Hi there! Years ago I upholstered an old trunk and it has (surprisingly, given my skills with fabric projects) held up extremely well. So I thought I’d show you my method for how to upholster a storage piece such as a trunk or ottoman.
Here’s the before shot of my antique trunk. It was sturdy, but seriously lacking in style. The backstory is that my mom bought this at a flea market with my grandpa, who died too young at the age of 60. She remembers him carrying this thing for her back to the car, and I don’t know…I think it’s just sentimental to her. She made me promise never to get rid of it, of course (although I never would.) Anyway, it definitely gets more use and love now that it’s prettier.
Here’s a closeup of its cushion-y seat, which I made out of brown ticking stripe fabric.
And here’s how I did it. The same process can be used to upholster lids of storage ottomans.
DIY Tufted Trunk Lid
Tools and Materials
- Measuring tape
- Fabric of your choice
- Foam in desired thickness
- Cotton batting
- Covered button kits
- Upholstery needle
- Upholstery thread or fishing line
- Staple gun
- Drill and 3/8″ or 1/4″ drill bit
- Finishing nails
- Measure the lid of your trunk or ottoman to determine how much fabric you’ll need. Include the thickness of the lid in your measurements and add another 2 inches. For instance if your trunk is 27 inches across and the lid is a 1/2″ thick, you’ll need 30 inches in length for your fabric.
- Lift the lid to determine the placement of the buttons for tufting. Make sure to use a measuring tape to make the placement even. Mark the spots with a pencil on the bottom of the trunk lid. I placed mine in the shape of one big X.
- Using a drill fitted with a drill bit, drill holes in the lid where your pencil marks are.
- Cut your fabric to size and iron it. Set aside.
- Cut the foam and batting to size and lay it on the top of the trunk lid.
- Lay the fabric over the foam and batting, and staple to the underside of the trunk using the staple gun. Put one staple on one side, pull the fabric taut, then put one staple on the opposite side. Repeat these steps for the remaining two sides to ensure that the fabric is straight and not puckered anywhere. This is especially important for a patterned fabric, like one with stripes. You don’t want your stripes to be crooked! If it looks good, go ahead and staple the heck out of it on all four sides.
- With extra fabric from your yardage, cover the desired amount of buttons using the button kit and following the instructions on the package. (affiliate link)
- Tie one end of upholstery thread or fishing line to the upholstery needle. Tie the other end to a finishing nail.
- To give the thread or line something to hold on to so it won’t come back up through your drilled holes as you sew on the buttons, lay the finishing nail across the back of the hole and keep looping the thread over the nail and back up through the hole as you sew. Repeat this a few times and then tie off the thread to the finishing nail. You may need a thimble to help push the needles through the layer of foam.
- Now, twist the nail in a circular motion around and around to tighten the thread and draw the button down into the fabric to the desired depth. This creates the tufted look.
- Use a staple gun to secure the finishing nail ends in place to keep it from unwinding.
- And finally, add new handles for an updated look and extra function.
So there you have it! You know me…I consider my skill level moderate at best and this was a very manageable project for me. (Manageable means anything I don’t have to ask my husband to help me with…and it even involved a power tool!) So if you see an old trunk somewhere or have a storage ottoman that needs a facelift, go for it!
Here are some before shots of other furniture facelifts I’ve taken on, if you like that kind of project: