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Upholstered Bucket Ottoman: A How-To

Sometimes when I see a project, it takes over my mind and body until it becomes an obsession to get it done. That’s what happened yesterday when I saw this image on Curbly.

These amazing bucket ottomans come from a fabulous shop in South Africa, Recreate. This particular one has sold, but there’s another fabulous white one available for about $150 us, if I did my math correctly. I don’t have $150 lying around, and if I did I would be buying an amazing antler chandelier I saw on Craigslist yesterday. I just so happened to have an old galvanized tub that sits under our water spigot outside, some spare MDF, and some fabric. All  I needed was a little foam, and luckily Hobby Lobby was having a 30% off sale. So for $7, I made this amazingly awesome ottoman that I plan to use in our nursery, and have it be not only extra seating and a footrest, but a toybox too! It’s the perfect size for a kid. Want to know how to make your own? Well I finally took photos of my process step-by-step, and now I can walk you through it.

Supplies:
• Galvanized bucket (Target has them for $15 new in great colors, or you can find a thrifted one a bit cheaper)
• 2 foot by 2 foot (or enough to cover your opening) plywood or mdf panel ($5 at Lowe’s)
• 2 inch thick 22 inch square foam ($9 at Hobby Lobby at full price)
• 1 yard of fabric (prices vary)
• 1 yard of batting (optional)
• buttons (optional)
• Spray Adhesive (optional)
• Staple gun and staples
• Hot glue gun and sticks

Total Price: $30-$40 (if buying all supplies new)

Step 1: Cut your top

Flip your bucket over onto your plywood/mdf panel and trace the outline. Using a jigsaw, cut out your top panel. Optional: I routed out a ledge on the outside so that my board would sit inside the bucket and not slide off. It’s a bit tricky, but if you have a router it’s worth it even if it’s not perfect.

Step 2 (optional): Drill your holes

Find your center and mark lines if you’re drilling holes to tuft the top with buttons. I used a drill press because I’m lazy and didn’t want to measure distances, so I used the edge of the press as a guide. I drilled 9 holes, one along each line, then one in the center.

drilled holes

Step 3: Measure the foam

Lay the board on top of your foam, and trace the outline. You can see my lovely routed edge here. It’s not perfect, but it works and you hardly notice it once it’s covered in fabric.

Step 4: Cut the foam

Using a sharp knife, cut your foam circle. It works best if you cut in several thin passes, instead of trying to hack through all of it at once. Again, perfection is not necessary. Once it was cut I sprayed the heck out of the top of my board with spray adhesive and smooshed the foam down. It didn’t seem to really do much, so I’ll leave this step optional for ya.

Step 5: Cut the batting

For those of you who have batting (you can get a giant cheap roll of it at HL for under 5 bucks) lay the board top down onto the batting and cut a rough circle with at least 3″ extra all around. I left mine in this amoeba shape and then just cut off the excess later.

Step 6: Staple the Batting


I seem to have skipped an image for this step. Anyway, using a staple gun, pull the batting taut and staple along the underside of your piece. If you used a ledge, staple it as far into your ledge as you can. You don’t need a ton of staples, just enough to keep the batting secure. I used about 12 total. Cut off the excess batting, but you don’t have to be precise yet. Just cut enough so it’s not in your way.

Step 7: Attach your fabric

Repeat step 6, but use your fabric. Lay the board face down on the wrong side of your fabric, and cut a rough circle leaving enough excess to staple. This is where you go crazy with the staples. To get it looking clean, staple the fabric down once on one side. Switching to the exact opposite side, pull the fabric taut and staple it down. Making a plus sign shape, go 90 degrees from your first two staples and staple that side down, then pull the fabric tight and staple the opposite side. Does that make sense? You want to start with your 4 “edges” first. Then keep adding staples halfway between each section, so you go from 4 to 8 staples, then 16, and so forth. This keeps the tucks even and your fabric tight and straight.

See the sides? The tucks are roughly evenly spaced. There’s not a huge amount of tucks and then a flat space. That’s how you want to staple.

