The Hardest Button to Button: A DIY Tufted Storage Ottoman.

12 Materials
2 Days

During my recent music room makeover, I found myself looking for ways to incorporate some extra seating. My sights settled on an old cedar-lined storage chest, which was the right height for seating but didn't present the most inviting surface. I considered simply upholstering it, but one day while listening to The White Stripes' song "The Hardest Button to Button," I thought, why just wrap the lid in fabric when I could do something WAY more complicated? Wouldn't that be FUN?? And so, the plan for the diamond-tufted storage ottoman was born.

Draw your grid and mark where the buttons go.

Then I cut a piece of 3" foam to the size of the lid. I used the sharpie to re-draw the same grid on the foam, then used a drill with a 1" paddle bit to drill out the holes for the buttons. I used a super-sharp paring knife to taper the edges of each hole, which made it easier to work with the stiff vinyl I was planning to use.

Cut out the holes for the buttons.

The whole thing got covered with 2 layers of batting. I used a scissors to cut out the extra batting over the button holes.

Cover it with batting and cut out the excess.

This next part was the part I screwed up. Repeatedly. You have to do some careful calculations to figure out how to re-draw your grid on your fabric, including allowances for where the fabric will get pulled down into the holes. I'm can't tell you how I did it, because I did it wrong so many times that I don't really remember how I finally arrived at the right numbers. (Although here's a blog post about the whole experience, if you'd like to try to draw your own conclusions: Anyway, once you've got your math done correctly, draw your new grid on the back of your fabric.

Draw your new grid on the back of the fabric.

And here's where I kinda went off the beaten path. Instead of actually threading buttons all the way through and messing around with all that crap, I used screws with washers (and those tiny pilot holes I drilled earlier) to pull the fabric down into the foam.

Use screws to secure the fabric in the holes.

I started with the hole closest to the middle and worked my way out to the edges. Along the way, I used the flat handle of a butter knife to force the fabric into those perfect diamond-shaped folds.

Work out to the edges and secure with staples

After securing all the edges with staples, it was time to put the buttons back in "button tufting." I used fabric glue to attach the buttons to the tops of the screws.

Glue buttons on top of the screws.

After that, I just had to reattach the lid and hardware to the chest, and take a bunch of pretty pictures. I think even a trained upholsterer would have to look pretty close to discover that I short-cutted the whole button-tufting process.

DIY tufted storage ottoman.

I started by removing the lid and all the hardware, then drew out my grid with a sharpie. I drilled tiny pilot holes at the intersections where the buttons would go.

DIY diamond-tufted storage ottoman.
DIY tufted storage ottoman.

For the whole story and a lot more details about this process, check out this blog post: And let me know if you decide to try this one yourself!

Sarah's Big Idea
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 40 questions
  • Linda Linda on Feb 29, 2020

    How do you share

  • Patty Patty on Feb 29, 2020

    Couldn't you have just drawn circles around tiny lid and then just cut the whole thing with the sharp steak knife, saving 1 step-the drilling.

  • Amanda Amanda on Dec 14, 2022

    So pretty! You did such an awesome job! I kept thinking that bolting down the tufts seemed a bit more than necessary but when asking myself, "then what?" I've decided that your process was the best answer after all. Great job! I'm inspired!

Join the conversation
2 of 425 comments
  • Buffy Pitchford Buffy Pitchford on Jul 04, 2023

    I’m considering it for sure!

  • Ron Ron on Nov 17, 2023

    I did similar to the interior. Not such thick padding though, and used black pleather. Makes the interior of the chest MUCH more pleasant to leave extra bedding inside. I left the exterior original to maintain the rustic look.