How To Turn an Ugly Coffee Table Into an Upholstered Bench

How To Turn an Ugly Coffee Table Into an Upholstered Bench

 What do you do with an old coffee table with a dinged up or stained top?  Turn it into a soft, lovely, upholstered bench for your hallway, end of your bed or as an upholstered ottoman in front of the sofa.  This pine bench was $13.99 at Goodwill (a little overpriced in my opinion).  With some  fresh new fabric, supplies and these simple instructions, it morphed into a different creature. 


                                            The UGLY GOBLIN


ugly table





cordless drill

dacron or cotton batting

3" foam (Fabric stores will cut it to size for you, straight lines only)

electric knife with silicone spray

spray adhesive

twine or string


LONG needle (most fabric stores with basic upholstery supplies carry these)

staple gun (an upholstery staple gun connected to an air compressor works best) It's possible, yet trying, to use a manual staple gun or try a nail gun


crescent or standard pliers

flat head screwdriver for staple removal

button forms for covered buttons (available at fabric stores)

enough fabric to cover your project



1.  Lightly sand, prime and paint legs of old coffee table.  Measure, mark and drill holes where you want your covered buttons to be.

 2.  With foam on work surface, place coffee table upside down on foam.  Measure and mark on foam 1/2" from all edges of table top.  With yardstick, draw straight lines on 1/2" marks for cutting lines.

Using electric knife, cut foam making sure you keep knife blades at a right angle to foam, cutting straight along marked lines.  If knife gets slow, spray blades with silicone.


 3.  Spray one side of foam with adhesive and center it on top of coffee table.  Taking long needle, poke up through drilled holes and mark foam where buttons will be placed.  Cut or pinch out a bit of foam where markings are.


4.  Cut enough dacron batting to fit over top of foam plus 3 inches.


 5.  Starting at center of one long side, begin stapling dacron in place pulling  dacron down, diagonally and back in towards edge. Stop stapling 3 inches from corner.  Repeat on opposite side, then move to short sides.

 6.  Finish corners like you're folding a crisp, flat sheet corner, folded and tucked under, pulled taut and stapled securely.  Repeat this for remaining corners.

 7.  Lay your fabric over the top of bench, centering design if necessary.  Feeling where the edge is, allow five extra inches for pulling and stapling.  Mark fabric and cut off excess all around. 

8.  With this workable size of fabric, repeat steps 5 and 6, always pulling snugly and diagonally down and in towards edge so you can set staples uniformly on underside of wood top.  Work carefully to get corners nice and snug.  If you need to re-do, use screwdriver and pliers to pull out staples, always pushing screwdriver AWAY from your other hand.



 9.  Poke long needle up through bottom of table and mark fabric for button placement.


 10.  Make covered buttons from scrap fabric.  For the perfectionists, make note of the fabric pattern at button marks so buttons can be made to match the pattern.


 11.  Cut 14-18 inch pieces of upholstery twine or string.  Fold in half, poke loop of twine through eye of button.  Thread the two loose ends through the twine loop.  Pull snugly.  Buttons are now ready to be threaded down through bench top.

12.  For the finale, you take the needle and poke it up through the hole in the bottom of the bench, eye side first.  Thread the twine through the eye and pull down through the bench foam and wood.  With stapler and dexterity, pull twine tight to get button pulled down into foam and with other hand manuever the stapler so you can "catch" the twine and give it few staples.  You may have to make a few adjustments to get the buttons tight enough and uniform.  For security, fold twine back over itself and staple again.




 I love this bench.  If I had to do it again, I would have used a table that had a more decorative base.  This looks so simple and plain.  It's a good thing the fabric is so SNAZZY.

That's it.  BE YOU tee FULL!!  What's the next project?

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C on Oct 12, 2014:

Thanks for tutorial. I needed it for my project. And besides... sometimes what looks like an antique may just be an old piece of furniture. And sometimes antiques are just plain UGLY.

Ellen on Dec 11, 2012:

Love the fabric I have some chair cushions just like it on my porch with bright green wrought iron chairs I spray painted..this is something I will define try for my bedroom I have never had a nice bedcover bc it always just would get messed up on fall off the bed, it will be nice to make my own to pull back the top over onto

Boxerlover on Nov 11, 2012:

Blows me away what antique snobs are doing reading this fabulous tutorial and making it into something is was clearly not intended for . Such a shame their need to feel like their opinion is valued and important!
Awesome idea and fabulous result. Cheers!

Becky on Nov 07, 2012:

I really have to agree with the comment about this cute antique turned quite gawdy.  It was not over priced at 13.99.  Apparently you do not appreciate vintage furniture.  Next time use something that is not an antique.