Step 8 (optional): Make your buttons

Since I’m a cheap-o, I didn’t want to shell out extra cash on buttons. I raided my button jar and found 4 small ones, 4 medium ones, and 1 large one to fit the holes I drilled. To cover them (and this is by no means a professional method, I just made it up) I cut fabric larger than the button and sewed it together on the bottom to make a smooth top. Then I cut the excess off the bottom.

Step 9 (optional): Attach the buttons

This was the hardest part, both to figure out and to execute. Though you see regular thread in the photo, I had to switch to thick embroidery thread because the thin stuff kept breaking on me. The embroidery thread holds these buttons down like nobody’s business. So, from the bottom, you want to poke your double threaded needle (so instead of threading it and tying a knot at the top and bottom, thread twice as much and loop the needle through, tying the ends together in a knot at the bottom) up into your foam. I had to push down on the foam and let the needle poke me in the hand to find where it was. Pull it through your fabric, and run it once through your button. Push the foam back down and try to find the hole. This part sucks. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes it takes five minutes to find that effin’ hole. Pull it back through. Using the staple gun, loosely put a staple near your hole. Make sure it’s not all the way in, that there’s enough room to slide the needle under it.  Push down on your button until it’s at the depth you like, then make a few loops around the staple and knot it a couple of times. This will keep the button tight. Hammer the staple all the way down into your board. Repeat for all buttons.

Step 10: Admire your handiwork and check that the top fits.

Hooray! It fits!

Step 11 (optional): Paint the bucket interior

If you’re planning on using this as a dual purpose outdoor seating and ice chest (using cute outdoor fabric for the top!), you should skip this step. I, however, plan to use it as storage and a toy box. Since the interior was a bit rusty, I wanted to provide a layer of protection with paint. I used some leftover latex house paint from my other nursery projects (holla, lime green!) and painted the bottom and insides. I decided 1 coat was enough, because I still wanted it to look weathered.

Step 12: Cover the underside of the top

Once I had all my buttons down, I cut a loose circle of leftover green felt using the top as my guide. You don’t need it to be precise yet, just make sure there’s not tons of excess getting in your way. Using a glue gun, I ran a bead over the unfinished edges of the fabric and batting. I then stuck the felt down onto it. I only ran a few inches at a time to make sure the glue stayed hot and sticky. Once it was all glued down, I cut off the excess felt to leave a clean line that only covered the raised inner portion of the lid. This hid the ugly MDF and raw edges, and kept the button threads from getting pulled loose. Plus it just finishes off the look of your piece.

Step 13: Add outer decoration

I wanted to paint a stripe along the bottom of my bucket to add a little interest. I taped off a section (sloppily, I admit it was 12 am and I was tired!) and painted two coats. I didn’t bother sealing it because again, I want it to start looking weathered and chippy.

I peeled off the tape, and though the line wasn’t exactly clean, I still liked it. And then I was ALL DONE! Six hours later. It took me a while to figure a few things out.

ALL DONE!

All that hard work was totally worth it. I’m so in love with this piece. It’s utter perfection, without it even being perfect! Plus I love the inside.

So bright and cheery! The color combos are endless, you can have so much fun with something like this. Whether indoor or outdoor, there’s tons of function to match it’s aesthetic appeal. I toyed around with making it the ottoman to my reupholstered chair, since I used remnant fabric from that project.

Don’t they look like they belong together! And it’s so comfy too, at just the right height. So there you have it! My first step-by-step tutorial, on an amazing project!





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  1. Lynette Coughlin

    Very cute!!!! You are sooo creative!!!!

  2. suburbianbliss

    Amazing!! I think I might need to make this! What a fun thing to do!

  3. Elsa

    I like the original, but I LOVE your version. The extra cushioning popping up over the rim makes it much more inviting and plush-looking. Nice work!

    1. killer b.

