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Ottomans have been around for centuries, originating during the Ottoman Empire in the 1700s. They were originally designed as luxurious couches for royalty. Since then, they've undergone an evolution to the versatile furniture found in many homes around the world. When picking out an ottoman, it's helpful to know whether or not it has to match the rest of your furniture. We've checked with the design gurus to bring you the answer.
Ottomans do not have to match the chair. Mismatching the two pieces is a great way to give your room variety and depth. However, if you want to be sure that the two pieces look good together, buy matching pieces.
Picking out furniture can be intimidating, which is why we've put together this helpful guide. Please keep reading for an explanation of ottomans, how to pick out the best one for your situation, and answers to other questions about this type of furniture.
Matching the ottoman and chair
Directly matching the ottoman to the chair is the easiest way to make sure they don't clash. If the two pieces are made by the same manufacturer and are purchased at the same time, you can rest assured that they will go together, including being a compatible size. In fact, many chairs are sold with matching ottomans, like the set below.
You've probably worked hard to pick out the perfect chair for your living room and chose it because you want it to shape your aesthetic. If that's the case, you probably wouldn't mind having another piece of furniture that looks like that chair; you've basically cut your work in half.
If you're not confident in your ability to pick out mismatched furniture, buying a matching set is a tried and true method of making your living room look good.
Do ottomans have to match each other?
Many living rooms have multiple ottomans, especially if they're small and are used as footstools. If you have multiple ottomans, follow the same principles as coordinating an ottoman with a chair. Matching them is a simple way to make sure they look good while mismatching them gives your room variety and depth.
Mismatching the ottoman and chair
When buying an ottoman to use with a chair, don't feel forced to buy one that directly matches. In fact, it's trendy right now to mix up the furniture in your living room, as long as they support and complement each other. Here are three ways to think about mismatching ottomans and chairs.
A good rule of thumb is that the ottoman should look like it belongs in the area. Consider the scale of the ottoman in comparison to the rest of the furniture. The ottoman shouldn't dominate the space and appear disproportionately large. If you have a slimmer chair and a less bulky couch, that should be reflected in the style of the ottoman.
On the other hand, if you have a large living room, an ottoman that's too small will feel insignificant and out of place. Pick out your ottoman based on practicality in addition to style -- it should be a usable size for your room.
In general, the ottoman shouldn't be the most prominent piece of furniture in the room. This is especially true if you have a coffee table or multiple ottomans. Do you have a coffee table in the room and are simply using the ottoman as a footstool? Then the ottoman should be a smaller size, like the one pictured below.
This particular ottoman has the added benefit of being a storage compartment in addition to a footstool.
How much lower should an ottoman be than a chair?
The height of the ottoman depends on its primary use. If you're planning on using the ottoman as a footstool (the most common use), it's best for the top of the stool to be an inch or two lower than the seat. Most often, this is 13 to 18 inches high.
This is a flexible rule, of course, and should be broken when necessary. However, it will keep you from buying an ottoman that's the wrong size for your living room. We'll discuss other uses for ottomans below, including appropriate heights for each use.
Read this article for more info on the best ottoman heights: What Is The Best Height For An Ottoman?
Keep in mind that the plainer a piece of furniture, the easier it is to mix with other pieces. If you have a patterned chair, look for solid-colored ottomans. For best results, one of the pieces should be plain or solid-colored.
Picking out an ottoman that doesn't match is a great way to install an accent color into your living room. For instance, if all of your furniture is brown leather, consider using a colorful ottoman to liven things up. The blue ottoman below might be a great way to do that.
When matching color, opt for a variety of colors so that they don't clash. For instance, trying to exactly match an all-blue chair with an all-blue ottoman can easily turn hairy if they are only slightly off. One option is to pick out an ottoman with a colorful pattern that includes the color of the chair, like the one below.
Or, even better, choose a color that doesn't match the chair but complements the rest of the room.
The rule of thumb is that the ottoman and chair shouldn't be from vastly different eras or styles. A tall, elegant armchair shouldn't be paired with a farmhouse-style ottoman. Other than that, feel free to mix different styles, materials, and shapes.
One thing that might surprise you is that the ottoman can be a different shape from the chair. In fact, a different-shaped ottoman might be an opportunity to introduce a unique shape. Ideally, there should be a balance of shapes throughout the room.
If the room is full of boxy, sharp-angled furniture, it can feel harsh. Mix in some round furniture to soften the aesthetic. A round ottoman like the one below would subtly balance things out.
Is an ottoman a footstool?
Nowadays, the term "ottoman" is used to include any armless, backless, free-standing, upholstered piece of furniture. Most have a padded surface on top, a vestige of their original design. Here are the four main uses for an ottoman.
Most living rooms that have an ottoman use it as a footstool. The padded surface makes it comfortable for your feet after a long day, and most are easy enough to move from seat to seat. Some ottomans are big enough that people in different seats can share the same footstool.
Take a trip through time back to the Ottoman Empire by using your ottoman for lounging! This is still a common use for ottomans since they are sturdy and padded. One drawback is that these seats don't have a back, so you might be uncomfortable after a while.
The ottoman in this picture is being used as an additional seat. It keeps things open, offers variety, and is easier to transport than large pieces of furniture.
Another type of seating ottoman is a pouf. This is similar to a beanbag chair, except it's firmer and sturdier. It looks casual and helps relax your living room if that's the vibe you're going for.
Using an ottoman as a coffee table is a fantastic idea if your living room is too small to hold both pieces. But be careful: if you're going to use an ottoman as a coffee table, it must be firm enough that drinks and food won't spill. It should also be big enough so that people in multiple seats can reach it.
If you'd really like to use your ottoman as a coffee table but it's too soft or has design elements that make it unable to hold a drink, don't worry! You can purchase a tray like the one below. Put it on your ottoman for a firm, steady surface.
This isn't necessarily a primary use, but it's definitely a nice benefit of many ottomans on the market. These storage ottomans most often have a lid that comes off, revealing space inside for DVDs, remote controls, blankets, magazines, or anything else you'd like.
Where do you put an ottoman?
Put an ottoman wherever it will be most useful depending on its purpose. If you're using it as a footstool, it should be within easy reach of the seat. A coffee table ottoman should be centrally located in the room, and a seat should be arranged helpfully amongst the rest of the furniture in the room. The good news about most ottomans is that they are portable and can be moved to serve whatever purpose you'd like!
Using your ottoman with your sofa? Read this article first: Should Ottoman Match Sofa? [Inc. 3 Coordination Tips]
Ottomans can match the chair that uses it, or it can be mismatched while still supporting the decor of the room. If you want a simple, convenient way to make sure the set looks good, match the two pieces closely. Or, pick out complementary pieces based on their size, style, and color.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea about how to pick out an ottoman for your chair. Good luck!