Ottomans: Thinking Outside the Box

Ottoman, that square’ish box that you often use to rest your tired feet, has expanded its use in the common family living room. From its modest start nearly 300 years ago, this piece of furniture has made the journey from conventional classicism to fresh modernism. You may be surprised to find what an ottoman can do now-a-days.

This small piece of furniture had its humble beginnings in early18th century from Turkish influence, but was only named the “ottoman” nearly a century later. The name of the footrest is believed to have been coined after the French invaded Egypt in the late 18th century, then part of the Ottoman Empire. To rest the weary feet of the Ottomans being forced to walk for large amounts of time, a footrest was supposedly made. The name stuck and the footrest fetish soon spread to other parts of Europe. After becoming wildly popular in Europe, the footrest’s fame traveled across the Atlantic to hit furniture makers and stores in the United States.

Manufacturing a typical ottoman involves a combination of style, shape, and function. The construction of a classic ottoman consists of a padded and upholstered low-rise bench or seat with no arms, back, or armrest. Shapes range from rectangular and square-shaped to circular and rounded. If an ottoman is multi-functional, that usually means that the ottoman has a space used for storage, normally made accessible by a either a floating or flip-top lid. Many ottomans also serve as a coffee table for magazines, television remotes, and coffee mugs.

What has changed in the nearly 300 years of ottoman history? Full match leather material has made its mark on the footrest’s upholstery. Many consumers enjoy ottomans that boast of at least some compliment of leather, whether it is made light, white, dark brown, or black. Concerning shapes, newer contemporary designs don’t deviate much from these forms, but rather reinvent the conception of the shape itself. For example, there is an ottoman that takes the general form of a square, put once you pull out a corner, the footrest expands to reveal segments of triangles. Perhaps the most intriguing modern alterations to the ottoman don’t deal greatly with the outward footrest appearance. Like your mama always said, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Ottomans have gone beyond resting the weary travelers’ feet and providing enticing storage space options for meticulous homemakers. Ottomans have expanded their role from a chair or sofa accessory to a stand-alone piece of furniture that rivals its other living room contemporaries. Meet the new standard of rollaway beds—accept they don’t roll away for storage, rather they sit in the middle of your room all year long in the form of an unimposing ottoman. Ottomans now have the capability of hiding a bed for extended company. The ottoman folds out to reveal a sleeping space with some providing bigger beds than others.

The next time you come into a friend’s home and see their sofa set, you may wonder what secrets their ottoman may be hiding just below the surface.