The Minimalist Ottoman
The Magic Ottoman
A recent post at The Simple Poppy about personal and minimalist style inspired me to write about what I did the other day. One of the things that occurred to me to look for on my shopping expedition last week was an ottoman, because I did not have one and I’ve always wanted one that was the right height for my sofa. Putting up my legs by sitting sideways on the sofa means not enough back support, so an ottoman would really make things more comfortable.
The only place that had them in the stores I shopped at was Target, but the quality was appalling, even amongst their pricier ones. Veneers were peeling off, nailhead trim was popping off, even the bonded leather was coming unbonded. Crap. I saw no reason to part with anywhere from $60 to $150 for a footstool. If I was going to have one, it would have to be something that could be sat on without coming unglued. And yes, I did look at the second hand shops–nothing.
Now, the desire for a nice ottoman is not a new one, it’s been on my list of wants for several years. In fact, about a year ago we were planning to make one, for which I could make a slipcover to match the sofa. Other things demanded attention, and it never got done. This time around, I was determined that my legs and back deserved support and comfort, and I was going to have it. If you think this is domestic drivel, just wait until YOUR legs feel like mine, and all of a sudden a properly scaled and softly supportive ottoman will be just as important as an iPad, or Macbook Air, or whatever the hell it’s called. At the very least, it will be on your list of minimal requirements for a reasonable quality of life. End of rant.
My options were to buy one or to make one. Making one presented several advantages: I could have it exactly the right size and height, and I could make a slipcover to match the sofa, which in our very small living room is a good thing–it can’t contain too many large visual elements without imploding. Most of all, making one would be free, because I still had left over fabric from my first set of sofa slipcovers, a bench cushion I could repurpose for the padding, and the box frame could be made from a set of beautiful birch plywood left behind by the former owner of our house; he had intended to use it to replace the doors on the lower kitchen cabinets, but sold the house before he got it done. Free is good. Downside: another f***king project, which I needed like a hole in the head. Projects = Time Suckers.
Purchasing one would mean no Projects and their attendant stresses. Downside would be the money spent. Then an even bigger downside occurred to me: I didn’t know where I could find what I wanted at a price that wouldn’t upset me. That meant I would have to do a LOT of shopping, and that, without question, would lead to a major Time Suck, at the end of which I would be tempted to buy something too expensive or not entirely satisfactory in order to bring the shopping agony to an end.
Result of weighing the pros and cons: I decided to set aside one day to build a box frame for an ottoman, pad the top, and make a washable slipcover for it. I’d done similar things in the past. But of course that was the past and I knew from making the duvet covers that I was losing my patience for such projects. But I really, really wanted an ottoman once and for all.
I took my vorpal saw in hand. Full nigh the manxome boards I cut. Resisted further descent into Jabberwocky. Scrounged up some box nails and wood glue from our art supplies, and put the thing together. The last two nails gave me problems and had to be pulled out, but I exercised patience and drank much coffee to stay alert. I was inspired to have the open end of the box face the sofa in order to serve as a cubby, which would be hidden by the slipcover. We minimalist knitters need places to stash the hobby, right? The 1/2 inch thick plywood made this idea structurally plausible. Then I dismantled the old bench cushion I wasn’t using anymore and cut the foam padding to fit the ottoman top, and covered it with scrap fabric to keep it in place.
Making the slipcover was tricky, because I only had a small piece of fabric, but I was careful and pinned it first to see if it would work, etc., all part of the patience that I used to have in spades but managed to call up again for this project. By this time I’m getting very tired, but I promised myself to only dedicate a single day to this project, and drank more coffee and tea and kept going. Oh frabjous day: It worked! There really wasn’t enough fabric to create proper corner pleats, but I don’t care. It has the shabby chic and slightly beaten up look that matches everything else in the house. The one purchase I did make was a set of furniture glides to stick on the bottom, so it wouldn’t scratch up the floor.
A Good Place to Curl Up and Read (I took this one, so don't blame Steve for the lack of quality!)
I found some other lengths of plywood that I used to bolster the sofa cushions, which were sinking a little too much. They are hidden by the sofa’s slipcover, and my back is grateful for the support. Here’s a pic of it in use, and you can see a bit of the new throw rug, too, along with my ancient laptop, ancient houseplants, ancient tea table, and ancient throw pillow with the tassels that my ancient cat is gradually shredding. The coffee mug isn’t ancient, but the quarry tile I use for a coaster is.
Anyway, that’s what I did on Tuesday. I made something I needed, using stuff that was already at hand, saved a ton of money and probably a week’s worth of time shopping store after store, and made a place to stash my knitting. And it is SO COMFY 🙂 Someday, when I can afford a better sofa, I’ll purchase a “proper” ottoman. But somehow I have a feeling that by that time I may want something entirely different….