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Ottoman Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Square leather ottoman in a living room

Ottomans are fun, functional pieces of living room furniture, and they go well beyond their modest size in completing the look of your home. At its most basic, an ottoman consists of a padded cushion, usually atop a wooden frame for resting your feet. Of course, there are countless variations on the basic theme. This ottoman buying guide gives you everything you need to know about how to buy an ottoman that will reward you and your living room again and again.

Ottoman Shapes:

  1. Round: Round ottomans are particularly good at packing a lot of comfort and versatility into a small frame, and they look good doing it. A round ottoman adds depth and dimension to a room that's in danger of succumbing to a grid pattern. Place a round ottoman in a small conversation nook to create a communal focal point. Better yet, combine one with a round couch for a truly unique, contemporary look.

  2. Square and cube: Square ottomans are adept at supplementing the look of the upholstered furniture surrounding it, whether it's a matched ottoman pattern or an accented ottoman cube. Look for ottoman sets in square shapes, custom-made to the dimensions of an exquisite sofa, loveseat or sectional. If you think a long, rectangular ottoman is right for your space, but you are reluctant because of the bulk, consider buying a pair of svelte square ottomans or a trio of cube ottomans. When you move them together, unify them with a long tray or table runner; when you move them apart, distribute them among your living room chairs for personalized comfort.

  3. Rectangular: Most modern rectangle ottomans take a page from coffee tables and storage bench seats by combining storage, display potential and generous surface area. When space permits, a rectangular ottoman is all you need to round off a cozy nook or living room centerpiece. Consider moving your coffee table to a secondary seating area, making way for a modern, rectangular ottoman in your living room's spotlight.

Ottoman Materials:

  1. Leather: There are obvious advantages to leather ottomans. Leather is stronger and more resistant to tearing, bunching or staining than virtually any other textile. At the same time, leather has a soft, responsive quality that makes it an ideally comfortable covering for any kind of furniture. If you're filling in a large space, choose a black leather ottoman as a stand-out piece. If you're putting the finishing touches on a small room, consider a beige leather cocktail ottoman. Especially in the case of leather, the right upholstery color will positively affect the proportions in your living room.

  2. Fabric: While you might be able to pull off the look of a leather ottoman and a fabric sofa, the reverse is more challenging. On the other hand, if your living room already features fabric furniture, you have a wealth of fabric ottoman upholsteries to choose from. Pick out a microfiber ottoman in a bright hue to draw the eye to the center of the room. Get a fabric ottoman and an assortment of inexpensive, attractive ottoman slipcovers to coordinate your ottoman by season or by throw pillow.

  3. Rattan: Popular for indoor and outdoor patios, wicker seating is especially inviting when accompanied by a good rattan ottoman. It's durable, light and easy to personalize. With a few brush strokes, you can turn a white rattan ottoman into a modern, customized pink, green or black wicker ottoman. Just keep your rattan furniture away from extreme heat and humidity and treat it with the occasional cleaning to ensure you enjoy it for years.

  4. Memory foam: Some of the most affordable, coordinated ottomans to come on the scene in the last ten years are memory foam ottomans. Memory foam is a polyurethane material that can be elastic or supportive, depending on the degree of heat in contact with it. Highly recommended for those with chronic foot pain, memory foam ottomans are also lightweight, unfussy and easy to adorn with slipcovers of your choice.

Ottoman Designs:

  1. Storage: Finding a logical area for your throw pillows and blankets can be one of your living room's greatest challenges. Storage ottomans offer the complete package: a place for your fleece throws and cashmere blankets and a place for your feet. Your average small square black storage ottoman has enough room for about three folded blankets. If you need space for blankets as well as board games, consider a bench ottoman with storage to spare.

  2. Table and tray: Coffee-table ottomans and tray ottomans are extremely popular. Coffee-table ottomans solve the problem of feet on the coffee table and create all-in-one centerpieces for small living rooms or cozy quarters. At the other end of the spectrum, tray ottomans give you all-in-one furniture that's personalized to any seat in the house. Versatile, mobile and separable, your ottoman tray can be used as a stand for a laptop or breakfast in bed.

  3. Button-tufted and pillow-top: If you're looking for a chair ottoman or an attractive footstool, you'll be happy to find that tufted ottomans have a lot to offer. Tufting keeps an ottoman's foam and cotton filling from shifting or bunching, which is prone to happen after repeated use. Button-tufted ottomans also have an elegant, classic look that's surprisingly affordable. For practical reasons, if you're looking for a coffee-table ottoman or tray table ottoman, stay away from tufting.

  4. Glider: For rocking chairs and recliners without a foot support, you might want to buy a glider ottoman. Gliders make fantastic nursery furniture and remain a big hit with children as they grow older. There's nothing quite like the soothing sway of a glider to put your kids to sleep.

  5. Sleeper: If you need a compact bedding option for occasional houseguests, consider buying an ottoman sleeper. Not only is the handy bed ottoman comfortable and unassuming when down; the convertible aspect will wow every visitor lucky enough to enjoy it.

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