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Wherein Aunt Toby Gets Annoyed.

You know, your dear Aunty has moments when putting a fork in my eye seems entirely appropriate. After posting about the ottoman project (see the last three posts), I was in one of those massive home center/lumber yard/hardware store/garden supply places (you know who you are) and I picked up a magazine (one which is based on a national home rehab show, I might add) and lo! And behold!

The first project in the magazine was on building a storage ottoman. Just one of those moments where the cosmos comes together and finds that the locus of all points is in upholstered ottomans. It happens. And then your dear Aunty read the article and it was ‘fork in the eye’ time.

Not only did the writer (and I assume this came out of the editor’s files or got thrown at a junior staff member like some sort of piece of old meat — “Hey, Mergatroid – you want some clips? Here: write this up!” – Don’t laugh; it happens; my first real publishing was just such an article on electric and composting toilets for a no longer extant home magazine published by Rodale Press) do up a nice neat tidy article with a graphic, a cut list, and an estimated cost; the article also included other offerings from various retail sites with the final estimation that it was not worth even trying to do it. Literally, it came down to: “Don’t bother; this is beyond you; just buy one of these.”

Cue the violins from “Psycho”.

The estimate in the article was $200-$300 for the ottoman.

Hello? What were they upholstering this in – the skins of extinct Mongolian wombats? Holy Hannah.

Now, I have to admit – I didn’t save every single little receipt for this ottoman but I can tell you that it did not cost $300. It did not cost even $200. I don’t even think I put $100 in materials into this.
The feet cost me $3.79 each (plus tax). The plates for the feet cost me $.50 each because Lowes was putting in a new style. The half a batt of padding was about $7 and the upholstery fabric was about $15.00. The cover-your-own buttons were two packages at $5.00 each, so that is $10. The piping was approximately $5.00. And I have to admit that the DH made the box out of scrap lumber that we had around, but if we’d had to have bought a piece of pine 1″x12″, we’d have spent less than $20 for that. All told: $53.20. And I’ll throw in some extra just in case I’ve forgotten something and am not taking stuff into effect because we have a staple gun and staples and thread and needles in the house already – I’ll just say $75.00.

$200-$300. And they are also saying that in terms of difficulty, it’s ‘moderate’. I have to admit something here: My experience in terms of upholstery is minimal at best. I moved from the kitchen chair to the ottoman because it’s flat surfaces and I figured if I could do this, anyone can do it. Seriously. If someone asked me what a ‘moderately difficult’ upholstery project would be, I’d have to say that it would be something like a small upholstered chair that needed small repairs and a slipcover. ‘Difficult’ or ‘challenging’ would be something like having to tear down a chair or a couch to the frame and doing the whole web/re-springing/creating entirely new cushions, etc. sort of project. So, I think calling an ottoman a ‘moderate’ difficulty project and estimating the cost to do it at $200-#300 is vastly over the top. Even with putting in a hunk of ‘piano hinge’ and one of those children’s toybox supports, it’s over the top (plus there are other methods of doing this and I’ll be damned if I don’t do it sooner than later just to show you it can be done). OK – and if you want to see the article and the cut list and so on, see here: How to build a storage ottoman

And it is frankly that sort of thing that a) drives me crazy (cue the violins) and b) makes me a bit angry because I feel it discourages people from doing things for themselves. I can see readers looking at that article and saying to themselves, “Oh, I can’t afford that and it looks too difficult and hard – I’ll just go down to Target or Home Goods or something and buy one there.”

And they do. And it’s from China and was probably made by a 13 year old kid with a pneumatic nailer who’s sleeping on a floor in a dormitory and being fed a half a cup of rice a day and is making $10 a week, if that.

Trust me: If I can do this, YOU can do this. Seriously. If you don’t have a saw at home, you can get the guys at the home center to cut the pieces of wood to size (Use the wood cut list from the article, or I’ll get you mine – btw, you don’t have to use birch-faced plywood: you’re upholstering it. Regular plywood will work fine, as will 1″x12″ pine boards. Birch-faced plywood is used for making furniture which you want to stain, so that you want an outside surface that looks really nice. Birch-faced plywood is what custom kitchen cabinet guys use). After that, just follow my tool list and instructions.

Don’t be discouraged by stuff like this though. Just infuriates me…

Ottoman Finish Part 2

Welcome back Ottoman Peoples!!! We are literally at the 11th hour on this project, so fasten your seat belts, put your tray tables in their upright positions, and prepare yourselves for the rather accelerated zoom to the finish line on this project. This part is took literally about an hour and part of that was just finding the wire cutters.


Tools you will need at this point:
Wire cutters
4 ‘Cover your own’ button forms – the ones I’m using here are the biggest I could find, which were about 1.75″ across. I think there may be sources over the internet which have larger ones
Fabric to cover the button forms.
Wire – I’m using, frankly, wire for electrical fences, but you are looking for something that is rather stiff. A thin wire coat hanger from the cleaners might work, or something a little bit smaller in diameter but you want something stiff. Not picture hanging wire.
Staple gun (more…)

I Otta(man) Finish This. Part 1

So, in our last episode, we had a padded box and we had stained feet and we had the triangular metal plates screwed into the bottom four corners for the feet. Now for the upholstery, where, as the saying goes, ‘the rubber meets the road’. I really do think this is what scares people away from doing this. I’m breaking this up into two parts because it is so photo heavy. (more…)

Ottoman Feet

When I bought the wood feet for the ottoman, they were hanging by plastic labels which had been stapled into the tops of the feet by the screw ends. My way of handling the finishing process of these was to haul out my trusty old (very very old) wood laundry rack and hang the feet by string through the hole in the labels. I could then swab the finish on them without their falling over, getting dirty and so on. I thought I was being very clever. (more…)

The Rise of the Ottoman (not the empire)

After I saw how popular the chair refinishing posts were, I figured that y’all are hungering after more upholstery yumminess. This is basically the next step up – an ottoman.

Yes, I realize the photo at the top looks like an empty box, but bear with me on this because that box is actually the foundation not only of an ottoman, but of a lot of other basic furniture. We are not going to go into how to build a box today – that is for the future, but trust me on this one: If you can embrace the box, you’ve got a houseful of furniture just waiting for you. (more…)

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