When you want to kick back and relax after a long day, an ottoman or pouf offers the perfect place to rest your feet. They are ideal space-saving pieces of furniture.
But an ottoman can be so much more than a footrest; it provides an anchor point in the center of your living area, it can become additional seating for guests or make a statement about your style. Kristin Flanagan of Architectural Digest writes about ottomans: "The piece of furniture is actually a multipurpose gem: It can be used as a cocktail table substitute, a decorative footstool for a sofa, or space-saving storage."
The key is finding the right style ottoman or pouf to suit your home décor. Here are some professional tips and tricks to help you make the most of your ottomans and poufs to create an inviting and interesting living space.
Choose between an ottoman and a pouf: the former is a more casual and softer solution that sits directly on the floor, whereas the latter is a more versatile option with legs, a frame, or even some hidden storage
Find the right shape for your room: round and cylindrical are the most popular ones, cubes can emphasize your décor's clean lines, and rectangles or squares result in a more practical top surface
Be realistic when it comes to size! Large ottomans and poufs can be a classy statement in wide and richly decorated settings, but small models are a wiser choice with more casual décors and rooms where space isn't a luxury. Need a compromise? Opt for a medium one
You can either match an existing color, a similar shade, or even help it stand out by creating contrast against its background
Fabric and leather are the most common types of upholstery, but you can also consider luxurious velvet or durable rattan and seagrass
Should I Get an Ottoman or a Pouf?
Many people use the terms ottoman and pouf interchangeably; however, while each of these pieces performs effectively the same function as a low stool or footrest, they are different.
A pouf is similar to an oversized pillow. It has a soft seat, no back, and typically no storage space. Poufs also sit directly on the floor with no supporting structure.
Poufs are a great addition to casual living and entertainment areas. They offer better comfort for guests due to their soft texture and are available in a wider variety of eclectic styles.
They are ideal for adding depth and interest to a room and complement bohemian and Scandinavian décor, but they can also add interesting texture to an industrial-style room or modern country farmhouse.
An ottoman has a firmer texture, is supported by legs or a frame, and often features a hidden storage compartment inside the seat.
Ottomans offer more versatility than poufs. If you have a small den and need extra storage space, an ottoman is the better choice to help you keep the area clutter-free.
Ottomans are also suitable for formal living areas, and homes decorated in a traditional or transitional style. However, sleek, minimal ottomans also look stunning paired with mid-century modern décor and urban modern style living areas.
Which Shape Ottoman or Pouf Should I Choose?
Due to the versatility of ottomans and poufs, there are hundreds of shapes available. When it comes to choosing the right shape ottoman or pouf, consider the function of the piece. Some popular shapes include:
Round or cylindrical poufs and ottomans adapt well to a range of different styles and living room configurations. They can also add a point of contrast in a room that predominantly features minimal, clean lines. Still, they can also complement more traditionally styled rooms, including shabby chic or French country, due to the classic shape.
If you are deciding between a round pouf or an ottoman, consider how the piece will function. If you plan on using the item as a makeshift side table, a rounded pouf won’t be able to support a tray, cup or book without falling over. However, a flat-topped streamlined ottoman can hold your coffee cup or magazine securely.
Cube-shaped poufs and ottomans have seen a considerable rise in popularity over the years as they can be easily stacked or rearranged to suit your changing style and function needs. Cube ottomans often feature a removable lid that offers storage for magazines, books or throw rugs and can be reversed to create a side table or coffee table.
Choose a cube ottoman or pouf if you have limited seating or living space as they are the most versatile shape. Fabric or leather cube-shaped ottomans and poufs are perfect for modern, urban and industrial styles as they match the clean lines of the décor. However, a multicolored fabric cube pouf would blend well with bohemian or eclectic styles and could anchor the more organic shapes often used in these types of décor.
Both rectangle and square ottomans offer a classic design that suits any décor depending on the fabric and color selection. The flat surfaces of these ottomans make them ideal for use as both a footstool and coffee table.
Rectangular ottomans have an elongated shape that can fit multiple pairs of feet, making it suitable for couples, families, or people who love entertaining. They are also the best choice for narrow living areas as they allow for a better flow of traffic. Square-topped ottomans offer more placement options, whether in front of an armchair or as the central feature of the den.
Which Size Ottoman or Pouf is Best for My Living Space?
Choosing the size of your ottoman or pouf depends on the proportions of the room and your living room furniture. For a harmonious living room design, aim to keep the size of your ottoman or pouf to scale with your living room furniture. But don’t be afraid to go for a larger piece if it will improve the functionality and versatility of your space.
An oversized ottoman can make a dramatic statement in a richly decorated traditional living area but can overpower and cramp a smaller modern style space. An extra-large pouf positioned casually around the entertainment unit, or coffee table creates a luxurious yet cozy atmosphere that invites conversation, but in a room with sleek, minimal furnishings, it may look out of place.
If you are still unsure about which size to choose, a medium-sized ottoman or pouf offers a satisfactory compromise and can be used in a wide variety of ways to enhance the function and style of your home.
