15 June 2012

Upholstering A Wooden Bench

 Okay, I'm finally posting this!!

Last week I showed you the bench in our dining room that I upholstered (with lots of help from my husband!)

Here's how it looked before:

I bought this bench a few years ago at Kmart of all places. When I bought it it was a cherry wood color. 
But you know me and my feelings for wood...I painted it white the second I brought it through our door. 

I've been wanting to upholster it forever and now that it's done I'm so thrilled with how it looks!! It is so much prettier. 

The fabric that I chose for it can be found here. And for anyone wondering which fabric type I chose, it's the heavy cotton twill.

Before I get started with the tutorial, I must throw out a disclaimer that this post contains several photos of my hands...and my nail polish is a chipped nightmare. You are not allowed to judge. 

Ok, here we go...

The first thing I did was figure out the layout that I wanted for my tufting.

Then I covered the buttons that I'd be using for the tufting in the same fabric that the bench was getting upholstered in. I got to use my I-Top for the first time and it made covering the buttons super fast and easy.

Then it was time to get the bench ready to drill the holes for the buttons. Luckily I have a smart husband who's good at math. He got out a ruler and plotted out exactly where each button would go so that the spacing would be perfect. There were lots of fractions flying around. I just stood back with the camera and was glad to not have to do that much thinking.

This next picture is a closeup of the side of the bench, so that you can see exactly what we were upholstering: just that top section. 

I like the way it looks when benches have a really thick looking top, but to do that we would have had to build out those sides under the overhang of the top so that the fabric would have wrapped flat against the side of the bench and then gone under it without getting stuck on the bench legs. Since we didn't need to do all that with this bench we opted for the easy route of just doing the top. I did just give you a preview of what our coffee table transformation is going to entail though... :)

So anyways, after Rob had the spots marked on the bench top for the buttons it was time to make holes...

I totally drilled these...


Rob did them all and then I just grabbed the screw gun at the end. 

When the holes were drilled we attached a 1 inch thick piece of foam (ordered from here).

We'd ordered it a little longer than the bench top on purpose so that when we stapled on the fabric, we'd be able to pull the foam around the corners of the bench and soften them some. {It ended up working great.}

We attached the foam using a spray adhesive. We sprayed it on the bench top and on the foam and then each held onto an end and slowly lowered the foam onto the bench to make sure we had it lined up right. The employee at Joann's who helped me pick out the adhesive told me you only have one shot with this stuff so if you screw up...you're screwed. 

He also chased me down in the store later to tell me that under no circumstances should I use this stuff indoors. I don't know what will happen...the house could blow up? You'll die from the toxic fumes?? No idea...I just know that it sounds like it wouldn't have been smart for me to use this in my dining room. Which duh, I wouldn't have...cough.

After the foam was attached we wrapped the whole top with batting and used the spray adhesive again to adhere it to the foam. 

Then we brought the bench back inside and used the staple gun to staple the batting to the underside of the bench top. 

After laying the fabric over the top and making sure the pattern was positioned right, it was time to make the tufts. I used these decorators needles- {they make larger ones but I opted for the smaller size}

Using nylon upholstery thread, I cut a piece of thread about two arm lengths long. I folded that in half to make two strands and threaded the longest needle with the folded side of the thread so that I was getting "two" strands in at once. Then I pulled the needle to the center of those two strands and let all the thread hang down from the needle so that I now had 4 strands of thread on my needle. {Sheesh that's hard to explain...I should have taken more pictures!}

I pushed the needle up through one of the holes in the bottom of the bench...

...and pulled it up through the foam and fabric, making sure to bring up enough thread to thread the button and tie a knot, but also to leave a lot still hanging below the bench.

Then I pulled the needle through the button. {Before starting your tufting it's a good idea to check that your needle fits through the button hole- I didn't do this and ended up having to switch to a smaller needle after I'd started because the first one was too big to fit through the button.}

I tied several knots as tight as I could...

 then pulled the button down to the fabric by pulling on the threads hanging under the bench. For this next part it was super helpful to have another person with me- I pushed down on the buttons to make sure the tuft would be as deep as I wanted it, and Rob stapled the thread under the bench. He went back and forth with the thread, stapling it in different directions, and then so that it wouldn't just slide out from under the staples (because they don't sit tight enough against the wood to hold the thread) he tied a large knot at the end and stapled it in place. 

During this part I was also arranging the folds in the fabric to make sure they were going to lay right. I wanted heavy folds coming out from all the buttons along the edge of the bench and I wanted them to make a triangular pattern. So I made sure to control how the fabric was laying as we were making the tufts so that in the end it would all look right. 

This photo just shows the difference with how the fabric looked before the tufts...very pretty, but the tufting takes it over the top and makes it gorgeous!

Once the tufting was done we went around and stapled all the fabric under the edge of the bench top. We pulled it tight, but not so tight that it left bumpy edges in our foam. I was really careful to arrange the fabric before stapling so that all the creases laid the way I wanted them to. 

We made sure to switch around which sides we did and not just follow one side all the way around, that way we could avoid pulling too heavily in one direction and end up not having enough fabric for the other side, or just screwing up the layout of the fabric pattern. 

I had seen on several sites an easy and clean looking technique for doing the corners so it's the one we followed. We started by pulling the corner fabric under and stapling it:

Then I folded one side over towards the corner and pulled it tight

then folded the other side over towards the corner and pulled it tight and stapled it underneath. 

The last thing we had to do was flip the bench over and go around with the scissors cutting away all the excess fabric. 

And now I have a totally gorgeous bench that I'm super proud of!!

August 2013 update: I just put new fabric on this bench- come see what it's covered with now, and the change I made to how I did the corners HERE.

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Chic on a Shoestring Decorating


  1. It really looks great, I love the tufts! I'm definitely gonna remember this for when I do a bench one day. Oh, and you could've drilled those holes yourself, if you wanted to ;)

  2. Wow, that looks like a lot of work but you did the upholstery and tufting beautifully. Hats off to you, my friend. If it was up to me, I will just paint the bench white and call it a day, I'm not that talented in the DIY department. :)

    Have a fun weekend!


  3. That looks fantastic! Way to go. You SHOULD be proud! And thanks for the great tutorial too!

  4. What a fabulous transformation! Now your guests will have perfectly comfy tufted tushes ...



  5. It looks amazing! You did a great job with the tufting! I'm sure I've said it already in another post, but I love that fabric! An upholsetered bench has been on my to-do list for months...seeing how good yours looks makes me want to stop procrastinating and start upholstering!

  6. Great job! I just havent gotten brave enough to try it myself.

  7. To upholster a wooden bench is not a simple task and you have taught us to do in the article here

  8. Very nice. I might have to do something like that for my teak benches!

  9. I have almost the same bench. I've been looking for a way to cover it. Thanks for the instruction. Nice weekend project!!