Sharp & Simpson

Micaela Micaela Sharp of South-London based design duo Sharp & Simpson shares their tricks of the trade on how to create a bespoke piece of furniture, by showing you how to upcycle a footstool, through traditional upholstery methods while adding modern twists to inspire you.

Luxury upholsterers, Sharp & Simpson get behind our Makeover Challenge and offer expert advice on how to create your own unique piece of furniture.

Tools you will need for upholstery

Essential tools

  • Mallet
  • Staple remover
  • Saw
  • Staple gun and staples
  • Pinchers
  • Screw driver or drill
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine (optional)
  • Electric carving knife (optional)

Other Materials

  • Polyester wadding
  • Spray glue
  • Foam
  • Barrier cloth (a plain dark cotton fabric for the underneath)
  • Your chosen fabric (preferable fire retardant FR, if not you will need to add a FR interliner)
  • Your choice of legs (optional)

Footstool before and after upholstery

Choosing your item

‘BHF stores are an absolute treasure trove of hidden gems and a great place to source affordable furniture to test your creative skills out on - giving you the opportunity to transform an item into a modern piece to suit your personal style,’ says Micaela.

‘Therefore when it comes to choosing the footstool for your upholstery project - don’t limit yourself! Try not be swayed by the fabric or type of wood. There is always something to be done to improve the overall look. In this case, I’m not so keen on the legs on this footstool so I’m going to add industrial metal ones - a much more modern take on a bench seat. Other options could be to paint the wood and of course, I’ll be changing the fabric!’

How to guide

  1. I’m taking the legs off the footstool straight away! The bench will be much easier to manoeuvre without the heavy wood, while having a contemporary feel. Firstly, remove any staples around the legs using a mallet and staple remover. Then, once the area is free of any metal, saw the wooden legs off. If there are any metal screws inside you will need a hacksaw to cut through them.
  2. Remove the old cover using a mallet, staple remover and pinchers. Sometimes, for ease, people upholster over the top of old fabric but I wouldn’t recommend that as the finish could be altered by the cover underneath. At this stage, depending on the age of your piece, you may need to replace the seating foam. You can cut the foam to size using an electric carving knife (who knew?!) or order foam cut to size online. Once you’re happy with the size (the foam should overhang by 1cm on all sides) stick it down using spray glue.
  3. Cover the old or new foam in polyester. I’d recommend using 4 ounce polyester, as this helps the fabric stay wrinkle free and gives a softer look to the footstool. Stick it down onto the foam with spray glue, cover the sides as well. Cut off an excess level with the bottom on the footstool. Ensure it is pulled tight so that there are no creases.
  4. Now for the creative part; your fabric - the possibilities are endless in terms of fabric and design! At the Sharp & Simpson HQ we love to deep button footstools (this is a type of design with diamond sections pulled into the foam by buttons) or add piping. This takes extra tools and know how so I advise keeping the design relatively simple but choosing a really fun bold fabric – you might even spot one in a BHF store, making your project that little bit more sustainable.

  5. Use the old fabric template to cut your new fabric out. Add an extra 2cm for handling and getting the cover on. Be sure to get the pile or pattern of the fabric straight!

  6. Temporary staple one long side (angling the staple gun so the staples can be easily removed). You are stapling to the underneath of the footstool along the edge, with staples about 4 cm apart and stopping a few centimetres from the corners. We are going to remove these staples later on so we only need a few to hold the cover straight.

  7. Pull the fabric as tight as you can to the opposite long side and staple from the middle out on each side. Try not to have the item upside down when stapling, as you can’t see what you are doing. Instead rest the footstool on its side (the temporary stapled side). Smooth the fabric and pull it tight. Staples should be about 2 cm apart now that you are attaching the cover permanently. You can always squeeze an extra 1cm out of it and you’ll be grateful later when it doesn’t look loose.

  8. Now return to the first long side with the temporary staples. Removing a few at a time and starting in the middle, pull and staple the fabric down.

  9. As you go, check the fabric is still straight and there aren't any creases.
  10. Do the same with the short edges (steps 7-10).
  11. Now you can turn the footstool upside down. If you can pull the fabric in your fist so that there aren't any folds along the corner then great, go for that. If not, pleat the corner neatly and staple underneath. Try to get all the corners the same.
  12. If your footstool foam is quite thick and the pleats on the corners are long you may want to hand sew them closed with a few small invisible stitches.
  13. Staple a barrier cloth to the bottom of the footstool folding in the edges so that the staples from the top fabric are all covered. Staple the middle section of each side first, pulling the cloth tight as you go. Then once the middle is set, you can work your way to the corners. Ensure there are no folds or creases.
  14. Using a screwdriver or drill attach your newly chosen metal legs. 
  15. Voila! A beautiful, comfortable, totally bespoke footstool – plus you will have helped raise money for life-saving research!

Feeling inspired? Head into your nearest BHF store to bag a bargain and give your home a seasonal update. With furniture and electrical goods, new and used home wares and stylish homes accessories, every item sold in our stores will help to raise funds for research into heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia and diabetes.

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