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Ottomans 101: Masters of Versatility

Stressless ottoman and sofa with two people sitting

Though an ottoman may not be the first thing that catches your eye when you walk into a room, don’t underestimate the power of this versatile piece with a rich history. Defined as a low seat without a backrest or arms, the ottoman traces its roots to the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century, or what is now present-day Turkey. In their original form, ottomans were large, luxurious seats piled high with cushions, and their length could cover up to three walls of a room. Later, ottomans diminished in size to fit easily in a corner. This smaller version was imported to Europe by the French in the late 1700’s, and eventually gained international appeal.

Today, ottomans are still an essential part of many homes. Will Joffroy, a sales associate at Copenhagen Tucson, notes that modern ottomans can serve a wide range of functions, as well as being available in a plethora of colors, styles, and upholsteries to suit any interior. If you’re looking to spruce up your space with an awesome ottoman (or several!), read on for Joffroy’s tips and recommendations for choosing an ottoman that will upgrade any room from good to outstanding.

Determine Function

When shopping for an ottoman, think first of what purpose you want it to serve – Will it be a place to put your feet up? A decorative accent? An adaptable piece that fulfills multiple roles? – and go from there.

With modern design technology making ottomans sturdier and more versatile than ever, you’d be surprised at all an ottoman can do! “Aside from serving as a footrest,” Joffroy says, “ottomans can function as a flexible seating solution, especially in smaller spaces. A flat-topped ottoman can double as an end table, while larger ottomans can act as a coffee table with the addition of a tray – perfectly balancing functionality and flexibility.”

A popular design for today’s homes is the storage ottoman, which features a removable top that hides a storage compartment underneath. “I highly recommend a storage ottoman for small spaces where the furniture needs to serve more than one purpose,” Joffroy says. “They’re also great for bedrooms or kids’ play areas.”

Copenhagen offers the Damien Storage Ottoman, featuring a roomy inner compartment and a wooden top that lets it easily double as an end table. As a bonus, the wooden top has a raised edge that lets you use it as a serving tray for casual meals in front of the TV.

For the ultimate in both comfort and adaptability, try the Stressless® Double Ottoman, from the makers of the renowned Stressless® recliners. This ottoman features two plush cushions, inner storage space, a removable wood tabletop, and wheels that allow for easy mobility.

Choose Your Upholstery

“Selecting an ottoman’s upholstery depends on factors like your lifestyle, aesthetic preferences, and how you intend to use the ottoman,” Joffroy says. For instance, protected leather is a common choice for ottomans since people often put their feet up on them. “If you’re looking for durability and easy cleaning, I’d highly recommend a protected leather ottoman, such as the Marco,” Joffroy adds.

For a richer look and feel, you can also try aniline or semi-aniline leather upholstery. A piece like the Lodi Ottoman in aniline Callas leather will be more sensitive to light, moisture, and wear compared to protected leather, but will also develop a patina that enhances its character.

Fabric is also a highly popular choice for ottomans. “Fabric softens the room and offers more variety for color and patterns, especially if you want accent pieces,” Joffroy explains. Upholstered in polyester Balloon fabric with a playful three-dimensional texture, the Nikolai Ottomans come in a variety of bright shades that will add both functionality and fun to any room.

Joffroy’s personal favorite is the Jazz Storage Ottoman, featuring a bold houndstooth pattern – “Not only is the Jazz a multipurpose piece with an affordable price tag, but it also has a lot of fabric and leather options available for special order.”

Consider Size and Shape

“Play to your space when selecting ottomans,” Joffroy says. “Ask yourself, ‘Will this improve or take away from the flow of the room?’” In terms of size, an ottoman should harmonize with the proportions of your existing furniture. Generally, an ottoman’s height should be the same height or slightly lower than the seat of the sofa or chair you want to pair it with. An ottoman that’s not too high will also make it more comfortable for your feet to rest on top. An ottoman should also ideally be less wide than the sofa it’s paired with, or the same width or smaller than an accompanying chair. If your sofa or armchair is playing a “starring role” in your living room, think of the ottoman as a supporting character.

Contemporary ottomans also come in a range of shapes, from traditional to unique. Square ottomans are a popular choice, while longer rectangular ottomans like the Parker are great with a sofa or L-shaped sectional. A round ottoman creates a more playful mood and perfectly complements a curved sectional – a prime example being the New York Ottoman, featuring an oversized look and fun accent stitching. There are even unconventional shapes like Egoitaliano’s trapezoidal Selfy Footstool, designed to fit between two Selfy Recliners so that they angle toward each other.

Explore Style and Coordination

Today’s ottomans are available in a variety of styles from simple to ornate. A minimalist ottoman like the Elly can fit into a wide range of interiors, while a tufted ottoman like the Lodi has a luxe and classic look perfect for a more traditional or transitional home. Some contemporary ottomans can also look quite unique, like the Slice, which has a deep cutout that gives it the appearance of being sliced.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of purchasing a new ottoman is color-coordinating it with existing furniture. If you’re in the market for new seating as well, consider a set with a matching sofa/chair and ottoman. For example, the Amelia collection features a sofa, loveseat, and ottoman all upholstered in light beige protected leather. The well-loved Stressless® recliners (Consul shown right) come with matching ottomans to complete your comfort, while the Falcon chairs and ottomans are another iconic choice.

When it comes to introducing a new ottoman into an existing color and design scheme, Joffroy says, “Be open about contrasting material and color. Matching material to existing furniture is typically very challenging because dye lots change, and most manufacturers do not produce matching colors.” Instead, consider a complementary color that matches secondary furniture pieces, accessories, or artwork in the room. If a room has a lot of solid or neutral colors, a well-chosen ottoman in a bright color or interesting pattern can add liveliness and visual interest.

As a final tip, Joffroy encourages customers wanting to explore further options to ask about special orders at Copenhagen – “A few of our manufacturers offer ottomans that can be special ordered as standalone pieces or part of a matching living room set.”

From the royal courts of the Ottoman Empire to modern-day homes, ottomans are still going strong. Whether you use them as a footrest, an organizational aid, a table, or a style statement, there’s no doubt that ottomans make our lives easier and more comfortable.

And with Copenhagen’s Ottomania promotion, it’s a better time than ever to upgrade your interior with an ottoman you’ll love for years to come. Through July 9th, 2023, receive a free Nikolai Ottoman ($239 value!) with your purchase of $750 or more – plus a $100 gift card with every additional $1,000 purchase. Some exclusions apply – see store for details.