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What an Ottoman Is & How to Correctly Use It

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A living room set up with an L-shaped sofa unit and 2 ottoman pieces on a beautiful rug.

There are a lot of potential options for living room furnishings and feature pieces that add elegant, interesting, and eye-catching touches to your home’s style, but few are as classic, convenient, and versatile as an ottoman

An ottoman is a flat, low piece of furniture that is often used as a footrest but can also be used as seating or a table. Ottomans are sometimes also called hassocks, which is a term used to describe footrests that do not have built-in storage. 

Ottomans come in different sizes, styles, and types, so there are many different options for the specific style of your home and your personal design preferences. Ottomans can also be customized and made to fit your specific needs with different options for legs, built-in storage, and upholstery.

What Are the Different Types of Ottomans?

Ottomans can vary based on whether they have built-in storage and the specific custom features they might have. In general, there are 3 common types of ottomans, but the options available to you may vary based on the places you visit to find one. 

Coffee Table Ottomans

Coffee table ottomans are generally longer, flatter ottomans that sit on slightly higher legs. They are meant to provide a flat surface that can be used to place decor and other objects while doubling as comfortable footrests. Coffee table ottomans are sometimes called cocktail ottomans.

Storage Ottomans

Storage ottomans have built-in storage spaces—they are like large, upholstered boxes. Their lids can come off completely or may be attached with a hinge and chain, like a chest. 

Glider Ottomans

Glider ottomans are a special variety that can slide back and forth on a track. They are meant to accompany glider chairs and rocking chairs. 

What Are the Different Ottoman Styles?

Ottomans can come in a vast range of styles, but in general, the key differences lie in their upholstery, size, and shape. The common shapes include rectangles, squares, circles, and ovals. They can be large enough to match sectional sofas or small enough to rest in front of sitting chairs. 

Ottomans can also have long legs or very short legs. In some cases, they may appear to have hidden legs or no legs at all. The common upholstery styles for ottomans include leather, microfibre, and chenille. They can be smooth or tufted, and they may have buttons or stitches that form a geometric pattern.

What Can You Use an Ottoman For?

One of the most common uses for an ottoman is as a footrest for a chair or sofa in the middle of your living room, but you also have other options for sprucing up a room with an ottoman. 

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add an ottoman to your bedroom to serve as a comfortable extension to your bed.
  • Use an ottoman as a toy box or a reading bench in your child’s bedroom.
  • Use an ottoman as a place to rest your feet in a sitting room or office.
  • Use smaller ottomans for extra style, storage, and optional seating in a living room.

Should You Decorate an Ottoman? 

If you have a large ottoman that takes up quite a lot of space in your living room, you may want to think about adding decor to the top of it. If you want to keep the top of your ottoman clear, you can also enhance your living room aesthetic by choosing decor that matches the fabric, colour, and style of your ottoman. 

Decorating an ottoman is similar to decorating a coffee table. Try to choose decor that fits well with the shape of your ottoman and will not cause damage. For ottomans in particular, you may want to choose decor that can be easily moved and placed somewhere else—so you can rest your legs on top of the ottoman or open it to access storage as needed. 

In a small living room with an L-shaped sofa unit, a big ottoman is placed in the centre with a wooden plank and some decorations on it.

How Do You Find the Right Ottoman?

The right ottoman should have upholstery that meets your needs for durability and comfort, a size that fits your existing room space, and a style that matches your preferences. If you have a smaller living room, you may want to carefully consider your options. Arranging furniture in a small living room can be easier with appropriately sized furnishings. 

When matching an ottoman with a sofa, it should generally be no less than half as long as the sofa. Think about whether an ottoman is big enough to comfortably rest your feet on top and whether it has enough storage space to hold everything you want to store out of sight. 

Find Your Perfect Ottoman

At Birchwood Furniture, we offer a collection of ottomans created with Calgary’s homes and environment in mind. We can customize your ottoman to suit your needs for style, durability, and function. 

Helping you find the perfect furnishings is important to us. Visit us to explore your options for pieces made by local craftspeople—for local homes. 

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