The ottoman is one of the most overlooked pieces of furniture in the home. Called a hassock by some, footstool by others, the lowly ottoman can actually be a real work-horse and a critical item in a variety of rooms.

Most commonly, the ottoman sits at the end of a chair that it matches and becomes the home for a pair of raised feet, looking for a little relief. But, the ottoman can also hold babies being changed, magazines being read, fruit on a plate about to be eaten, the remote from the TV/VCR, and so much more. We frequently like to put a tray on top of the ottoman to provide a hard surface. Now, you can serve tea, put down a coffee cup, write a letter from your easy chair, and stack books about to be read.

The ottoman can also be used as the cocktail table in the center of a living room. We are currently offering two cocktail ottomans -- the Cheetah with an animal print fabric and a leather ottoman that houses a pull-out tray. When used as a cocktail table, the ottoman can do virtually anything that any other cocktail table can do, particularly when you remember that trick with the tray.

Where else can you use an ottoman? Ottomans are incredibly functional. Small ones can slide under a console table or desk when not in use. Then, they are readily at hand to be pulled out to seat extra guests at parties and other big events. Ottomans on casters are even easier to use as pull-up pieces, moved around with just a slight push of the hand.

We frequently like to recommend using ottomans in bedrooms as extra seating spots, a good place to put on your shoes, or for your kids to perch while they encourage you to get up and get going on Sunday morning.

Do ottomans need to match something? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Obviously, if you intend to put an ottoman at the end of a chair that it is styled to go with, you probably want the ottoman to be in the same fabric as the chair. But if you are planning to use the ottoman as extra seating, as a filler for a difficult corner, in the bedroom, or slid under a sofa table in your hall, then let your imagination run wild. Pick a fabric that you love since you don't have to worry about the overall room and color scheme. Even in the living room itself, an accent ottoman (round, hexagon, etc.) can become a focal point, adding extra dimension and interest to the room. These kind of accent pieces can really make a room come alive.