Have you visited a furniture store looking for a footstool and came across ottomans and hassocks? This may be because the terms have been often used interchangeably, yet an ottoman and a hassock are two different types of footstools. The term footstool may be the umbrella term for both, but ottomans and hassocks could not be more different.
An ottoman and a hassock are both types of upholstered footstools. An ottoman is a low, upholstered seat that does not have a back or arms, while a hassock is a padded cushion or low stool that can serve as a seat or leg rest. An ottoman may contain storage while a hassock typically does not.
Although both ottomans and hassocks are pieces of furniture that can be categorized as a footstool, read on to figure out which one you may want from your home based on their functions, design, size and shape. Then you can figure out which one you were really interested in adding to your home based on their function, size, and styles.
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Side-by-Side Comparison of an Ottoman and a Hassock
Looking at these two footstools side-by-side is the most convenient way to compare the two pieces of furniture and see which one works best for your specific room. The main difference between the two is really the functions of each. A hassock functions mainly as either a leg rest or a cushion for prayer, while an ottoman has multiple functions.
Here are some side-by-side comparisons of an Ottoman versus a Hassock, respectively:
- Usually large and rectangular versus small and round
- Storage space versus no storage space
- Has multiple functions of a footstool, stool, coffee table versus functioning as a footrest, low seat, or a cushion for prayer
- Without a back or sides with uncovered wooden legs versus a low stool or padded cushion that may or may not have legs that are always covered
- Could be used in any room in a home versus could be used in churches
- Both are upholstered
Just because there are some differences above, you could more than likely use one in place of the other if need be. For example, you could probably sit on a hassock if you needed to and did not have an ottoman around. However, hassocks are usually smaller than ottomans, so sitting on one could be uncomfortable for a taller individual.
Ottomans may take on different shapes while hassocks are usually round, and ottomans are larger and taller than hassocks. In fact, an ottoman may be the centerpiece of a room in which multiple guests can sit during a get together. You would probably never see this use for a hassock, as it is simply too small and short.
One of the main benefits of an ottoman is the storage aspect, something that probably makes them more attractive than a simple hassock when designing a living room or family room. That way, you can hide any toys, blankets, or anything else away in the ottoman while it is being used to prop someone’s feet or as a low seat for guests.
Differences in Exterior: Ottoman Vs Hassock
Since both ottomans and hassocks are upholstered, there is not a lot of difference when it comes to upholstery, padding, fabric, or even a leather covering. The only main difference is that hassocks are completely upholstered literally from head to toe. That is, if your hassock has legs, they will also be covered in fabric or leather.
An ottoman’s legs will either be wooden or metal and are very sturdy for its multiple uses and functions. This is why an ottoman is so much more flexible than a hassock when it comes to functionality. Ottomans are even used as coffee tables because they are high, large, and sturdy with the wooden or metal legs.
A hassock may be used as a small side table, but probably will not be used as a coffee table because of its smaller size and lower height. Unless you are willing to be sitting on the floor while reading a book and drinking coffee, as you would with a standard coffee table, a hassock would not be the best type of furniture choice for this function.
Whether you have an ottoman or hassock, if you are using it to rest your feet or place drinks and food on them, you will more than likely want to clean the upholstery. This means more than just wiping off the piece of furniture every once in a while. Ottomans and hassocks hold one of the dirtiest parts of a human being—shoes, socks, and feet.
Choosing Between an Ottoman and a Hassock
Ottomans and hassocks are both types of footstools, but that does not mean the only reason you should choose one over the other is how well they rest your feet. These two types of footstools are not interchangeable and have many uses. Ottomans and hassocks can be places to rest your feet, but they are also so much more.
Figuring out the purpose of the footstool will help you decide whether you would like an ottoman or a hassock since they each have a different shape, size, and style. You should be asking yourself certain questions about the function of the footstool, based primarily on what room it will be going in, before you even start contemplating the style:
- Will the footstool only be used to actually rest one’s feet?
- Do you want your footstool to have storage?
- Will it be used as a coffee table?
