I got this idea when my sister (who recently had a baby) mentioned that she needs a new coffee table.  It appears that sharp corners and edges are no longer allowed in her soon-to-be-toddler-ful house!

I decided a coffee table-ottoman was the ticket.  I’ve got sewing and upholstery skills, but you don’t need them for this project.  Not counting waiting for the paint to dry, the whole process takes less than an hour.  No kidding!

Here’s the coffee table before:

It was a truly hideous thrift store find — I paid FAR too much at $29.99.  And, had I waited a day, I’m sure that I could have gotten it at half off, but I was in a hurry!  The table had a wood-grain formica top, real wood legs, and a peeling plywood apron.  It was partly covered with sticky gold spray paint, and had dark stain under that.

Tools and supplies needed:

Sand Paper

Staple gun and staples

Upholstery needle

Cover-able buttons (I used Dritz Half Ball Cover Buttons)

Upholstery twine

3″ to 4″ thick upholstery foam, cut to table top size

1″ thick batting

Upholstery Fabric

Paint or stain


Drill with 3/8″ bit and screwdriver bit



First, plan where you’ll place your buttons on the finished ottoman.  To help me visualize, I used quarters, as they were about the right diameter of the buttons I wanted to use.

I originally was going to have 14 buttons, but then after seeing the table with quarters on top, I decided 11 was better.  Once you like the layout, measure to make sure your quarters are equidistant.  Trace around the quarters with a pencil.  Remove quarters and drill holes through the table top in the center of the traced circles with a 3/8″ drill bit.

Remove the top from the apron and legs.  Usually only a handful of screws hold it.  Set the table top aside.

Sand the areas you’re going to paint.  You’ll have to determine how extensive the sanding needs to be.  For example, if the stain is dark, and you plan to paint the wood black, you probably only need to ‘rough up’ the stain — give it teeth, as woodworkers say — so that the paint will adhere.  If you’re going from dark to light, you may need to sand down to the bare wood and use a primer coat.  Don’t skimp on the prep — your beautiful paint job could peel off or cover unevenly if you don’t spend the time.

Handy tip:  When sanding of the legs, wrap your sandpaper around a pencil or pen.  This makes it much easier to get into the crevices and details.

Once your piece is sanded, wipe it down to remove any sawdust.

Paint or stain.

Let’s talk fabric. Use upholstery fabric for this project.  Apparel fabric is not sturdy enough to stand up to pulling and stapling.  You might even consider using “outdoor” fabric.  It’s even hardier, is made to stand up to the elements, and will clean up easily after spills.

To determine the size of your piece of fabric, take the dimensions of the table, add the height of your foam and batting x 2, add enough to each side so that there is plenty of fabric to staple under the table’s apron.  My table was 18″ wide, and the foam and batting about 4.”  I cut my fabric to 38″ just to make sure I had enough to work with. (Length of my table was 45,” fabric was 60.” I would have made it longer but that’s all the store had.)

Cover buttons.  The button kits come with great instructions.  Just hook your fabric over the teeth on the button top, add the cap and press.  It takes a little bit of patience, but you can do it!

Place the foam on top of your table.  Add batting (In the video, my batting is in 3 pieces — that’s just what I had around the house, no other reason.), and mark the center.  Mark the center of your fabric with a pin, and drape over the foam/batting while lining up the centers.

Thread a button with upholstery twine and insert the ends in upholstery needle.  Stick the needle through the center of the fabric from the top and feed through the hole in the bottom of the table.  Remove needle and tie a knot in the twine.  Pull the twine taut — simultaneously pressing the button from the other side, and staple twine to the underside of the table.

Turn the table over and begin stapling the fabric in place.  Start by placing a single staple in the center of each side to tack the fabric to the table.  Now your foam and fabric are secure and won’t slide while placing the remainder of staples.

It appears as if I’m stapling near the table edge, but my stapler is opposite the older models. Here I’m actually stapling close to the selvedge edge (white border).

Start on the long sides of the table and staple from the center out, pulling the fabric taut as you go.  Watch your fingers!  Staple within about 6″ of the corners, then work on the short sides, in the same manner.

To finish the corners, use a sort of ‘gift-wrap’ fold.  Pull the fabric up the center, then fold the sides toward the corner, stapling as you go.  This is the most difficult part of the process, but if you take your time, it eventually works.  Don’t be afraid to remove staples and re-fold if you don’t like how the corner is turning out.

Next, re-attach the top to the legs and apron with the screws you removed.  If fabric covers the holes, just screw through the fabric.

Finally, install the remaining buttons.  Handy tip: So that you don’t have to ‘fish’ for the hole in the table top, I thread my upholstery needle eye-first from the underside of the table through the foam, then through the top of the fabric.

The eye end of the needle takes a bit of coaxing to penetrate the fabric on top (be careful not to snag your fabric!), but I find this method much easier than searching for the holds in the table through inches of foam.  Knot, pull and staple the twine to the underside of the table.

Trim any excess twine or fabric on the underside (remembering that no one will ever see this… you don’t have to be super tidy!), and your coffee-table ottoman is finished!