Photo: Contributed

Ah, the ottoman. It is a favorite piece of furniture that helps you kick back, relax and put your feet up after a long day.

Or, if you are retired in Mexico, it is a great piece to help stretch out when you are reading the latest novel, binge-watching Netflix or catching a quick siesta.

Is there anything more versatile than this upholstered, backless and armless piece of furniture? Methinks not. You can place one at the foot of a bed to have a place to sit while you pull on your sandals. You can pair it with a dressing table in your master bedroom, so you have a comfortable spot to sit while you put on makeup. You can situate one in the living room, along with a tray to replace a coffee table. When you have extra guests, it is easily convertible into additional seating.

I like ottomans not only for their versatility but also because they give a room a more relaxed and softer feel. Traditional wood, iron, or glass tables tend to be more masculine and angular. An added benefit of many ottomans is that they offer additional storage with their hinged tops and hollow interiors.

There are a few theories as to where this fantastic piece of furniture originated. The most oft believed school of thought is that it comes from Turkey at the time of the Ottoman empire in the late 18th century. The name reflects its origin. We can credit Turkish carpet weavers for its design. Ottomans or divans were created mostly with fabrics, using very little wood. Why not wood? Not many trees in the desert!

At that time, the ottoman was more like a sectional in that it wrapped around three walls of the room. It was custom to pile cushions on top to be more comfortable. This u-shaped backless and armless seating option was used frequently in homes and tents.

By the 19th century, you would see ottomans mostly in the upper class, private clubs throughout Europe. The newer versions were circular or octagonal in shape, no longer placed in corners. These pieces of furniture took a showcase location in the middle of rooms. Often you would see ottomans encircling columns or posts.  

With the advent of mass manufacturing, the ottoman changed again. It became a smaller piece of furniture sold with its primary function of being a footrest. It often came as part of a living room furniture group including a sofa, two chairs and ottoman.

Today, there are variations to the original style, including hassocks, poufs, and tuffets. Its role has changed again to become a standalone piece that can replace coffee tables or sit separately as additional seating space. With a hinge, it cleverly does the dual purpose of storage and seating.

Update on our painting article: A shout out to P.B. who sent me an email and reminded me of a great tip when you do any interior painting – consider using TSP cleaner on your walls. TSP, also known as trisodium phosphate, is a pure phosphate, and like all phosphates, handle carefully. Always mix TSP with water. Wear rubber gloves and a mask, and make sure your space is well-ventilated. A mix of TSP cleaner and bleach is also an effective way to remove mildew from walls. Before using phosphates or any chemicals, always read and follow directions on the label.

Need furniture for your new home in Mexico? Happy to help you source comfortable, well-made, and reasonably priced items. Email furniture@solutionsmexico.com.