Whether you call them poufs, stools or ottomans, these small furnishings serve a vital function. They give us a place to put up our feet when we sit in a chair that doesn’t have one built in. They can also be used in place of a chair, or in a pinch, as a landing for a TV-focused belly-flop. In the latter case, I opt for a pouf.
Pouf seems to be a word that is used interchangeably with ottoman, and sometimes, stool, though they aren’t quite the same. A pouf is a little like a cream-filled chocolate. It’s soft all the way through. Contrast that to an ottoman, which is a rigid and usually barrel-like form completely covered with fabric, leather, embroidery, or beading--more like a caramel-filled chocolate.
While most people think of ottomans as footstools, they were originally, and are probably more properly, a large piece of furniture with a head and no back. As the name implies, their origins were in the Ottoman Empire.
That brings us to the most ancient form of all, the stool. Back in the days when chairs were status symbols, no ordinary mortal could aspire to own one. Sitting on the floor isn’t all that great, so someone poked three sticks on a round of wood, or an equivalent, and the wooden stool was born. It was a handy little invention, portable, light, and in a pinch, it could function as a small table. To complete the sweet metaphors, this is rock candy.
It might be fun to note that from the 17th to 19th centuries the words "footstool" and "cricket" were interchangeable. The cricket was the lowest of three stool categories and stood no more than 12" high. The second category was the "stool" which could be used for resting the feet or for sitting. It ranged from 12" to 20" in height and were called "Misses Stools" or "Table Stools." The final of the three stool types at over 20" was the tallest. We’d call them "bar stools" today.
It is armed with this deep historical grasp of the subject that I gathered a vast array of poufs, ottomans and stools that the trusty scouts here at Trend Hunter have ferreted out. I’m not the only one that thinks that footstools in all of their variations are interesting and important. Country Home Magazine chose footstools as one of the "Top 10 Collectibles of 2008."
I hope you enjoy the many creative ways these forms have been interpreted by their makers as you look through the cluster below.
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23 Unique Poufs, Stools and Ottomans
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By: Katie Cordrey - Published: Jan 5, 2009