Difference between an ottoman and a footstool

Regarding furniture, there can be a lot of confusion around the differences between certain pieces. One such example is the ottoman and the footstool. While these two types of furniture may look similar, they have some key differences.

An ottoman is a piece of furniture with a cushioned seat or top and no back or arms. Ottomans can be square, rectangular or round and used as a footrest, additional seating, or a coffee table. While a footstool is a small and low stool typically used for resting one’s feet. They can be part of a furniture set and match a chair or a sofa. They are not meant for sitting but can be used for that purpose.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between ottomans and footstools, including their design, function and practicality. We’ll help you understand when you would use each of them and which is best for your specific needs. This way, you will be able to make an informed decision the next time you shop for a new piece of furniture.

An ottoman and footstool refer to furniture on which a person may rest feet. Although they are closely related and used interchangeably due to similar features and functions, there are differences among these variations of footrests in size, style, and substance. All these are factors differentiating the ottoman and footstool.


Ottomans are found in the bedroom at the end of the bed and are ideal for sitting on while putting on your socks and shoes. They give extra storage capacity for items you do not want on display. They can also be ideal for storing your bedding, such as duvets, sheets, and pillowcases.

Ottoman is a low upholstered seat without a back or arms used as a footstool or a tool. It also works as a coffee table or side table. What separates it from other footstools is its storage space. Ottomans are hollow, so there is storage space inside the cushion.

Ottomans have wooden legs that are not covered by fabric. They are sold in furniture shops with the corresponding furniture as armchairs or gliders. You can use ottomans in any room, including the living room, family room, bedroom, and gaming room. Back in the Ottoman Empire, it worked as a low wooden platform intended to be covered with cushions. Later on, this style was introduced to Europe.


  • Versatile
  • Extra storage 
  • Comfortable and stylish
  • Provides extra seating
  • Neutral colors
  • Sleek 


  • Heavy and difficult to move, especially if things are stored inside
  • Due to the upholstery, placing drinks or snacks on it will be tricky 
  • It may need to be reupholstered after a while


A footstool, also known as a footrest, is a low stool for resting the feet on when sitting. Its function is to support a person’s feet. The footstool is an umbrella term for both ottomans and hassocks.

Footstools were made of wood and had simple designs with no upholstery. However, there are more ornate footstools of different materials. Ottomans, poufs, and hassocks are footstools with upholstery.

Footstools differ from stools by being slightly lower to the ground for you to elevate your legs. They can also be wider than stools and cushioned too for extra comfort. They are ideal if you do not have a bigger living room for a recliner sofa as they can be moved around to wherever you need them. They give a decorative touch to your space.


  • Ultra-comfortable
  • It can be used from home
  • Reduces pressure on legs
  • Extra seating for guests
  • Wider
  • Decorative


  • Bulky and heavier to move
  • Not comfortable for a prolonged time
  • It can be difficult to store if you need more room

Features of an Ottoman

Surface space

 An ottoman gives you a place to rest your feet and extra seating at a coffee table. Amongst its uses,  you can make size a desirable design feature for any ottoman. The larger the surface area, the more people or books you can accommodate.


 Another way to make your ottoman more versatile is by buying one with fitted wheels. Wheels make it easy to move your ottoman from one area to another, even in the same room. When you have wheels, you do not need to be constrained by size, weight, or shape when you are picking your new ottoman. You can easily navigate any design around your room with little effort.

Wheels do not have to look tacky. Sometimes you can barely notice the black wheels fitted to the carved and lacquered legs.

Accent studs

Accent studs add some brass without making your ottoman look cheap. They make your ottoman more eye-catching and are great for your living room’s centerpiece. They give your ottoman a bit of class and elegance.

A bed

You can also turn your ottoman into a bed with this ottoman sofa bed.

Features of a footstool

Padded top

The top is upholstered and padded in fabric or animal hide, such as leather. This type of footstool allows the seated person to rest their feet upon it, supporting the legs at a horizontal level hence giving rise to the term footrest. High-quality footstools are height adjustable.


It supports people who cannot touch the ground with their feet in a seated position, reducing stress on the feet and legs. The knees may be bent to allow the feet to rest on the footstool (Kensington.com).


The footstool tends to be low to the ground and small, with a broad, flat top and no sides or back. A footstool may take any number of forms. A footstool is hollow with a lid, allowing people to store various objects.


Sometimes a footstool is sold with a chair, especially in the case of armchairs and other chairs for lounging in comfort. Some footstools are large, so they can even double as expanded seating.


  • Both are heavy.
  • They are padded with a comfortable type of material.
  • They have storage space.


  • An Ottoman is a low upholstered seat without a back or arm, while a footstool is a low stool for resting the feet when sitting.
  • Ottomans have storage space under the lid, whereas footstools do not.
  • Ottomans are bigger than footstools. 
  • Footstools are easier to move around your home than ottomans.
  • Footstools are used in the lounge and home office, whereas an ottoman can also be found in the bedroom at the end of the bed.
  • Footstools are around 18 inches in height, whereas ottomans can be much higher.

The Verdict

Your intended use determines whether you buy a footstool or an ottoman. When buying any of the two, decide its purpose beforehand. Use this to help you decide on the size and style. When using an ottoman as a footstool, you may have to buy an actual footstool as the height is for resting your feet. If you intend to use one as a tool. It works as a coffee table or a side table. By now, you should be aware of what works for you. 

Elissa Smith
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