesn’t have a pattern to it but I tried to get the weave of the fabric straight so that it wouldn’t look wonky on the ottoman. (P.S. Don’t you love the word wonky? Matt has me saying it all the time.)

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I determined the size of the drop cloth that I needed and cut the fabric. Once I had the canvas spread out on the floor with the ottoman on top, I followed the same stapling method as before – first the middle of the long side, then the middle on the opposite side, then finish both long sides, then repeat for the short sides.

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Since these corners were actually going to be visible (unlike the batting), I took a more time to get them right. I followed the same kind of process that I did on the memo boards – first I focused on getting the edge coming from the long side taught and I stapled that. Then I made a right angle and pulled the other side up to where it should be. See how in the picture below the piece coming from the long side (on the left) is laying flat underneath this fold that’s running parallel to the short side (on the bottom)? The next step would be to fold this short side piece up onto the short side.

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Here’s a little diagram because the picture makes more sense. The head of the arrow on the bottom will end up about where you see a gray X. Make sense?

Corner Upholstery

And here is a corner finished. Lumpy and imperfect but you can’t tell when the ottoman is standing up.

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Here’s what the underside looked like when it was stapled.

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So I stood it up and Ta-da! Blah. I made a huge mistake in not realizing that the off-white base and and the canvas were not going to look good together. I definitely should have taken a good look at that before I got started. The color in the picture isn’t bad – that’s really how blah it looked.

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I decided to grab some Mt. Rainier gray paint leftover from the bathroom cabinets and put a few coats on the base of the ottoman. Lickety split it was looking much better!

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Unfortunately, the lumps in the batting still show through on the ends.

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Remember the crease in the batting? It left a small ridge along the side of the ottoman. It’s disappointing but at this point it’s not worth trying to fix.

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So if you were going to tell me that you’re going to do a similar project, here’s what I would want you to know –

1. Use real foam, not egg crates.

2. Lay out the fabric that you want to use and make sure it looks good with your base. If it doesn’t, paint your base first.

3. Make sure that your batting doesn’t have any harsh creases. Try washing it or steaming it if you can.


Have y’all ever done anything like this? What problems did you run into? Have any of you successfully gotten creases out of batting? 

I’m linking up with Practically Functional36th Avenue, Your Home Based Mom, DIY Show Off, Carrie This Home, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Cupcakes and Crinoline, Home Stories A to Z, Living Well, Spending LessRemodelaholicMiss Mustard SeedLink Party Palooza, It’s Overflowing, By Stephanie Lynn, Inspire Me Monday, and Inspiration Exchange.


Dumpster Save Turned Upholstered Ottoman

  • Audra @ Renewed Projects

    I love “lessons learned,” I’ve had my fair share of these moments, too. What a fun find! I can’t believe someone threw that away.

    • Helen Archer

      Thanks, Audra! I can’t believe that they threw it away, either!