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Budget Decorating: Using Ottomans

When it comes time to decorate and arrange furniture in your living room or family room don’t overlook the power of what a pair of identical ottomans can do for the room. They can do a whole lot more than simply be a place to put your feet.


4 images of rooms with a pair of identical ottomans.

When decorating a living room with furniture, most of us add a sofa, chairs and tables when putting the room together. These are the basic pieces of furniture for a living room, but there are two more pieces of furniture that you should seriously consider adding, actually one item, but two of them.

Today’s forgotten decorating secret is a furniture arranging idea that I learned back in a college design course called: Furniture Arranging 101.

My Living Room Furniture Floor Plan Lightbulb Moment

how to plan a furniture arrangement for a room to scale with furniture templates and graph paper.

Do you have a pair of identical ottomans anywhere in your home?

Every week in class we would have to create a furniture floor plan for a variety of rooms. We did this the old-fashioned way with graph paper and little green plastic furniture templates to keep everything to scale. We arranged furniture in rooms of all sizes and shapes.

We didn’t have computers back then. :-) Today planning a furniture layout for a room is much easier done with the click of a mouse and furniture arranging apps.

Decorating styles and trends were not a factor for this furniture arranging class, only space, balance, line and function.

Coming up with a furniture layout could be rather challenging especially if the room we were assigned was long and narrow or an odd-shape.

Living room Furniture arranging using ottomans and a seagrass area rug in living room defines the seating space into a conversational grouping.
Conversational furniture layout with a pair of identical ottomans.

One eye-opening lesson for me was when I got back a living room furniture arranging assignment from the professor. She had made a notation on my plan stating – “instead of two chairs by the coffee table – think about placing two identical ottomans in their place” and then listed a few reasons why.

All I could think was WOW and why didn’t I think of doing that.

Ever since that assignment I have never forgotten this lesson. A pair of identical ottomans are the most overlooked and under-appreciated pieces of living room furniture.

Living room furniture arrangement layout example showing the use of identical ottoman.
Modern Cube Style Ottomans – Source: Creativity Exchange

It doesn’t matter what you call them… ottomans, cubes, poufs or hassocks or what they are upholstered with or their style. When you decorate your space by placing two identical ottomans side by side in a room – you create not only decorative interest, but also versatility and multi-function.

Where to Put Ottomans?

Ottoman ideas for living rooms.
A pair of classic square traditional style ottomans. My favorite style. Love these!

Ottomans are not just for placing feet. You can use ottomans to sit on. Think of them just as you would when placing a chair in the room.

  • A pair of identical ottomans can be placed across from a sofa and coffee table.
  • In front of a fireplace
  • Under a console table
  • In place of a dining table bench.

Reasons Why You Should Consider Adding a Pair of Identical Ottomans to your Living Room

furniture arranging with ottomans
Trendy Bo-Ho Barrel Style Ottomans
  • If your living room is in need of a little something extra, but you are not sure what that is, consider two identical ottomans placed by the coffee table to accent the conversational grouping of furniture. They add seating but don’t close up the space visually.
    • Imagine how different the room above would look if there were two chairs with backs placed where the ottomans are. It would not look as inviting, but would feel like you were being blocked from entering.
  • Ottomans don’t have to be paired with a chair as only a place to rest your feet. They can be moved to become seating in the room.
  • Ottomans can be used as a coffee table substitute. Place a tray on top of one of the ottomans to hold drinks and other smaller items.
  • Ottomans are light in weight making them easy to move where needed when you need seating arranged differently or extra seating and then easily moved back. For instance, they can be easily moved around a kitchen table when extra seating is needed for game night. Adding casters to them make it even easier to move them.
living room conversational furniture grouping using ottomans

I have had these two ottomans in my living room for the past 22 years. I bought them for $75 a piece at Sears.

4 different slipcovers made for a pair of square rattan ottomans.
  • Ottomans are easy to make slipcovers for, making them easy to transform seasonally or on a whim.

Every few years I make new slipcovers for mine. I like all of them. Sadly the ones on the bottom became thread-bare with age and washings. I no longer have them.

