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How to Use Ottomans for Coffee Tables

by Nina Makofsky


Everywhere you look, you'll see decor spreads that replace the living room's old, faithful coffee table with one or two ottomans. This relatively straightforward substitution can toss a few curve balls at would-be decorators unless they do their homework. Take a look below to learn how to use ottomans for coffee tables.

Using Ottomans for Coffee Tables:

  1. Evaluate your space. Check the dimensions of your living room and the surrounding furniture, particularly any seating you plan to use around the coffee table area. In general, people who have small spaces are the prime candidates for replacing coffee tables with one or two ottomans. Ottomans tend to be compact, low-profile and easily moved to corners or other areas when you require uninterrupted floor space.

  2. Look at ottomans of varying heights. Some people prefer an ottoman substitute that has the same profile as a normal coffee table, typically lower than the surrounding chairs or couches but high enough so that using its surface is practical. Most people prefer to use an ottoman literally as a coffee table, be it for sipping espresso or drinking margaritas. However, you can opt for a lower ottoman if you plan to surround it with throw pillows or floor cushions as opposed to taller seating. This arrangement works particularly well if you have very tight space or prefer more flexible layouts and seating for guests.

  3. Consider the potential multiple uses of coffee-table ottomans. Some ottomans come with cushioned tops that lift to reveal hidden storage. Other ottomans have a raised surface with taller legs or even a magazine shelf underneath. Some ottomans come equipped with a tray-top table that you can remove or rotate. An ottoman may come in a geometrical shape, such as a circle, oval, rectangle or square, or it may lie low to the ground and have a pouf shape. Some ottomans come in pairs that connect or even in sets of four or five that join to form a circle. If you like a coffee table option that is lightweight and streamlined, a single, bench-style ottoman or two small square ottomans function well.

  4. Choose a fitting finish. For a true coffee table-like feeling, use ottomans with wooden tray tops or luxe leather upholstery. Remember that a beautiful finish may demand more maintenance than you wish to dedicate. In that case, choose a lightweight and dark fabric that has a moisture-resisting treatment on its surface to make for quick cleaning.

  5. Experiment with layouts. It may seem obvious to set an ottoman or a pair of ottomans in front of the love seat and call it a day, but your ottoman's versatility means you have a greater range of layout options. Try setting an ottoman on either side of a couch or love seat to create end tables. Push ottomans up to a picture window to serve as impromptu window seats. Place four square ottomans together to make a large square shape for a modern look.


  1. Resist covering ottomans with knickknacks or coasters, which clutter their relatively small surface area. Keep necessities in a nearby drawer or basket.

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