Last Friday, when we were making our way through the 413 booths at the Peddler’s Mall (which is basically a giant indoor flea market that’s open regular business hours), I gave myself a small budget to find a special little project. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but I was itching to dig into a little DIY. I wanted to find something old and busted and turn it into something new, fancy and absolutely perfect. I walked in with a totally open mind, and after a few contenders, found myself totally smitten with this well-loved ottoman/bench/foot stool.
I call her Little Blue.
I’ve always wanted a vanity space to sit and do my makeup, my hair and put on my jewelry, and I figured this little seat would be the perfect height and size to slide into my yet-to-exist vanity. I loved the size and the ornate spindles. Hidden behind the yucky stained cover and peeling paint, there’s something regal about her, dontcha think? Royal, even. And I can’t think of a better set of adjectives for a seat whose sole purpose in life will be to support me while I primp. Quick, someone get me a tiara.
You know what wasn’t so regal? The $3 price tag.
Why was Little Blue so cheap? Well other than her badly stained cover, she also was rickety as all get out thanks to a missing support and some split wood on one of the legs.
Oh, and then there was the fact that Little Blue had been apparently attacked by a very mean person with a trigger happy hammer hand. Check out all the nails lining her underbelly. Poor L.B.
I knew I was going to give Little Blue a new cover and a nice coat of paint and stain, but the first step before I did any of that cosmetic stuff was to get her structure figured out. First things first, I took her apart. I pulled off the cover to discover a bunch of straw being used as a cushion filler. Huh. Either Little Blue is old as can be or when the last person reupholstered her, they just ran out to the backyard and grabbed a handful of grass. Who knows. What I did know? The straw had to go.
Once the cover was off, I pulled off the two pieces of wood that were the base for the seat so I could get a really good look at her insides. After a little bit of dilberation, I figured out that I needed to replace all the bottom support posts and reinforce the joints with screws before I reattached the seat base. But before doing any of that, I decided to take some coarse grit sandpaper to the spindles to see how easily the paint would come off.
Old as dirt paint = easy peasy to remove. I didn’t want to take it all off, but I did want to take enough off it that some of the natural woodgrain showed through when I put the dark stain on it. After about an hour of sanding, Little Blue was totally naked.
And it was time for some carpentry. First up, removing the current supports. I was able to twist one out, but for the rest, I took to with a saw. Then I quickly discovered they were nailed in and resorted to the reciprocating saw fitting with a wood with nails blade. Supports=gone.
Once the supports were off, I took to securing the joints. While Craig used his hulking man muscles to hold the stool still, I pre-drilled some holes at an angle from the top and then sunk some 2″ screws into each side of the leg joints. This took out the vast majority of the rickety-ness.
Then it was time to replace the supports. We picked up a couple of 7/8″ dowel rods thinking they’d work perfectly to replace the old supports, and they did! The one modification we had to make was to outfit the drill with a 7/8″ wood-boring bit to make the holes a little bit bigger.
Once all the holes were drilled, I measured and cut the dowels using a hand saw and some brute force. After sanding the ends, I popped it into place to check for fit. Perfect!
Then I repeated with the remaining three supports. After a hefty amount of wood glue and some dry time and screwing her top back on, Little Blue was feeling a lot more sturdy. Ricket-free!
Now that the carpentry was finished, I took to Little Blue with some dark stain (actually, the same stain we used on our headboard). After two coats, Little Blue was looking dark, moody and…well…amazing.
I let her dry overnight, and then the next morning it was time for the fun (and a lot less dirty) part— upholstery!
I had picked out two possibilities from the fabric store—one was a solid purple soft weave and the other a purple, white and magenta tweed. I also picked up three yards of a discount gold dress trim to finish off the stool. While I loved the color of the solid purple fabric, it felt a little SnoozeVille to have a dark solid fabric on top of a dark solid wood base. But both Craig and I thought the tweed was a really interesting contrast. Craig also liked that the tweed felt a little bit masculine, even though the stool had a decidedly feminine purpose.
To get the cushion started, I cut out three (yes three!) layers of some foam we had laying around the house. What, you don’t just have foam lying around your house? If you don’t, then you can just as easily pick up one piece of thick foam instead of doing the three-ply method. But I’m cheap. Free makes me happy.
On top of the foam, I layered a big piece of cotton high-loft batting. I started stapling on one side, then went to the opposite side—pulling taught before I stapled. Once I had a single staple in the center of all four sides, I slowly worked my way around the stool, pulling tight before each staple. I tried to keep my staples in roughly the same line.
Then, I folded over the corners neatly and then stapled the beejeebus out of them.
Once the batting was securely stapled, I trimmed off the extra with scissors.
Now the fun part—the fabric!
Since my fabric was a heavy tweed, it was nice and flat once I layered it against the batting, but if you are using a lightweight fabric, you might want to spray the batting lightly with spray adhesive and then lay your fabric down to make sure it stays nice and smooth. Or, you could just always upholster with heavyweight fabric.
Once I had my piece of tweed centered on the stool, I repeated the same steps I did with the batting. The only difference this time was that I used a ruler lined up with the bottom of the stool to make sure I was stapling on the same line all the way around the stool.
Another trip around the stool with the stapler and Little
Blue Purple was taking shape!
I trimmed the extra fabric off, and then to finish off the fabric and cover up the staples, I simply hot glued the gold cord dress finishing all the way around the base of the cushion. The hot glue not only holds the trim (which hides the staples) but the glue also helps to keep the fabric from unraveling. If you are really worried about this, you could apply Fray Check to the edge of the fabric before putting on your finishing.
I’m practically giddy with how well Little Purple turned out. I can’t help but feel like I rescued her from an almost certain life in the landfill. And now she’s a beautiful, regal stool that will be a part of my everyday life.
Let’s talk costs. Of course, the stool itself is pretty economical, but I did have to put some money into fixing her up. Here’s a rundown of what we spent (after taxes):
- Stool: $3.15
- Dowel Rods: $6.40
- Tweed Fabric: $8.31 (this is for the full yard, which I only used about half of)
- Gold Trim: $2.67
- Batting: $4.78
- Screws, stain, sandpaper, hot glue, foam: on hand
Not too shabby, eh? Especially considering the vanity stool I was coveting is currently on sale for $158. And there is something totally priceless about taking a piece of furniture on it’s last life and making it into something beautiful and functional.