Lisa on Oct 16, 2012:

Does anyone know if you could use 2 pieces of foam (end to end) and glue them together to get the right length that you would need for this?  I have foam leftover from replacing our couch cushions and I would rather use that than buy new foam.  Wondering if I can splice them together to make the one long piece that I need.  If anyone can provide some insight to this, it would be much appreciated!  Thanks! 

MiteringMama on Oct 05, 2012:

Lisa-- don't mean to answer for CURBLY but I think she meant extend the foam 1/2" AWAY from the edge of the table, so the foam hangs OVER the edge of the table 1/2" rather than stopping short 1/2".  Hope this helps. =)

Lisa on Oct 04, 2012:

Ooohhh!!!  So glad I found this post!  I trash picked an amazing coffee table that I am going to do this to.  Two questions - you wrote "With foam on work surface, place coffee table upside down on foam.  Measure and mark on foam 1/2" from all edges of table top."  Yet your pictures make it look like the foam extends to the edge of the table, or beyond.  But you stop just 1/2 inch from the edge?  Once it's covered, can you feel the wood edge through the fabric and dacron?  My whole goal in upholstering the table top is to make a soft landing spot for our toddler who is learning to walk. 

2nd question - if using old foam from a sofa, can you use two pieces laid down side by side?  Or must it be one large piece?  Thank you for any direction you can give!

Mitering Mama ;-) on Jul 08, 2012:

PS: bettyspaghetti, thanks for the egg-crate foam suggestion.  I saw the egg-crate foam idea (as a money saver) tonight on HGTV.  If I should need additional foam that's what I am going to try.  $54. for a small pice of foam is RIDICULUS. 

Mitering Mama ;-) on Jul 08, 2012:

Thanks for the wonderful idea.  I just gave away my old coffee table (to a friend with a thrift store) but I was able to get it back!!  Then I was concerned about the cost of foam (Why does EVERYTHING cost SO much?!) when I read your post about getting foam from an old sofa.  Well, our sofa was on its way to the dump in the near future but now (thanks to your post) I will be removing the foam before it goes. Very earth friendly and cost saving, too. Nice!!

Anonymous on Apr 29, 2012:

Unfortunately, it does appear you've turned an antique (perhaps worth about $200) into something quite other. There are a lot of people who don't recognize old tavern/farm furniture. Oh well. Signed, Antique collector/picker...

Victoria on Mar 13, 2012:

This is so smart, and the instrutions make it very easy , except I don;t quite understand how to do the stapling are you doing the stapling from the bottom of the coffee table?

TBird on Mar 10, 2012:

Great tutorial, I live in Dallas and we have some fabric outlet stores with much cheaper foam. I priced a 24 X 36" piece from Joann's at $54, on sale I think, and was able to get a 27" X 60" piece of foam at a local fabric outlet for $18.


bettyspaghetti on Feb 10, 2012:

i made one but used foam (egg crate) twin size from walmart for 8.00 and was able to cut into 4 pcs and just turned the foam over where the (egg crate ridges are ) and worked fine after i put the fabric on and now i have  additional pieces for more projects -hope this helps

Anonymous on Feb 09, 2012:

This blog post should be entitled "how to turn antique gem into a gaudy piece of...."

Susan52 on Dec 31, 2011:

Love this!  Just last night I was eyeing, then measuring, the coffee table we currently use for our TV.  When we move into our new house I want a bench to use at the dining room table.  With the padding and foam, and perhaps another piece of plywood on top to raise the height a tad, I think it just might work thanks to your awesome instructions!

Rose on Dec 08, 2011:

Wow. This is one of the best economical decorating ideas for the home I have found yet!  Thank you for this great solution.

Mariella09 on Oct 07, 2011:

Tada! I may or may not end up painting the legs off/white. We'll see, after looking at it for a while I'll be able to make up my mind more. Again, thank you so much for the tutorial! It was easy to follow and your pics helped make it understandable :)

created at: 10/07/2011

Mariella09 on Oct 05, 2011:

I'm working on mine right now! Thankyou so much for this idea! I bought an old coffee table at the Harbor Habitat for Humanity ReStore for only $3.98 and I've completed the first few steps. Tomorrow I am going shopping for the perfect fabric =) Will post completed photo when I'm finished! 

Karly on Jul 14, 2011:

Here she is!

Karly on Jul 07, 2011:

I'm working on my own coffee table bench right now!  I was so inspired by your blog that the next time I was at Savers I found a nice sized wood coffee table that was marked half off so it turned out to be $7.00!  Sanded and repainted and now I am getting ready to drill the holes.  The foam was pretty expensive but since the coffee table was only 7 dollars I thought it was justified:-)  I'll share photos when I am done!  Love your blog! Thank you!


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