The creation of our small footstool began its life as a random item, designed to take the weight off muddy boots. People found that sitting with their legs outstretched was a more natural and comfortable position when sitting upright, and this simple device allowed weight to be distributed more proportionally. This in turn, provided them with higher levels of relaxation and comfort, commencing the continual search for things to rest their heels on. At this point, chairs were reserved for those of importance such as dignitaries, and the everyday man would instead use backless stools to perch on – which were inevitably grabbed occasionally for those on chairs to rest their royal feet on.
The realisation that the human form is just not designed to be seated for long periods of time still rings true today. Also unchanged in time, sitting bolt upright often encouraged the crossing of legs, which is known to cut off the full blood flow to the lower limbs and affect the alignment of the spine.
The footstool was made even more practical and popular with the realisation that, medically speaking, raising one’s legs meant better circulation.
It wasn’t long before upholsterers began to apply the same ideas to four-legged stools as was used on the main seating, with many designs and patterns to choose from, and features such as padded tops began to make an appearance too. Soon, the footstool, like the chair, was available to purchase in an array of styles, colours and fabrics, from leather to linen. This made what was originally an ancillary item, start to stand out in a room and begin its evolution into a design icon in its own right. As time marched on, homeowners realised that when produced in line and in height with the sofa and matching chairs that now adorned every living room, they could also add to their available seating with the added bonus of the footstool being more mobile.
Now also considered a useful storage area, function has combined with comfort as many footstools are now made hollow with a lid for storing magazines and newspapers. Commonly known as ottomans, these are designed to take the clutter of items like magazines or extra cushions and linens from the initial view of the room while keeping them within easy access. Bench stools are space savers that are more elongated in shape and are ideal to slot under your window sill when not being used to relieve your joints. These can sometimes be made with arms and look like a miniature but backless version of your sofa and are reminiscent of a modern-day chaise. A style very popular now is the large square ottoman, which has a number of uses: from coffee table to storage unit, as well as for resting your feet on of course, these now come in a range of designs to make an attractive centrepiece.