Upcycle Old Books into Ottomans!


I don’t know about you, but I love the chance to upcylce things, especially old books!

I’ve deconstructed some weeded books for use in maker activities such as bookmark making, origami folding, blackout poetry, paper airplanes, etc. And I’ve always used weeded books to create my annual holiday decorations. But this year I found an even better upcycling project for my weeds!

I stumbled across these awesome footstools made from old books on this website.

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.01.06 PM

Unfortunately, the site does NOT include any instructions for how to make it. And I could not find instructions elsewhere online.  So, of course, I spent time this week reverse engineering the process until I figured out how to make it work.

Here is the how-to!

#1 – Decide on the Size

First you need to decide on the size of your ottoman. For me, I decided to go with a 16inx16in square ottoman.  The end height will be 18 inches.

#2 – Get your construction materials (cost aprox: $30)

  • Two plywood squares (for the top and bottom of ottoman).
    • For me those squares were each 16inx16in
  • Liquid Nails
    • (or other construction glue/adhesive of your choice)
  • Construction Screws (I went with 2.5 inch long screws)
    • I did not feel confident using only adhesive to keep the books together since my students will sit on these ottomans. That’s why I went with adhesive AND screws.
  • 4 Casters/Wheels
    • The ottoman is quite heavy so putting it on wheels is important. I can lift it but I’m afraid a student will hurt themselves trying to lift it so wheels make it safer.
    • The wheels, unfortunately are the most expensive part.
    • I purchased wheels that each have a 90lb weight capacity. The 4 wheels together have a weight capacity of 360lbs which accounts for the weight of the books and of a student sitting on it.
  • Padding/Foam for the top pad
    • I haven’t done the top pad yet. Will add pix once that’s done.
  • Batting for the top pad
  • Fabric for the top pad
    • I recommend vinyl or other durable fabric

#3 – How Many Books to use?

The amount will vary depending on the width of the books and how high you need the ottoman to be. Don’t forget to account for the wheels, plywood, and padding when deciding on the height of the ottoman.

For example, if you decide to have an 18inch high ottoman, you need to subtract the height of the wheels, plywood, and padding to determine how high the book stack should be.  For me, the math looked like this:

  • 18inches total height – 2inch wheels – 2inch padding – 1/4inch plywood – 1/4inch plywood = 13.5inch
  • So my book stack needed to be about 13.5 inches high!

For me, it ended up working out to have 4 books per layer, and I ended up using 7 layers.

Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.00.15 PM

#4 Which Books to use?

You need to be careful when choosing which books to use.

  • The books on each layer need to be the exact same size (width, length, & thickness).
  • To find books of the same thickness I lay a bunch next to each other and see which are level with which.
  • Pro Tip: To give more visual interest its a good idea to try to choose books of varying colors, and to have each layer be varying thicknesses.
Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 8.59.52 PM

#5 How to arrange & stack the books?

This is really completely up to you!

  • I chose to have four books on each layer.
  • I alternated each book’s direction so that some have the spine facing out (make sure they are not upside down!) and some are pages facing out.
  • I tried to alternate the colors and thicknesses a bit.
  • I also altered each layer so that the book’s direction alternated every other layer. So if the book in the bottom-right corner had it’s short side facing me, then the layer on top of that would have the bottom-right corner book’s long side facing me and so on.  Not sure if that makes sense but you can see what I mean if you look at how the books are stacked on top of each other. They don’t all face the same way.
Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.01.22 PM


When you screw down into the books, they will want to expand, so you have to push down firmly on the book as you screw down into it. And you want to drill down quickly and firmly. NOT slowly! 

#6 How to create the base?

I forgot to take a picture of this step, but:

  • I started by laying my first row of books facedown on the floor.
  • Then I put adhesive/glue on the books.
  • Then I placed the 16inx16in plywood square on top of the glue.
  • I weighted it down by stacking a bunch of reams of paper on it and left it for about a half hour.
  • Then I drilled construction screws through the plywood into the books.
  • Then I flipped the whole thing over so the books were facing up.

# 7 How to proceed after creating the base?

After you have the first layer of books glued and drilled onto the base plywood, you can just continue the process one layer at a time.

  • Apply your adhesive onto the books and place them on top of the previous layer.
Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.01.15 PM
  • Weigh the newly glued layer down for a bit to set the glue.
Screen Shot 2019-06-10 at 9.00.35 PM
  • Drill some long construction screws down to strengthen the connection between layers (press down firmly on the books while drilling quickly and straight down.)
  • Continue with each layer until you finish the final book layer.
  • Flip the ottoman over so the plywood bottom is facing up and attach your wheels or casters (i forgot to take pictures of this part).
  • Finally you can upholster the second plywood square into a cushion top for your ottoman and add that to the top (I’ll add pix when I get to that stage of the process.)
Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 4.28.30 PM
Voila! Easy peasy ottoman!


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