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Making Storage Beautiful: Our DIY Storage Ottoman

by Thea Dellas

Have you ever seen something at a yard sale or thrift shop and wanted nothing more than to give it some love in the form of a total renovation? My mom certainly has! A few weeks ago, while on one of her long walks, she came across the scratched and neglected wood frame of what was once a bench. She saw in the sad little piece the opportunity to create something beautiful. She also recognized its potential to multitask—with those bars between the legs on either end it would be easy to create a space for storage! Inspired, she asked the neighbors who had left it out to be picked up and thrown away if she could take it.

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Having recently reupholstered a similarly unwanted couch, she decided that this little piece would make for the perfect ottoman, a place to store blankets and pillows and to rest her feet on when she settled down to read a book. She was determined not to break the bank on this project, so she found almost everything she needed in our garage and basement, or left over from previous projects. She used the tools we had, or she borrowed them from neighbors and family members. I made one run to Joann Fabrics with her—all we needed to buy was a cut of foam to make the ottoman’s cushion with. After that, my mom laid out all of her supplies and began to work her magic.

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The first step was marking and cutting everything down to the proper size—the plywood that would sit on top of the bench’s frame, the foam that would make the cushion, and the wooden planks that would form a shelf underneath it. First, she laid the frame upside down on the plywood and traced its shape. After cutting the board to size, she laid that on top of the foam to trace. She used an electric carving knife to cut the foam carefully along the traced-on lines.

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Now that all of the cutting was done, she started on the cushion upholstery. Upholstering anything takes a lot of patience and attention to detail. My mom’s first upholstery projects were simple chairs that she initially used just for “practice” but wound up liking enough to keep! This time, she wanted to change things up a bit and try “tufted” upholstery. She visited Apartment Therapy and Little Green Notebook for detailed instructions on the process, and then set to work marking her plywood and foam and preparing them for their upholstery.

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Once the top of the ottoman was complete, my mom turned her attention back to the wooden frame that inspired the whole project. She screwed the wooden boards onto the frame, creating a shelf inside it, and then painted the whole thing black. This wasn’t necessary, since everything would be covered. But it’s nice to know that the ottoman looks great inside and out!

Finally, fabric panels were added to the sides of the ottoman, to hide what was inside and to give the piece a modern feel, and Velcro strips were attached to the frame and the top so that when the ottoman was closed, it stayed closed. The finished product found its home in front of the little couch my mom had fixed up months before and our family’s extra blankets found their home inside it!

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We found that the ottoman works best for storing light but bulky things—like blankets and pillows—that wouldn’t fall off the narrow shelf when the ottoman is moved. However, we’re on the lookout for baskets wide and tall enough to sit on the shelf without sliding off of it at the slightest movement. Once we find these, we’ll be able to store extra cords and DVDs in the ottoman along with our blankets!

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We’ve all heard that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” a statement that doesn’t seem to manifest itself in reality all that often. In the case of my mom’s storage ottoman, someone’s cast off bench became a treasure—it just took a bit of work to get it there. Next time you see something ugly or unwanted that you feel could be made beautiful and useful, remember that our little storage ottoman was at one point a scratched up wooden frame about to be thrown away. Storage can be beautiful—and at practically no cost!

Thea Dellas

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Creative writer and obsessive organizer.