A Morris chair (heck, almost any chair) just isn’t complete without an ottoman to prop your feet on. Sadly, by the time you finish building the chair you’re usually so glad to have completed the project that the ottoman gets delayed until later. Well, now is the time!
We’ve published a number of plans for Morris chairs in Popular Woodworking (most recently in our special Great American Furniture publication) in varying styles and by several designers. After looking at dozens of comparable ottomans, we selected a traditional and simple design from Gustav Stickley.
The #300 ottoman we used as a model is one of Stickley’s earlier pieces. Originally offered with a hard leather seat, it sold for $7.50 in the 1912 catalog. Recent auctions have seen this simple piece sell for as much as $800.
The dimensions on our project match Stickley’s, but we’ve updated the seat material to adjust the cost (as well as to make it a little more comfortable).
How to Build It
Also, if upholstery is something that has kept you from trying this type of project before, don’t sweat it. I’m hardly an upholsterer myself, and everyone who has seen my ottoman seems to think it turned out pretty well.
Quartersawn white oak is one of the features that dresses up the plain styling of Arts & Crafts furniture. Cut from the center of the log out to the bark, the orientation of the growth rings runs almost perfectly perpendicular to the face of the board. This reveals splashes of “ray flake” that are beautiful to behold, but they only happen on the perpendicular faces.
There are a couple of good ways to give the legs this “ray flake” on all four faces, but Stickley chose to simply add quartersawn veneer to the two flatsawn faces, which I copied.
Start making the legs by cutting eight leg halves that are 7/8″ x 2″ x 16″. The 7/8″ thickness will require you to start with 4/4 rough lumber, but ultimately the oversized dimensions will be to your benefit, as you’ll see.
First, glue each of the four leg pairs together, face-to-face, orienting the best quartersawn grain pattern to the outside. When the glue has dried, square one corner of each piece on the jointer, then size each leg (using your table saw, then your jointer for a final pass) to 1-5/8″ (across the face that shows a seam) x 1-3/8″ or slightly larger (across the quartersawn face).
These dimensions will allow you to add 1/8″-thick veneer to the two layered faces, then run the entire leg down to 1-1/2″ square, leaving an almost invisible veneer face on two sides.
Next, run eight veneer pieces to 1/8″ x 1-3/4″ x 16″. If 1/8″ is thinner than you’re comfortable running on your planer, leave it at 1/4″ – just know that you’ll have to plane more off those faces after glue-up. Glue the veneer pieces to the leg blanks, making sure the veneer extends over all the edges.
After the glue has dried, trim the veneer pieces flush to the leg centers (I used a No. 3 hand plane). Then run the veneer faces through the planer (alternating sides on each pass) until the leg is 1-1/2″ square. Trim the legs to length for a four-faced leg.