French style ottoman DIY tutorial

French style ottoman – how to build your own

Dear Diary,

French style ottomans….oh my heart skips a beat.  Such versatile pieces of furniture.  There are many French style ottomans out there, but the distinctive element of French styled furniture is the Queen Anne cabriole leg.  Curved and carved legs and other decorative detail defines French provincial furniture, and luxurious fabrics are often used.  Today I will show you how to make your very own French style ottoman in a few easy steps.  Get the wood, saw and glue friends, and soon you will be bragging about your own beautiful DIY French style ottoman!

You will need:

19mm x 90mm pine, 70mm x 70mm pine , 9mm mdf or plywood for top, saw (I used a cut off saw to help it be square), a square ruler, pencil, measuring tape, wood screws, wood glue, cabriole legs, foam, fabric, decorative studs for trim, and spun bond to cover bottom.

First cut 2 lengths of 600mm and 2 x 400mm (that will be the side of the frame) and make sure they are absolutely square, or your ottoman will wobble!  (in the pictures it shows 8 pieces, but I made 2 ottomans at once 😉  )

French style ottoman build - DIY

 Then nail the frame together with nails and for extra strength, then wood screws…… don’t forget the glue! Pre-drill holes with a smaller drill bit to ensure the screws pull the wood together really tight and straight.

Cut 4 pieces of 70mm for fitting inside the ottoman frame.  This helps with the squaring of the frame and gives a place to fit the legs onto later. (some legs other than cabriole legs need more “flesh” than the frame only)


I found these cabriole legs for my French style ottoman at a garage sale on another piece of furniture, but for $7.50 a table, it was worth every penny just for the legs!  I painted them the same colour as the rest of the furniture, sanded it back for a bit of a weathered look, and set them aside to dry.  As you can see below, fasten those babies to a piece of scrap wood and it will make the painting job easy peasy.

Glue and screw the legs on the corners of the frame.  

I wanted a curved bottom edge.  This is easily achieved by a small piece of wood attached on the frame afterwards.

Measure your frame and cut the top from the mdf or plywood.  Screw onto the frame with wood screws.  It’s not necessary to counter sink the screws, the foam will cover it but mr DecorDiary is OCD like that 😉 bless him….

Now for the fun part of getting this baby looking like a real French style ottoman!

As you have seen on other tutorials of mine by now, the sequence is the same; foam, wadding, fabric.  To see how I shape the foam, check out this tutorial on a headboard, or watch my video here on another headboard, as the technique is the same.

Once the wadding is on, your fabric is next.  This ottoman is getting a piping top, its different to what I’ve done before and I will explain the process here.  Make sure the tension on the fabric is even all around.  Make piping by cutting 5cm strips of fabric and stitch with a zipper or piping foot.

Right on the top edge of the ottoman place your piping, starting in the middle of the short side of the ottoman, staple the first staple about 1cm away from the end, and stretch the piping to the other side to give it nice taut and straight edge.  Do not staple close to the stick line, or you might have the stitching come undone plus it will make pull marks later.

When the piping meet back where we started, open the seam on the long side, cut the piping to meet and fold the excess fabric inwards.  You can hand sew a seam here but it’s not necessary.

Next, cut a strip of fabric at least 7cm taller/longer than the frame of the ottoman. ( at least 15cm strip) Measure the circumference of the ottoman and make the “ring” 1cm wider.  Pull it over the ottoman with the wrong side out facing you.  Staple it down also a bit down from the piping, to give space for the cardboard strips.  (The cardboard strips are off cuts I get from my local framer.  I love this stuff as its so stiff and makes a perfect “seam”).  Place the cardboard strip tight and right up to the piping.  Staple on the top side so it tacks the piping down really well. 

Before pulling the “fabric tube” back down over itself, add the bottom wadding.

Cut the fabric a little shorter on the corners so it can fold in around the legs. Pull the “tube” strip under the ottoman and pin down on the bottom of the frame. If you are not putting decorative trimmings on the edge, then don’t tack on the front of the legs. The fabric will stay put, so don’t worry about the folded bit. Cover the bottom of your ottoman with spun bond or cotton.  Trim the bottom with strip studs or decorative braid.

Phew!!! its done!  See, that wasn’t to hard was it? 😉

I love the textured linen and it matches the headboard, giving a feel of continuity in this room.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial friends, may you have a productive and very creative week!  Till next time!

Teresa xx





Article by Teresa

Australian Interior Designer / Decorator & Photographer. I share my style, my creativity and love for all things decor.

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