Interesting Facts About Ottomans: From the Ottoman Empire to Modern Homes

An ottoman is a piece of furniture that you can use to put your feet up when watching TV or lounging on the modern sofa or as an extra seat to accommodate guests when they come over. It has become a standard furniture piece everyone can afford, but it wasn’t always like this. The history of this piece of furniture is an interesting one!

The Origins

It’s known that the practice of using footstools dates back to the Ottoman Empire. The ottoman received its title from its namesake empire, named after its founder Osman I. Back then, it was common for people to prop their feet on stools stacked with cushions in their home. The people responsible for the ottoman’s design are the Turkish carpet weavers, who created such footrests using bales of cotton. This method, in turn, was possibly borrowed from the ancient Egyptian technique of turning cloth and soft natural materials into a low stool – a material meant to compensate for the shortage of wood in the desert country.

Another theory states that this unique type of ottoman furniture was the main form of residential setting in medieval-era Turkey and that it facilitated human bonding. Also called a “divan”, it was a banquette-like sectional furniture that wraps around three walls of a room. Piled with pillows, this style of seating was a common sight during council meetings between sultans and their commanders. Ottoman furniture was first introduced in Europe in the late 18th or early 19th century.

It was by the 19th century when the ottoman furniture shifted from the walls to assume centre stage and also became circular or octagonal. At that time, the ottomans had backs or arms, different from the models today, which feature none of these and usually come with buttoned upholstery, castors or storage.

ottoman in front of the gray sofa


The Napoleonic Ottoman Version

When the French invaded Egypt at the turn of the 18th century, they saw the locals using a distinct style of the footstool. At that time, Egypt was a territory were masses often suffered acts of cruelty and punishment. These footstools were used by people to rest their tired, tortured feet when they came home after their suffering. The French later took this style of furniture into their homes. It is also possible that travellers from Western Europe brought home this Near Eastern design from tours of Greece and the Balkans.

Ottomans in the Modern Era

The ottoman has come a long way, and today it can be used as extra seating, storage, and even as a coffee table. From small sizes to oversized ones, an ottoman may be the hidden gem your space is missing. Here are some ways you can use ottomans to enhance your interior.

  • A shared seating space – An ottoman can be a great solution for apartments and open floor plan homes that share seating with more than one area. The piece offers the options of versatility to add seating to the shared space, be used alone, or pushed up against a wall with pillows to be used as a couch.
  • Give your room a piece that will always be in style – The ottoman was designed to be a place for you to rest your feet on them, and this tradition will never change. Find out how much room you have for yours. These types of footstools are available in different sizes (small, medium and large) as well as in different forms (round, square and rectangle).
modern living room with beige furniture amd black cushions


  • A place to store items – There is always a need for extra storage of in a living room or family room. From books to children toys, remote controls, etc – ottoman furniture with a hinged top makes the best storage that is handy and disguises itself beautifully.
  • To add visual interest – Ottoman furniture in different shapes and geometric configurations is fun and visually appealing. Consider ottomans that form a certain shape (circle or square) when put together. And when separated, the pieces can make equal wedges of seating.
  • A tuck-away seating – Is space is an issue, an ottoman can be pulled out when in need of extra seating. Ottoman benches that come with rollers or casters beneath them make this type of seating ideal when entertaining. Then, when you don’t need it anymore, you can tuck the seat under the table, so the ottoman can serve a whole different function.
little boy sitting on a blue ottoman and looking in the book


  • Children-friendly furniture – You can always pick an ottoman that’s covered in kid-friendly fabrics such as denim or tweed and can be easily used as a flat surface for kids to play on top while they sit on the floor.
  • As a showpiece – An ottoman can blend in with the adjacent furniture, or compliment your existing decor. Covered in more luxurious fabrics, such as tufted fabric, an ottoman can look extravagant and lush in an affluent setting. A wooden ottoman can look wonderfully casual in a rustic room. For easy combinations choose a colour that’s already present inn the room, like for instannce the colour of your walls, artwork, rug or curtain. You can also pick a piece in a bold colour to spice up the setting.