Don’t overlook the lowly ottoman; you might trip

Oh, man.

Make way for the ottoman.

This is the perfect furniture: Easy to move. Affordable. Comfy.

Ottomans have come a long way since Dick Van Dyke tripped over one in the opening scene of the 1960s TV sitcom.

The once lowly ottoman — aka a hassock or footstool — has emerged as a centerpiece with form and function. They store stuff, flip over as trays and double as coffee tables.

Even so, these armless, backless thingamajigs still get taken for granted.

“They’re the afterthoughts when you go out and buy furniture, and it’s the thing you actually wind up using,” said Pete Falleen, a retired Boeing production manager.

He uses all five ottomans scattered throughout his Whidbey Island home.

“I use them to put trays on,” he said, “and my feet.”

Think of it as healthy loafing.

“It’s good for you. That’s what we learned as stewardesses,” said his wife, Carole, who worked for Pan American Airways. “The worst circulation for people’s bodies is the sitting position. It is much better circulation for people to stick their legs out and have them propped up. When we’d come off a flight, we’d flop down and put our feet up.”

The Falleens, now Windermere Real Estate brokers, rely on ottomans when entertaining grandkids, friends and clients.

“They expand your seating capacity without having to have a lot of chairs around,” Carole Falleen said.

Ottomans are a cheap fix. Fifty dollars buys a decent ottoman at discount stores, often in an array of colors and fabrics. Or you can spend $500 for a high-grade leather square.

Pretty much anything goes. Ottomans are tufted, knitted, skirted, studded, sequined — even hairy. Some makers are leaving the fur on the cowhide and dyeing it into different patterns and colors, said interior designer Heidi Beegle, owner of H. Beegle &Associates in Edmonds.

Ottomans are often ottomen. “I have ‘ganged’ them,” Beegle said, “taken several small cubes and added them together in a longer line for a coffee table.”

She said storage ottomans are especially popular in rooms with limited space to stash linens and toys. Beegle, a designer since 1981, has seen the ottomans expand to just about every room in the house and even on the patio.

“It’s so versatile,” she said.

The word pays tribute to the Ottoman Turks, who covered footstools with ornate fabrics. From there, the ottoman made its way to Europe and beyond.

American settlers liked its practicality, and furniture designers cashed in by matching colors and fabrics with sofas. Then along came Dick Van Dyke and great rooms and giant TVs and …

The rest is history in the making.

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