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A Q&A Guide to Ottomans

Once upon a time, you probably thought of an ottoman as something you just propped your feet up on when you wanted to relax. These days, however, ottomans can serve more than just one purpose. We'll explain why you need one (or more) in your home and how to shop for the right one.

What's the difference between ottomans and footstools?

The words "ottoman" and "footstool" aren't necessarily interchangeable, though you may have heard them used that way. While an ottoman can serve as a footstool, an actual footstool is usually a small, low bench that serves the purpose of propping up your feet, reaching high objects, or kneeling. An ottoman is typically multi-functional and can come in a variety of styles. They're usually larger, more stylish, and more versatile than footstools.

What is a storage ottoman?

It's impossible to have too much storage in your home, especially if your room has less square footage. Luckily, many ottomans open up to provide you with some additional storage space. Storage ottomans may have hinged lids, similar to storage trunks that open easily to let you tuck items inside. These ottomans come in different depths, so it's important to consider what you might be keeping inside as you're making your choice. Deeper storage sections are handy if you're planning to store throw blankets and accent pillows inside. A shallower storage compartment can work well for TV remotes and other small accessories.

What is a pouf?

Another option when shopping for ottomans is the pouf. A pouf is a small upholstered accessory that's usually round and can serve as extra seating. While not as large as an ottoman, you'll still find it quite easy to prop your feet up on a pouf. With its smaller size not requiring much floor space, you can keep a group of poufs on hand to serve as impromptu living room seating for unexpected guests. The versatility of the pouf even extends itself to doubling as a side table if you choose one that's tall enough. Poufs may have interesting and bright upholstery or come in leather options that feature embroidered panels.

Can ottomans double as seating or tables?

One thing that makes an ottoman so convenient is that you can also use it as additional seating when you're entertaining. Some ottomans are as tall as standard chairs and sofas so your guests won't feel as if they're sitting on the floor. An ottoman that serves as additional seating is a smart purchase for rooms, condos, and apartments with less space.

If you select an ottoman with a tray, you can use it as a table when you want to serve snacks or cocktails. Or, simply place a tray on top of your ottoman to keep drinks and bowls steady. Many people choose to use ottomans in place of coffee tables to add a bit of softness and coziness to their living rooms. However, ottoman coffee tables are also available, blending the best of both worlds. They feature tufted, upholstered tops to keep you comfortable, but they also have legs like traditional coffee tables instead of bases with feet. You can stack books on your ottoman, play a game on it, use your laptop on it, or do anything else you would do on a coffee table.

When shopping for an ottoman, the one you choose will depend on your own personal taste, seating needs and decor. Ottomans come in a variety of hues, which makes them a great accessory for adding a pop of color to a neutral room. Consider your storage needs, too, to choose the design that works well in your space.

Related: In need of design inspiration? Learn How to Decorate a Living Room