An ottoman, footstool, and hassock are all terms referring to furniture, namely the type upon which a person may rest his or her feet. Although closely related and often used interchangeably, there are significant differences among these variations of footrests. The size, style, and substances used are all factors differentiating the hassock, ottoman, and footstool.
In order to better understand the fundamental variations in these commonly owned types of furniture, it is best to describe each one individually. A footstool is a very general category of furniture, and many items may potentially fall under this category. The purpose of a footstool is to support a person's feet, usually while sitting. Traditionally, a footstool is composed of wood and is of a simple nature; however, ever more ornate versions may be found as well as those composed of many different materials. Both the ottoman and the hassock fall under the footstool's umbrella, so they can therefore be thought of as niche versions of footstools.
While footstools encompass a wide variety of objects used to relieve one's feet of pressure, ottomans and hassocks are specialized types. The ottoman is generally a large, padded stool that usually is also covered in fabric. One of the defining characteristics of this piece of furniture is its ability to store things inside. The word ottoman itself was generated from its identical French version, first introduced to the English vocabulary in 1806. The French term denotes a type of fabric, perhaps providing the reason for why an ottoman always possesses a fabric coating.
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A hassock, like an ottoman, is covered in fabric. Traditionally, a hassock's covering is so extensive that no legs or framing are visible, unlike an ottoman. Another difference between the hassock and the ottoman is that an ottoman usually has a central space available for storage, while the hassock does not. Lacking the storage feature, hassocks tend to be smaller than ottomans. Other names for this type of furniture are tuffet and pouffe.
While these three common types of furniture are somewhat interchangeable, the variations are obvious. Each piece is exclusive in form and function. And, each is available in nearly unlimited colors, patterns, and shapes. All serve both comfort and style functions, and it is up to the people purchasing them to determine which aesthetic and functional qualities they desire in their furniture.