Modern Pouf Style Identical Ottomans- Source: Juniper Home
  • Ottomans are affordable, you can find them for as little as $50 a piece.
  • If you need an accessible, hidden place to store items like toys. Make sure to get a set that opens up for storage.

As you can see, a pair of identical ottomans are very versatile pieces of furniture for a living or family room.

How to Arrange Living Room Furniture with a TV and Fireplace.

Placing identical ottomans in front of a fireplace or TV offers low seating that doesn’t block the view of the fireplace or TV from other sections of the room.

When the conversation is around the sofa seating area and coffee table, the ottomans can easily be moved for guests to sit and cozy up in the conversational area.

How to make a faux door or window transom

Ottomans have no backs which makes them the perfect seating choice when you want to make a small room feel more spacious.

Decorating with ottomans under a foyer console table.
Source: Summerland Homes and Gardens

If you don’t have room in your living room to add a pair of ottomans, you can still benefit from them by placing them under a console table until needed in another room.

Decorating with ottomans in the dining room.
HSource: Studio McGee

Some ottomans are long and high. This type can be moved when extra seating is needed around a dining room table when entertaining family and friends and for holiday dinners and celebrations where one bench seat or two chairs are not enough.

Do Ottomans Have to Match the Sofa or Chairs?

Many furniture stores sell ottomans paired with a chair or that are made to match or coordinate with another piece of furniture in the room, but this is not necessary. In fact, when ottoman’s have a pattern or color of their own, they become accent pieces that will create more interest to a room.

How to Make DIY Ottoman Ideas

When I first started this blog, I re-made an ottoman that I created for my book Instant Decorating. If you have a few basic DIY skills, an ottoman is fairly easy to make using thrift store tables, barrels, even galvanized tubs as the base. Check out my Pinterest board for creative and clever DIY ottoman ideas to find inspiration on how you can make your own to keep costs down or to simply create something unique for your home.

Affordable Ottomans To Buy

I searched online and found a few ottomans that are budget friendly. They are all different sizes and shapes, but any of them will add style and versatility to your room.

No matter what your decorating style is or the size ottomans you add to your space – identical ottomans may be just the thing that has been missing from your space.  Don’t overlook this handy piece of furniture for saving space, movability, storage, or just making a statement around the fireplace or coffee table in the room.

Have you read all the Secrets That Designers Never Forget?

If not you can find any you missed here:

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32 Comments

  1. Important topic, as ottomans add immeasurably to decor and utility. I have two, between fireplace and oversized rectangular coffee table. Modern chrome base with thick textured cushions. A custom-made indulgence I sprung for after seeing them in place. Gulp, so glad I did. They add balance and sophistication, and kitty loves them too. Keep promoting ottomans, Diane. Great post!

  2. Great post on the ottomans Diane! I really enjoyed some of your projects. Would like to offer my customers similar options for their custom outdoor patios. Very creative and stylish!

  3. This is very interesting, I am really glad that I read this. I love this blog really creative and I am looking forward for more article about 1 Chair Ottoman.

  4. What a great idea. I’m going to use this in two homes which have small living rooms, and one is an odd shape besides. Both need seating., and I’ve pondered how to give them that without visually blocking the rooms. You’ve solved this dilemma. Thank you so much for this post, and kudos to your professor.

  5. I found this post so inspiring. I started looking for footstool(s) or ottoman (ottomen?) I thought would work in our small living room. Within a week I found an ottoman and I am loving the look. Thank you!

  6. Yes, and I have seen some low end tables that could be easily recreated as ottomans! I gotta run back to the thrift shop to see if they still have them!

  7. Thank you for writing such a useful, informative post. I would have never thought to double up the ottoman . Thanks for including sites to purchase .

  8. This may be difficult, so many variables, but how high would you suggest an ottoman be if it’s primary and oft used purpose is extra seating? I want it to be comfortable for people to sit on without feeling like they’re on the floor have their knees in their face, and easy to sit down on and stand up from.

    1. Hi Linda –

      Good question. 18″ high would be ideal. That is the height of a dining chair and also the height of my ottomans that I have for all kinds of seating.