- Do you need a footstool for therapeutic reasons (such as raising your feet to a certain hit to alleviate discomfort)?
- Will this piece of furniture just be a showpiece to balance out the rest of the room?
- Do you need it to act as a step stool to reach high objects or get into bed?
Once you answer the questions above about function, then you can start thinking of style. Footstools come in a variety of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. Some may be boxy and level with the ground while others may be round and have legs. Since both ottomans and hassocks are upholstered, they will have different colors and designs.
When you are choosing an ottoman or hassock, you should sit on it to make sure it is sturdy and can handle pressure. Measure the height of your couch or chair and the footstool so that you know your feet will rest on it comfortably when relaxing in your home. Your budget should also be a consideration since prices can jump pretty high.
What is an Ottoman?
An ottoman is a low padded or upholstered seat that does not have a back or arms. They are hollow on the inside so there is storage space inside of the cushion, and this is what differentiates them from other types of footstools, including hassocks. Ottomans also may come with wooden legs or no legs depending on the style of the furniture.
Usually the wooden legs are not covered with fabric, and you can purchase an ottoman in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can be purchased for any room in your home, from the living room and the family room, to your bedroom and even in a game room. Ottomans are usually sold in a set with corresponding furniture like armchairs.
- Leg rest
- Coffee tables
- Side table
- Makeup vanity chair
- Place to put your shoes
- A holder for drinks and foot
- A display area for books or magazines
Unlike a hassock, an ottoman may come with legs or no legs, storage or no storage, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are usually larger than hassocks because of their convenient storage purposes. Their uncovered wooden legs are another difference between an ottoman and a hassock.
When it comes to ottomans, they tend to unfortunately be an afterthought in designing a living, family, or bedroom. Yet, they are probably the most versatile piece of furniture that can serve a wide variety of functions. Ottomans can also add style and aesthetic value to your room while also being a comfortable footrest or seating area for friends.
Where Did the Term Ottoman Come From?
If you have heard of the Ottoman Empire, then you probably made the connection that is where the term “ottoman” came from and the phrase we use today. The Ottoman Empire was created by Turkish tribes in Asia and had its power during the 15th and 16th centuries and used ottomans as a low wooden platform covered with cushions.
The Ottoman Empire would span Western Asia, Northern Africa, and Southeastern Europe between the 1300s and the early 20th century. It was integral in connecting the Western and Eastern worlds because of its trade routes, and one of the items that was traded often was furniture. At first, the ottoman was only a fixture in Ottoman homes.
This piece of furniture would not arrive in Europe until the 18th century when traders transported them into the country. The term ottoman was first mentioned in France in 1729, spelled “ottoman,” and this unique piece of furniture would be a staple in the most luxurious homes and boudoirs. Throughout this time, they were for the rich and famous.
Then in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the ottoman became a fixture in private member clubs and upper-class parlor rooms since they were already synonymous with the upper-class elite. Their appearance would change from a covering of flashy embroidery or wool rugs to tough leather that matched the dark colors of arm chairs.
Different Types of Ottomans
Believe it or not, there are actually different types of ottomans in which to choose that are well known in the furniture industry. Although this makes them that much more versatile, it also makes things that much more confusing when you are thinking of purchasing this underestimated piece of furniture for your home, as seen below:
- Cocktail ottoman—The top of this type of ottoman is very sturdy so that it can hold different beverages. They are meant for entertaining guests as well as adding style to a room.
- Cube ottoman—smaller, square ottomans that are made for smaller homes with compact areas. They still have storage and the top usually just comes fully off.
- Ottoman glider—These are ottomans with wheels instead of the standard wooden or metal feet so that they can be moved easily about the room.
- Sleeper ottoman—Believe it or not, this is an ottoman that actually folds out into a bed.
- Smooth ottoman—Almost looks like a bench, upholstered with smooth fabric, sturdy legs, and adds a minimalist style to the room
- Storage ottoman—A larger ottoman with wooden legs that comes with ample storage by having the top lift up for blankets, toys, and anything else to pack away.
