Ottomans constitute a very broad product category, though the best way to describe them would be to state they are simply large, comfortable stools. People can either sit on them, rest their feet, use them as coffee and side tables, and in some cases even as small storage units.
Such an all-encompassing design is Naoto Fukasawa’s 2006 ‘Log stool’ by Swedese, a slightly squashed, hollow, plywood cylinder. Those who prefer their ottomans more traditional should look to Fleming & Howland’s ‘Philip Stanhope’, which not only looks the part, using ornate wooden legs and deep, cross-pattern, leather upholstering, but is also manufactured using 19th century techniques. Norman Foster’s ‘Foster 500 footstool’ for Walter Knoll retains the classical ottoman shape, but is formally pared down into a minimal combination of a stately upholstered seat and polished steel legs.
Thonet’s 1932 ‘S 411 H’ is a luxurious ottoman with a tubular steel, cantilever construction, and Poul Kjærholm’s ‘PK91™’ folding stool is a supremely reduced design with stainless steel base and a canvas seat, which nonetheless refers to ancient Egyptian archetypes. But not all ottomans are so serious. Marcel Wanders’s ‘Coffee table Cecilia’ for Bisazza, or Hella Jongerius’s ‘Bovist “Lacemaker”’ for Vitra are both playful, colourful poufs, though the former is covered in colourful mosaic patterns and the latter is upholstered in embroidered fabric.
Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron take a more sculptural approach with their Vitra-manufactured ‘Hocker’ ottoman, which can function as a stool, a footrest, or a side table, much like its earlier, more decorative predecessor, the turned, walnut ‘Eames stool’, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1960. Slide takes abstraction to a whole new level with the 2006 ‘Snake’, a modular, polyethylene, curved, internally illuminated prism.
Claire Anne O’brien’s ‘Knitted stool’ for Gandía Blasco combines the simplicity of three wooden legs, and a richly textured, knitted upholstered seat, fusing the minimal with the decorative. And lastly, Front-designed ‘Green pedestals’ range for OFFECCT returns to the storage precedent, being a round, metal compartment with wooden lid; this ottoman is meant to accommodate large plants.