Why Is an Ottoman Called an Ottoman?

Sarah Hamilton

Though its shape has transformed many times over the centuries, the purpose of the ottoman has remained the same: a seat intended for leisure and comfort. The ottoman is an upholstered seat, couch or footstool, usually without a back and often overstuffed. Ottomans are manufactured in various shapes and sizes and designed to accompany any style of decor, in any space.

The Ottoman's Origin

An ottoman next to a coffeetable in an open modern living space.

The aptly named ottoman is an adaptation from furniture used in the Ottoman Empire. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the piece derived from a Turkish style of seating that surrounded three walls of a room, which was later reduced in size and placed in the corner of the room. In the late 18th century in Europe, designers began to adopt this versatile seat; the ottoman evolved into a round cushioned chair without a back, designed to sit in the middle of the room. By the 19th century, the ottoman transformed once again into a round- or octagonal-shaped piece with a padded pedestal in the center and, sometimes, arms sectioning off the seating space.

The Modern Ottoman

With chic appeal and a myriad of functions, the ottoman today is a favored element in interior design. This versatile piece of furniture is used in nightclubs, department stores and homes around the world as a stool, footrest and coffee table for extra storage and a stylish way to keep extra seating nearby. Ottomans come in many shapes and sizes; ranging from densely padded versions to those with low, flat cushions, wooden legs and dust ruffles, matching modern sets and antique treasures. For a cozy and eclectic look, pair a classically tufted round ottoman with a casual side chair in your favorite reading nook.

Living Room Ottomans

As a coffee table, the ottoman is a comfy and functional way to style your living room. It provides a footrest for the couch and extra seating when needed. The soft, upholstered edges are an alternative to the hard corners of a wood coffee table, especially in homes with small children. Choose an ottoman with hidden storage for extra blankets or a quick way to hide the kids' toys. Decorate the top of the ottoman with a serving tray for a solid, stable surface. A piece of wood cut to the size of your ottoman makes a makeshift tabletop, and it can be stored under the couch when not in use. Four small square ottomans placed together function as a central coffee table or separate them for additional seating.

Ottomans Around The House

Use an ottoman around the house in a variety of ways. Place two ottomans at the end of the bed as a quick seat for putting on shoes or a place to set out tomorrow’s clothing. An ottoman can even make a substitute for a dog bed. Place a snuggly blanket on top, and Fido will have a throne of his own. Attach wheels to the bottom of an ottoman and keep several around the kitchen and dining room for mobile seating. You can even add a touch of luxury to the bathroom by bringing in a small, tufted ottoman.