Medium poufs are ideally suited for adding extra seating to a living area without taking up too much space. They can also be repositioned in front of armchairs or sofas without looking disproportionate.
Create a versatile space by using small nesting or modular ottomans that can be split to be used as seating or combined to create a single makeshift table. Smaller ottomans and poufs in novelty styles can add a touch of luxury to a modestly decorated room.
Another element to consider is the height. If the piece is too high relative to the sofa or armchair, it will be uncomfortable to place your feet. However, if the piece is too low, it can make it inconvenient to use as a table and may not provide adequate storage space. The ideal height for an ottoman is between 15 and 22 inches. Measure the height between the sofa seat and the floor to gauge the best height ottoman for your living space, especially if you are using it as a footrest.
Susie Ries of Susie Ries Interiors offers the following advice: "If you purchase small ottomans, make sure they're at least 19" high. That way, they can double as dining room chairs, which happen to be 19"".
How to Find the Right Color Ottoman or Pouf?
The color of your ottoman or pouf offers you an opportunity to express your style. If you have a traditional, shabby chic or country style room, matching the color of the upholstery to your current living room furniture can help the piece blend in with the rest of décor.
However, you don’t need to match the color exactly. Consider using an alternative shade or complementary tone to add depth to your room. A beige sofa matches well with an ottoman in a light brown color. Or try pairing an emerald green armchair with a sage green pouf.
To make a statement and your ottoman or pouf the focal point of the room, choose a contrasting color or print. A dissimilar color from your sofa or rug can elevate the style of both pieces. Colors that make a room visually pop are purple and yellow or green and red. For a dramatic effect, pair an orange ottoman against a blue sofa.
If you have limited space, cool colors like teal or blue can make a room look larger, while warm colors like orange and yellow make it look cozier.
Pro tip: A color wheel is a great tool when trying to determine which colors complement one another. Colors opposite one another on the wheel have the highest contrast and make the biggest statement, whereas colors next to each other have similar hues and blend seamlessly, creating a homely atmosphere.
If, however, you need to think practically then takethe advice from Candace of House of Paige on the color and style of your ottoman: "If your budget isn't large but you know you want an ottoman, then you can totally either select one that has a patterned upholstery material so that it disguises wear and tear more easily or opt for something that's darker in color."
Which Upholstery Best Suits Ottomans & Poufs?
The texture and tone of the pouf or ottoman define how the piece will blend in and function in your living area. Here are some of the most popular upholstery options:
Fabric covered ottomans and poufs offer the greatest versatility when it comes to color and texture. Choose bold prints and colors to add pop in a den with a neutral color scheme. Many types of upholstery fabric can be washed easily, making it the right choice for family homes or people who love to entertain. Look for fabrics such as olefin or polyester or nylon blends, which are washable and ideal for everyday use.
Leather upholstery instantly gives any piece a touch of luxury and drastically improves the style of the room. Leather is an excellent choice if you want to add rich textures to your room that won’t overpower the rest of your furniture. This type of upholstery suits a range of styles from modern farmhouse to industrial to Scandinavian.
Velvet and suede are luxury materials that need added care and maintenance. So ottomans and poufs upholstered in these rich fabrics are ideally suited to formal living areas where they are primarily used to make a style statement. They blend in seamlessly to shabby chic, French country, and traditional style homes, but can also add richness to bohemian and transitional style homes.
Rattan or seagrass is a surprisingly durable option for ottomans and poufs bought for everyday use. They won’t show up scuff marks and stains easily, so they make a great addition to family homes. The texture of natural fiber is also a great way to add texture to your living space. Keep the piece out of direct sunlight to prevent discoloration.
How to Style an Ottoman?
To style your pouf or ottoman, think about how you use your space, and the function the piece performs.
As extra seating, placing two or three smaller poufs around the opposite side of your coffee table will facilitate conversation. A larger pouf next to the couch offers comfortable seating while watching the TV.
For use as a coffee or side table, add a top that is stable enough to support a variety of items such as a tray or tempered glass pane. Add a vase of flowers or a potted succulent alongside a scented candle to add style while leaving enough room for a cup of coffee.
Remember that poufs and ottomans aren’t just for the living room. Add an extra-long rectangular ottoman to the end of your bed and style with different sized throw pillows. Use as a vanity table seat. Or place a plush pouf in the corner of your child’s bedroom to create a cozy reading nook.
- Keep your ottoman proportionate with your armchairs and couch.
- For a subtle effect, choose a shape that matches the lines of your living room furniture. To add drama, select a contrasting shaped ottoman or pouf.
- The color should reflect the scheme of the room. Contrasting colors make the ottoman or pouf stand out while matching shades allow the piece to blend in seamlessly.
- Upholstery choice adds texture and depth to the room. Leather or natural fibers suit boho, Scandi, and industrial styles, while fabric and details like tufting are better for classically styled rooms.
- Choose luxe fabrics like velvet and suede for seldom-used pieces, and durable easy-wash fabric for ottomans used every day.
- Style your ottoman or pouf to suit its primary function. Ottomans used as a footrest can be paired with cozy throw rugs, while tables should have a tray or glass top to support accessories like a vase of flowers, scented candles, and books.