      Thank you so much! I wanted it to be more like a seat or plush ottoman than just a top, and the 2 inch foam is only a couple bucks more than the 1 inch. I think I’ll have to make a few more for friends soon, since it was so much fun to make!

  4. Laura

    this is amazing! i love the colors you chose!!

  5. Rebecca

    Love it! What a fantastic tutorial, thank you!

  6. Erin

    I have an old galvenized bucket sitting in my yard that I will be doing this to THIS WEEK! I need to find a place to store all of my garden tools on my patio and having the extra seating will be awesome. Thanks for showing this off and thanks to Grosgrain for showing it off too! That’s how I found your blog.

  7. AmericanFeltandCraft

    So simple an beautiful! What a great idea, I totally have to try this.
    Andie

    1. Lauren

      Isn’t this just the cutest?! What a beautiful addition to the room — love the colors you’re using in there! Great tutorial with excellent pics!

  8. Katie @ On the Banks of Squaw Creek

    Awesome! I have some old galvanized tubs and buckets from the farm and this would be perfect for my 2 boys’ play room!

  9. Nichole

    this is awesome! linked here from tip junkie..so cute, what a great idea…thanks for sharing and I will def be making one soon!!!

  10. April@NaturalNester

    You, my friend, are a GENIUS. This is SO cute!! I have a galvanized metal bucket that I *almost* gave away, but decided to keep at the last minute…SO glad I did! Now I can make this to hold the extra blankets in our living room! Thanks so much for sharing!

    PS: I’m your newest follower…can’t wait to see what else you have up your sleeve! :)

  11. Ashley @ DesignBuildLove.co

    AMAZING!!!!!!!!! I totally want to make one but have no idea when I’ll have time! :(

  12. Speckless

    This is spectacular! Thank you, I am so doing this. One question: If you don’t have a router, can you attach a smaller circle of MDF to the bottom of the larger circle to make a lip? Or will this be too wonky/heavy/not work?

    1. killer b.

      That’s a great idea! Actually, a 1/4″ piece of plywood or backer board would probably work just as well, or even a really thick bead of hot glue. Just something to create a border that keeps the lid in place

      1. Debbie

        I think some of that thick,rope-like upholstery cording would work for a center for the MDF.

  13. Robin @ TipToeTango

    Oh my! I have wine barrels from my wedding that need a special touch…and this just might be it! Great idea…

  14. Janet

    I love it!! I’m planning a similar one in my head as reading yours, lol. I am right with you with remnants and finding the cheapest way out, but I’m also all for finding easy, durable made-to-last ways to do things. Though not as easy as it used to be to find, (I’m a sewer coming out of a long hiatus is I ever get a workspace that isn’t commandeered before I cover it with my stuff) button and carpet thread is a wonder. I have sewn leather, vinyl, and even buttons and carpet believe it or not. When I get my space (did something that took a couple hours on the dining table and showed my husbane of 35 years–I’m stealing that–I NEED a space), I’ll have to share my projects.

    1. killer b.

      I’d love to see what you come up with! I’ll have to invest in some quality upholstery materials (and lessons!) once I get into more projects. It’s such a fun way to revamp and reinvent furniture

  15. The Outlaw Mom

    Wow, this is awesome. I wonder if I can do this for a toy box – love that it has no corners for little ones to bump into! Thanks for sharing this great tutorial :-)

  16. Diana La Point

    What an awesome idea. I think this would be great for my patio that I’m trying to make into another living space.

  17. Marius

    I found a link to your blog purely by chance, and love what you’re doing!! Keep it up. Will definitely be checking back in here.

    1. killer b.

      Thanks Marius! Look forward to seeing you around!

  18. Amy

    That is so cute! Great job.

  19. Angie @ The Country Chic Cottage

    I looove that you upholstered a galv bucket!! Thanks for the inspiration!!

  20. Ipanema Gifts

    Marvellous BLOG!

  21. Hana - Marmota

    Wow! I’m pretty sure, this could be applied to other objects as well… some sturdy wooden boxes, (whatevertheyrecalled) perhaps?

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