  9. I loved that round kick pleated ottoman you posted years ago, and made a similar cover for my ottoman after seeing it. Seeing the picture again brought back memories. Thank you for all the good tips over the years!

    1. Hi Rebecca – Thank you for reading all these years. XO I don’t have the room anymore for the round ottoman in my house. My younger daughter likes it and uses it in her place.

  10. We have a pair of ottomans that we have used over the years in multiple rooms. They were inexpensive and simple from Target. Currently they are in our guest room for guests to use as a luggage stand.
    Love your ideas and pics!!

  11. Great post Diane. I had never seen your post on how to make a no sew round ottoman. What a beautiful piece…love it. Do you still have that ottoman? Yes indeed, it has been HOT, HOT, HOT. Yesterday’s “feels like” temp here in Chesapeake, VA was 103!!! I’m off to search the “budget friendly” link you provided. Thanks.

  12. I’d love to know if you’ve ever painted a floor, specifically I’m thinking about painting a linoleum floor in a small bathroom. I plan to use a stencil. I’m doing a white base and probably blue in the stenciled part. I’ve painted front porches and concrete basement floors, but not over linoleum. I’m trying to avoid taking the linoleum out as I just don’t want to have to pull the toilet, and big box DIY store is taking out the old 30″ vanity and putting in a 24″ so I won’t have time to pull up the floor.

    1. Hi Deb – I have painted a vinyl/linoleum floor. It can be done successfully. Here’s is what you need to do.

      Go over the floor with 100 grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block to rough it up a little, then clean the floor very well. Use TSP and hot water and rinse well. Then use a Multi-Purpose or gripping Primer – like the Behr formula I used in this post. Once you have 2 light coats down letting the first dry for 24 hours before applying the second.

      You can then paint using just about any paint you want. I would use Porch and Floor paint if it comes in the colors you want. You don’t need to seal this, but you could for extra protection.

      You could also use use a high quality latex for the white and blue stenciling. Wait a day or two and then seal it with Minwax Polycrylic or Zinseer that is water-based and won’t yellow the color. Let it dry for a few day before using the room too hard.

      Painting the floor will be a whole lot easier than pulling it up. :-)

  13. I needed this! I have struggled with seating and never ever thought about ottomans. Thank you! It’s my perfect solution ?

  14. Thanks Diane!

    You force , no. That is, you gently encourage me to look at things a little differently. The ottomans! Just want I need, a combo end table/extra seating for my small space. Again I thank you!

  15. Hi iDiane! Welcome back!
    Yes I have 2 navy/off white ottomans from Target in front of my fireplace! It adds charm and extra seating when we have our family visiting. I have enjoyed these posts so much!
    Go Navy Beat Army!

  16. Excellent post. Very helpful! Am sharing with my friend who just moved. Do you have a fav furniture arranging app?

    1. Thanks Alison – I don’t really have a favorite furniture arranging app, but I have heard that Magic Plan is a solid one that is not too hard to use. I know it is for Apple, but I think their is an Android version also.

      1. Thank you! Will give that a try but admit I like my graph paper. Kind of fun to draw and measure!

  17. I love the blue covered ottomans and am sitting here looking to see if I might find a place to put two. But then I see the ones with the white covers with the pom poms. Those are something else all together! I have a very small house and my one and only ottoman is now stored in the attic, but I am wondering…..

    1. Hi Margo – Happy to hear that my post is making you think of ways to use your ottoman currently stored in your attic. :-) I hope you can find a way to bring it back to life and use in your home somewhere.

  18. So glad you are back safe & sound ….. looking forward to your tips and information in the coming seasons. You asked what we would like to see more of ….. I got so many ideas from your blog about your Favorite Things ….. from the list, I started following one of your suggestions (Simply June) and found out about Outlander, the clothing favorites, and storage ideas, etc. really give me food for thought ….. so please, more of you Favorite Things!

    1. Hi Linda – Thank you so much for your suggestion. I enjoy posting my Favorite Things style posts and will make sure to do more of them from now on.