Adding a tray to the top of your ottoman makes it easy to create a display with plants or other decorative items.

How to Decorate an Ottoman

by Jennifer Blair

An ottoman is one of the most versatile pieces of furniture that you add to your home. It can serve as a comfortable spot to put up your feet, additional seating when necessary, a softer alternative to a coffee table and even extra storage if there's space beneath the top. However, if your ottoman is looking a little plain or drab, it probably isn't adding as much style as you'd like to your room. With a few changes, though, you can decorate your ottoman so it has more personality and really helps tie the room's look together.


Changing the fabric that covers your ottoman is the most striking way to dress it up. Since ottomans usually come in pretty basic shapes, they are relatively easy to reupholster. Once you remove the old nails or staples that hold the existing fabric in place, you can simply staple new fabric over it. If you want your ottoman to be a bold statement piece, choose fabric in a vibrant shade like bright red or a bold pattern like animal print. Consider the texture of your fabric, too – a faux leather fabric can give the ottoman a sleek, modern look, while a soft, luxurious fabric like velvet provides a more elegant look. For a rustic feel, try a canvas or denim type fabric.

Add Trim

For an ottoman that is upholstered with fabric that coordinates well with your color scheme but still looks a bit plain, decorating it with some trim can help it stand out. Nailhead trim is a classic option for upholstered furniture and can give your ottoman some eye-catching detail. Adding it to your ottoman is also a fairly straightforward process, so if you’re an experienced do-it-yourselfer, it’s an ideal project. You can find nailhead trim at your local fabric or craft store – it comes in a strip with pre-drilled holes so you don’t have to individually space the nail heads yourself. Add the trim around the top of the ottoman, around the sides, or in both spots.


If you have a basic storage ottoman in your home that looks kind of drab, decorating it with fabric paint is an ideal option. With stencils, you can easily create a stylish look for the ottoman. Stencils are available in a variety of shapes, designs and patterns at your local craft or art supply store so it’s easy to find an option that coordinates with the rest of your decor. Make sure to use paint specifically designed for fabric, though, so it doesn’t make the ottoman’s material become stiff and hard. To apply the paint, use a brush or sponge and fill in the stencils. You may want to use a single large stencil in the center of the ottoman’s top or use smaller stencils to create a repeating pattern all over the ottoman.


In some cases, just adding a few accessories to your ottoman is all it takes to dress it up. A throw in a color or pattern that contrasts with the ottoman’s fabric can help draw attention to the furniture while still maintaining a casual look. If you’re using the ottoman as a coffee table or side table, create a more elaborate look by placing a tray on top and creating a vignette. Place a vase with a colorful floral arrangement on the tray and compliment it with candlesticks in a contrasting color. You can also add a large bowl and fill it with fruit like lemons, limes or oranges or other natural materials like pine cones, stones or seashells.

About the Author

Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Photo Credits

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