- Tray top ottoman—These contain a build-in try that sits in the center of the ottoman for drinks or food that can be placed on a flat surface
- Tufted ottoman—Upscale, chic, and elegant in style with high-quality upholstered fabric. They come with or without the typical storage.
All the different types of ottomans listed above come in a variety of colors and materials. From cotton, leather, microfiber, twill, or even chenille, the type of material depends on the function of the ottoman. Genuine leather is usually found on the higher-priced ottomans, while microfiber is best for ottomans that are used daily.
Popular ottoman colors are blue, gray, beige, and brown, but they are now found in solid and patterned fabrics for style. It is usually recommended that an ottoman is a neutral color, but that does not mean a wacky pattern would not brighten up a living room and give it a brand new sense of style. Again, it just depends on the overall function of it.
As seen above with so many varieties, ottomans have numerous functions beyond simply serving as a footstool. The same cannot be said about a hassock. Because a hassock is smaller and shorter than the many ottomans, hassocks are usually best as a footstool placed by the edge of your favorite chair or sofa.
The Pros and Cons of Ottomans
Ottomans are a great multifunctional piece of furniture because they can store items inside of its hollow middle and are large enough to serve as additional seating for guests. They are also big enough to double as a coffee table and usually come with a matching chair for aesthetics. However, there are a few cons to be aware of:
- You may need to use a tray to balance drinks on an ottoman since the tops usually are not completely flat
- The legs are usually not upholstered and can become dangerous if someone stubs a toe on them or runs into them
- If you fill up your ottoman with storage items, it will be very heavy to move
- The upholstery could wear out quickly if you have multiple people using it as seating
- They are more expensive for higher-quality ottomans
- If they are too large, they will take up massive amounts of space in a smaller room
With all of these cons to think about when it comes to an ottoman, how does a hassock compare and does it offer any pros over its footstool counterpart?
What is a Hassock?
A hassock is another type of footstool that is similar to an ottoman, but they differ in shape, size, and function. They are usually thick cushions that are low to the ground and may or may not have legs. If they do, the legs are covered in fabric, unlike an ottoman’s wooden legs. They are usually round and smaller than an ottoman.
Hassocks are essentially cushion-like ottomans without any interior storage functions. They are footstools with upholstery and have also been called a “tuffet” or “pouffe.” Pouffe’s, however, are usually larger and taller than the standard hassock. The cushion of the hassock can serve as a seat, leg rest, or for kneeling when praying at church.
Hassocks are also found in the confession booth of a church, again for kneeling purposes. Their legs could be either wood or metal, and since they are covered in fabric, if they have legs at all, hassocks appear more like a big cushion at a first glance than a footstool. The legs are there for stability and to give the hassock structure.
Since the cushions are hard and thick, they are perfect for kneeling, reclining, or sitting up against. However, if you are looking for some extra storage space, you will want to stick with the ottoman because a hassock will not have any. Sometimes hassocks are used as side tables in a living room, but be wary of this function since they sit low.
Where Did the Term Hassock Come From?
The term hassock has an interesting history in that it originally meant “coarse grass” or “clump of grass.” How did these definitions end up equating to a footstool that looks like a cushion? Experts concluded that the soft cushion meaning that we know as a hassock today derived from this original clump of glass definition because they looked similar.
The first recording of the definition of hassock changed from “clump of grass” to “thick cushion” in the 1510s. Do the hassocks of today resemble a clump of grass? More than likely not. However, at this time that was the main definition of a term that would end up evolving into what we now know today as a type of footstool with different uses.
The 16th century is when the term hassock would evolve to being a cushion that was primarily used for kneeling on while praying. This definition is still used today, as hassocks are the primary piece of furniture for kneeling when praying or when you are kneeling and performing the confession.
However, today the definition has evolved to being a padded cushion, a low stool for seating or a leg rest, or a cushion for kneeling. In fact, when you look up the term “hassock” in the dictionary, one of the synonyms you may see is the term “ottoman.” Yet, there are many differences between the two terms when put side-by-side.
