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Style at Home: Benches, ottomans add seating, style

By Mary Carol Garrity Tribune News Service Published: September 23, 2016 4:00 AM
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In the sports world, being benched is a bad thing, I know. (Believe me, if I had ever done sports in high school, that's where I would have languished!) But for me, after a day of sprinting around up and down the stairs a jillion times, the thought of melting into a soft chair with my feet up on a bench or ottoman sounds pretty darn amazing. Add a glass of wine and a good book, and I'm in paradise.

Once the right bench or ottoman enters your life, you will never, ever want to be without it again. Often, they can be used interchangeably, and are right at home in lots of spots in your home, helping out in myriad ways, from giving you a place to display your treasures, rest your feet and welcome more guests. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use benches and ottomans:


When we design rooms for customers, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be at least one ottoman or bench in the floorplan. For such a small piece, they pack a lot of style. And, they are a welcomed addition to just about any space in your home. My favorite use is to place an interesting ottoman in the center of a conversation grouping, a hub for a well-put-together room. But don't stop there. A short bench makes an interesting side table in your living room, and offers extra seating in a pinch. Put a narrow bench in your hallway to break up all that wall space.

Because they are so small, you can cover an ottoman or bench with a splashy fabric that you might not otherwise dare to use on a bigger, costlier piece of furniture. If you can't make up your mind on what fabric to use, try this trick. By creating a custom, reversible slip cover, she got three completely different looks. Rug-covered ottomans are some of our most popular sellers, and I have one in my own home that I adore.

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But you aren't limited to upholstered ottomans or benches with fabric seats or cushions. You can find them made from just about any material, from seagrass to hides, wood to metal. And when it comes to style, the sky is the limit.


Benches and ottomans were just made to have stuff tossed on top of them. They are a perfect pick for your foyer or by your back door, a convenient place to lob your purse and coat as you walk in the door.

I love the luxurious look of beds finished off with rows of accent pillows. Dan, who calls the beds in our home Pillow Hell, is never sure what to do with all those pillows when you turn down the bed at night. Easy! Place a bench or ottoman at the foot of your bed. They do a lovely job of finishing off the look of a great bedding ensemble, and, at night, they are the perfect place to pile up your accent pillows.

If you're putting a bench at the end of a bed, I'd suggest one that is backless, so it doesn't stick up over the top of your bed.

And, make sure its dimensions work well for your space -- not too wide so that it sticks out beyond the sides of your bed, and not too deep so as to hamper movement around your room. You'd hate to hammer you toe on it when you get up at night!


To get more friends around your dining table, add a bench or two to the sides of your tables. At big Thanksgiving dinners, when I've had to shoehorn in lots of friends and family around our dining table, I've added small benches to the head and foot of the table so two can sit there instead of one.

Depending upon the size of your bench or ottoman, you can slide them under a sofa table or in front of your hearth for extra seating.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com

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