2010s Spanish Modern Ottomans and Poufs
A Close Look at Modern Furniture
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw sweeping social change and major scientific advances — both of which contributed to a new aesthetic: modernism. Rejecting the rigidity of Victorian artistic conventions, modernists sought a new means of expression. References to the natural world and ornate classical embellishments gave way to the sleek simplicity of the Machine Age. Architect Philip Johnson characterized the hallmarks of modernism as “machine-like simplicity, smoothness or surface [and] avoidance of ornament.”
Early practitioners of modernist design include the De Stijl (“The Style”) group, founded in the Netherlands in 1917, and the Bauhaus School, founded two years later in Germany. Followers of both groups produced sleek, spare designs — many of which became icons of daily life in the 20th century. The modernists rejected both natural and historical references and relied primarily on industrial materials such as metal, glass, plywood, and, later, plastics. While Bauhaus principals Marcel Breuer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe created furniture from mass-produced, chrome-plated steel, American visionaries like Charles and Ray Eames worked in materials as novel as molded plywood and fiberglass. Today, Breuer’s Wassily chair, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair — crafted with his romantic partner, designer Lilly Reich — and the Eames lounge chair are emblems of progressive design and vintage originals are prized cornerstones of collections.
It’s difficult to overstate the influence that modernism continues to wield over designers and architects — and equally difficult to overstate how revolutionary it was when it first appeared a century ago. But because modernist furniture designs are so simple, they can blend in seamlessly with just about any type of décor. Don’t overlook them.
Finding the Right Ottomans and Poufs for You
Antique and vintage ottomans and poufs add comfort and style to any living room, game room, home office or minimalist lounge space. An ottoman is a short seat or footstool that is also often used to store items. A pouf is similar, but it’s typically more petite than an ottoman, usually without the storage space inside.
When one thinks of the Ottoman Empire, it’s easy to overlook the iconic seat named for the region. The ottoman — originally an upholstered seat or small bench without a back or arms — was a family’s main seating furniture, a way to merge floor seating with cushions and mats. It wasn’t until they were brought to Europe from Turkey, during the 18th century, that it became popular to join ottomans with other pieces of furniture, such as at the base of a chair. Eventually, these footrests were transformed into storage furnishings to organize quilts and blankets or other textiles. Furniture makers crafted their ottomans with lids that revealed a hidden cupboard, which rendered them both comfortable and practical.
Poufs, which appeared in France during the 1840s, are also of the low-platform seating variety. These versatile furnishings have been made available in all manner of shapes and sizes over time, and depending upon their firmness can be used as a side table should an occasion call for an extra one. However, your average ottoman is almost always firmer than a pouf, and even if the plush pouf in your living room feels sturdy, it’s probably not the best surface for your early-evening cocktail.
Both ottomans and poufs can help create an inviting and warm atmosphere in your living space. For the smaller rooms that are characterized by a casual feel, a shaggy or woven wool pouf might be a better choice, as it’s likely to be more compact and floor-cushion-like than an ottoman. The latter are often larger and more table-like and are comparatively a good fit for a more formal room such as a library or a study. Today, you might find that an ottoman works well in your bedroom, where there isn’t room for a sofa, or perhaps it can serve as a reliable perch in front of your vintage vanity table.
Whatever your seating needs are, find a collection of antique, new and vintage ottomans and poufs in varying styles on 1stDibs that include neoclassical, Industrial and mid-century modern. From the bright colors and bold patterns deployed by Milan-born designer Lorenza Bozzoli to the classy leather furnishings created at family-run Brooklyn, New York, atelier Moses Nadel, there is an endless range of these lovable low stools that merge seamlessly with most decor.