The Pros and Cons of Hassocks
Although there is not the same variety of types of hassocks as there are ottomans, there are pros of having a hassock in the home. Since it came from the definition of a clump of glass and now is a padded cushion that can be a leg rest or seat, this upholstered footstool can add a simple yet stylish look to any home. Other pros include:
- Easier to move from one room to another or to different parts of the room because it is lighter than an ottoman
- It will not take up a lot of space in a room so it can be incorporated into nearly any floor plan
- They usually come in bright patterns, and colors so they can add a bit of flair to a room
- They are perfect as a side table for a sofa or chair and can be easily moved from one side to the other
The cons that need to be weighed when purchasing a hassock are:
- No storage
- Not high or big enough to work as a coffee table
- Usually do not come with a matching chair like an ottoman, so they may be hard to coordinate with other pieces of furniture
The main cons of the hassock are the lack of storage and the lack of different functions. They are not hollow, so you cannot hide items. They are also too small to be used for anything but a footrest, a place to kneel (and pray), or possibly a side table. Beyond that, they are typically not big enough to act as a backless seat or a coffee table.
Although there are pros and cons to a hassock, doing a side-by-side comparison to an ottoman will help you decide which type of footstool you need depending on the required function. After you choose an ottoman or a hassock, then you can choose the fun things, like colors, styles, sizes, and shapes.
Cleaning Your Ottoman or Hassock
No matter whether you purchase an ottoman or a hassock, you will want to keep it clean since a lot of feet may be resting on both of the pieces of furniture. If you place this item in your living room, it may end up being used as a footstool and dirt will more than likely come from shoes, socks, and bare feet. They will both need the sporadic deep cleaning.
- Remove the covering from the ottoman or hassock, if possible
- Check to see if your ottoman or hassock has a tag and then wash the covering in the washer by following the manufacturer’s directions on the tag
- Dust off the ottoman or hassock using the brush on the vacuum attachment (make sure to dust off the legs and feet if your ottoman or hassock have them)
- Vacuum out the cracks and crevices using the vacuum’s hose attachment
- Us the same vacuum hose attachment to also vacuum underneath and the sides of the ottoman or hassock
- Clean the entire ottoman or hassock using a sponge with fabric cleaner or mix ¼ cup of mild detergent with warm water for a comparable cleaning solution
- Make sure to blot any stains with the sponge. If you scrub stains that are set in, they will only set in deeper into the fabric of the ottoman or hassock
- Use furniture polish made for wood if your ottoman has wooden legs and metal polish if your ottoman has metal legs (a hassock’s legs will be covered in fabric)
- Dry the ottoman or hassock with a clean towel, making sure to wipe off all the suds from the fabric clean or detergent mixture
If your ottoman or hassock is leather, you can also clean it with leather wax at least once a year. That way, any small scratches in the leather that may develop over time from being used as a footstool will be prevented from permanently forming in the leather of the ottoman or hassock. Leather can be delicate even on these pieces of furniture.
The above steps will work well for cleaning most ottomans and hassocks, but remember that every type of upholstery is different. No matter what type of upholstery your ottoman or hassock has, you want to make sure you are following the manufacturer’s cleaning directions precisely when cleaning and maintaining the furniture.
If you properly clean your ottoman or hassock by following the manufacturer’s directions and using the steps above, you will be able to prolong a piece of furniture that will probably get more use by family and friends than any other piece of furniture in your home. However, how often to clean them will ultimately depend on their overall function.
There are some important functional and stylistic distinctions between ottomans and hassocks. Deciding between an ottoman and a hassock depends on what you want to do with your furniture, the size of the item, and how high or low you need it. An ottoman is a rectangular, low upholstered footstool without a back or arms that has storage and has multiple uses.
A hassock is also an upholstered footstool but is much lower and smaller than an ottoman. Both pieces of furniture can add beauty and style to any room as well as a place to put your feet up, rest, or even pray. The great thing about both items, you can find them in a variety of styles, sizes, and shapes that could add to your home.