In spring, I wrote a blog titled “Classroom Furniture: Does it impede or improve learning?” to explore how the design of a classroom impacts learning. I’ve been frustrated by my own bulky furniture, which stifles movement and makes collaboration challenging.

Determined to redesign my own classroom, I researched furniture options, toured a retailer in Oakland, visited classrooms with alternative furniture, and presented a proposal to my school board. Unfortunately, my district did not opt to fund new furniture for my space. So, I was left with two options: keep my existing furniture or get creative.

While perusing Pinterest, my teaching partner found a cute project idea for transforming milk crates into ottomans. We modified it, so I wanted to share it with other educators looking for inexpensive ways to add some moveable pieces to their classrooms.

Crate Supplies --pic 1

Materials for a single ottoman:

  • 1 milk crate
  • 1 square piece of fabric
  • 1 pillow or high density foam
  • 2 pieces plywood – 14” and 12”
  • white board paper
  • Gorilla glue
  • 4 nails
  • hammer
  • scissors
  • ruler or fabric measuring tape

Preparation: Cut plywood with skill saw; cut fabric with fabric scissors

Step 1: Lay the fabric square pattern side down, put the pillow in the center of the fabric square, and place the large piece of plywood (14 inches) on top of the pillow.

Putting Crate Seat Together --pic 4

Step 2: One person should hold the wood down, while the other person covers one end of the wood board with Gorilla glue.

Glue fabric on one side -- pic 5

Step 3: After you’ve put glue on one end of the wood, fold the fabric over the glue and hold for 1 minute.

Fold fabric down--pic 6

Step 4: Complete Steps 2 and 3 on the opposite side.

Hold down glue sides as dries -- pic 7

Step 5: Once you have fabric glued on 2 sides, fold the the other sides like you would fold the paper on a present (folding the edges in) and glue them down.

Glue sides like a present

Step 6: When all 4 sides of the fabric are glued down, cover edges of fabric and wood center with Gorilla glue. Then place the smaller piece of plywood (12″ inches) on top of the glued section.

glue bottomStep 7: Carefully hammer one small nail (3/4 inch) into each of the four corners of the wood effectively anchoring the small piece of wood on top to the larger piece of wood on the bottom.

Hammer second piece of wood in place -- pic 8

Step 8: Measure the exact size of the small piece of wood on top. It’s crucial that your measurements are correct, or your whiteboard paper will not cover the entire surface area of the wood.

Measure wood for whiteboard material -- pic 10Step 9: Turn the whiteboard paper with the white side down and the checkered side up. Cut your paper to fit the exact measurements from Step 8.

Cut whiteboard paper -- pic 11Step 10: Do NOT peel entire back off at once. Instead, peel one side of the whiteboard paper and place the sticky edge on the edge of the wood. Once you have one edge down on the wood piece, slowly unpeel and adhere the rest of the whiteboard paper. Smooth out any air bubbles as you go!

Stick on wood -- pic 12Voilà!

Fit seat on top of crate -- pic 13

Not only is this an easy to move piece, it also has storage space. Students can sit on the cushion side or flip the crate upside down, sit on the bottom and put the cushion in their laps to use the whiteboard (as my son was kind enough to demonstrate).


I bought materials for 12 ottomans. I built one, but I’m going to let my students do the other 11 in a makerstation 😉

Share your favorite “do it yourself” classroom projects in preparation for the new school year!

9 Responses

  1. I’ve seen this idea and have been wanting to try it. How much did it cost? I made pillows this year for my kids to use in the floor. I’ll see how those go.

    • Hi Katy,

      I totalled all of my costs for supplies and each crate cost approximately $33 each to make. I had done a ton of shopping around and could not find moveable seats for less than $50-70 (cheap materials) online, so I figured it was worth the expense!


  2. Brilliant idea! We are looking for alternative seating ideas in our common design thinking space. I love the idea of creating one example and having students build the rest. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Did you do this as a class project (all kids work on the same project at the same time) or a individual station? Did they last the entire school year?

  4. I love this idea! My 2nd grade students can use the “inside” of the crate to store their snow pants, jacket, hats, gloves and face mask which will free up that horrible space at the back of the room. Thanks for sharing!

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