How to Use an Ottoman as a Coffee Table — and More

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on January 10, 2020

The ottoman is one of the most versatile furniture pieces in the home, making it that much more fun to style. The ottoman, when used as a multi-purpose coffee table, lends a comforting, casual appeal to your living room design. From a coffee-table with a twist to a design-savvy storage solution (or somewhere in the middle), there are several ways to make the most out of this living room essential — especially for those short on space. 

When shopping for a multi-use ottoman, there are three primary factors to consider: shape, storage and style.

All things considered, the ottoman likely won’t be the first purchase you make when furnishing your home. Finding a perfectly fitting ottoman depends on the rest of your furniture, especially if it doubles as a coffee table. When starting your search, be sure to keep the placement and dimensions of your space and other furniture pieces top-of-mind.

Height is another factor to take into consideration when on-the-hunt for a multi-use ottoman. The height of your ottoman should be within 4 inches of the couch or chair that it serves. Any less or more, and the ottoman will be uncomfortable to sit on or rest your feet.

There are several different ways to style ottomans, but it’s important that you’ve got a flat surface to work with when using it as a coffee table. Pillows and poufs are out of the question.

Resting your feet or taking a seat is an added benefit of the ottoman life, but most will take this route for an in-cognito storage solution. Many ottomans fold open, offering a storage compartment fit for blankets, pillows and anything else that you’d need at an arm’s reach, but out of sight. The Cayuga Storage Ottoman from Wayfair is an affordable and space-efficient ottoman with a compartment fit for a few smaller items. Though the surface of this piece is small and rounded on the edges, a small tray on top makes for an elevated side-table solution. If something larger is of preference, Article’s rectangular Ceni Volcanic Gray Ottoman offers a similar style and utility at a larger scale.

If you’re not pressed for storage, a lighter ottoman without internal storage is favorable. Without having to lift up the lid to access storage, these styles tend to double as coffee tables more efficiently, and can also be transported to different areas of the home for additional seating. West Elm’s Auburn Ottoman in Velvet is small but luxurious, easily doubling as a side table or seat. For a larger option, the circular tufted ottoman from CB2 commands attention, giving elegance and drama. When placing drinks, food or decor on top of the ottoman, a holding tray is always a good idea, especially for tufted surfaces.

Once you know what you’re looking for in terms of shape and functionality, it’s time to consider your style. Your ottoman doesn’t necessarily need to match your furniture, but it should be cohesive with your style. You can use it as an opportunity to treat the ottoman as a statement piece, or a refined look caters to a classic, modern aesthetic. Now more than ever, it’s important to think about how you’d like to use the surface of your ottoman. If you have the intention of using the ottoman as a coffee table, choose a smooth, low-pile fabric to avoid any uneven surfaces. Faux leather is an easy-to-clean fabric that can be styled to adhere to many design concepts. As the Siglar Tufted ottoman demonstrates, you don’t need to sacrifice style for storage or an unbeatable price. At a higher price point, the Pleated Grey Ottoman-Stool from CB2 is unique and functional enough to serve as a stool or footrest for a modern, glamorous aesthetic. For a natural, bohemian vibe, the Silka Design Monet Rattan ottoman from Pottery Barn features two lifted sides fit for a cushion, but the details of the piece allow for it to stand alone.

Ready to find your multi-purpose ottoman? Find the perfect one in your style today by taking our fun online style quiz.

Words by Morgan Hitz