Rescue and Restore: A Water-Damaged Chocolate Cupcake Vinyl Ottoman

How do you define an Old Friend? Someone you knew before you got your teeth straightened and your skin condition cleared up? Someone who loved you before you mastered the definition of postmodernism and existentialism?* Someone who tolerated your not-so-subtle habit of reminding people that you didn’t ACTUALLY OWN a television?**  Someone who you don’t see for years at a time, but you can pick up the phone and giggle and share secrets like you’re 19 again?

Smith Hall_anonymous

Red lines protect the identities of Old Friends, who are actually much hotter in their thirties than in their late adolescence. Not sure about the gerbil.

Yeah, all that stuff. But you can be 100% sure you have an Old Friend when you’ve met not only your friend’s parents, but also her grandparents.

Now, what does my friend’s grandma have to do with this week’s Project? Well last week, I was on my way to fetch my youngest child when I spied a delicious vinyl chocolate cupcake-shaped ottoman in a neighborhood alley.  Unfortunately, there was not enough room in back of my cargo bike for both my Alley Treasures and my Toddler.  So like any good Mother Scavenger, I tucked the ottoman behind a nearby trash can, made a mental note of its location, and went to get the kids.  After the kids were in bed, I snuck back out and found the ottoman right where I left it.
IMG_2451Later that night, feeling a little weird about dragging yet another item home from the alley, I posted a picture of it on the Social Media. The Old Friend remarked that her grandmother had the exact same ottoman, in Olive Green.  If I had any hesitation about keeping this little cupcake, it was erased by happy thoughts of drinking soda in Liz’s Grandma’s living room.  Its fate was now sealed.

IMG_2452Now it was time to see why its previous owners had abandoned the little cupcake.  The vinyl cover and stitching were in respectable condition, but the bottom was a disaster. Check out the underside:

IMG_2454My diagnosis was Severe Water Damage, as evidenced by the rusty casters, peeling paper and disintegrating particleboard, not to mention the water stains.



I also discovered that this ottoman was actually stuffed — not with foam, as one would expect — but with miniature wood chips. This will come in handy when the United States government disintegrates into anarchy and we all have to burn our furniture to stay warm. I’ve been told that this process has already begun.


See? Perfect for a marshmallow roast in the midst of lawless chaos.

Poor cupcake had probably spent the last 30 years in the corner of some other Grandma’s basement.  A mean Grandma, not a nice one like Liz’s.

You’ll Need:

  • Screwdriver, pliers and staple gun
  • Vinegar and sponge
  • Contact paper (mine is faux leather!)
  • Vinyl or Leather Cleaner

STEP ONE – DISMANTLE:  Unscrew the casters and put them aside, storing each caster with its respective screws.   IMG_2468

Are you up-to-date on your tetanus shots? Cause it’s about to get rusty in here.IMG_2473STEP TWO – PREPARE THE SURFACE:  First, peel off and discard the loose contact paper.

IMG_2466Next, use pliers or a flat-head screw driver to remove any rusty staples or mystery nails:
IMG_2479Realize that you are not quite sure how this whole thing is held together. Decide that Gravity is good enough for now.

Wipe down the base with vinegar and air dry.  The vinegar will help to eliminate that musty alley smell.  Don’t worry if it smells like pickles at first – when the vinegar dries, its smell will magically evaporate as well.  However, some people really like the smell of pickles.


STEP THREE – REBUILD:  Once the surface has dried, we need to secure the fabric back onto the base.  Use a staple gun to re-attach the fabric, blasting one staple in about every 3 inches or so, avoiding the area where the casters will be screwed back in.


PRO-TIP! Treat yourself to a new staple gun! I finally broke down and bought a really good one. It was less than $30, but worth at least $10,000 in happiness and ease of use.  However, I was a little concerned by illustrations in the instruction manual, which suggest that this staple gun should be used by babies:



Next, roll out contact the paper, face down, over your base. Use a marker to outline the edges. When in doubt, give yourself extra material because you can always slice the excess off afterwards.
IMG_2498IMG_2503Before you adhere the contact paper to the base, use masking tape to mark the spot where the casters will be re-attached.

Peel off the backing and position the contact paper over the base, sticky side down.  Smooth it out with your hands, starting from the center and moving outwards.IMG_2509

If you’re lucky, your husband (who is graciously taking all these pictures) will make a joke about “Scratching Vinyl.”


Repairing the Base v. Dropping the Bass?

Using a sharp, pointy object of your choice, poke a hole in the contact paper where the caster screws once lived, using your masking tape as a guide. The contact paper is thin enough that you should be able to feel the inner two holes with your finger – those two will be enough to position the caster brackets.
IMG_2515Position caster brackets over your holes and screw back in.

IMG_2516At this point you’ll notice that the contact paper doesn’t stick quite as well to the fabric as it does to the board. To keep the contact paper from peeling off the fabric, pop a few more staples in over the contact paper where it meets the fabric.


STEP FOUR – CLEAN AND ENJOY!  Now flip your cupcake over and dust off any debris.  Before your ottoman is ready for Proper Lounging, we need to clean and condition the vinyl.  A few weeks back I had bought a bottle of this Leather and Vinyl Cleaner at the auto parts store. It’s made for car seats, but I found that it worked wonders on my thrifted vinyl Poor Man’s Barcelona Chair.
IMG_2524Like most alley treasures, I don’t yet have a permanent location in mind for my Little Cupcake. For now, let’s pair him with several different chairs and see what works.


In the Front Room with the Poor Man’s Barcelona Lounger?


By the bookcase with the knock-off Eames Rocker?


Or in the Baby’s room with another vinyl chair I found in the alley?

* I’m still working on that last one.
** Yes, we have one now, and it’s huge.


4 thoughts on “Rescue and Restore: A Water-Damaged Chocolate Cupcake Vinyl Ottoman

  1. Pingback: This One Weird Trick Will Make Your EXPEDIT Less IKEA-looking! | projectophile

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