A history of the ottomans

The origins of the term “Ottoman” to describe a particular style of footstool is subject to much debate with some commentators pointing to Napoleon Bonaparte’s exploits in the Mediterranean, others as a direct export of Turkish influence into Europe. The “Napoleonic” view sees the term “Ottoman” entering common parlance as a style of footstool that became popular in France in the late 18th century. When the French invaded Egypt they found the locals popularizing a style of stool – Egypt at the time was still part of the Ottoman Empire and its people were subjected to many acts of brutality and endured many forms of punishment. Stools were developed to rest tired and tortured feet and when the French returned home they took with them the influences and styles of furniture they had seen on their travels.

French foot rests became popular in Europe and were given the name “Ottoman” in homage to their origin. Others were directly influenced by his visits to parts of the Ottoman Empire. Travelers returning to Western Europe from the Balkans and Greece saw evidence of Turkish furniture styles in mosques and palaces and the name entered the English language in the late 1780s.

The generic term “ottoman” refers to a low upholstered footstool or seat completely covered in fabric. The first wooden ottomans did not have legs resting directly on the floor and were constructed in the shape of a box with storage space under the seat with a non-fixed lid. Later ottomans were fitted with hinges to regulate the lid being raised. They also came in a variety of sizes and shapes.

Modern designs can be both functional and luxurious, with stunning upholstered fabrics and leathers. They are found in almost every room in the house and were great receptacles for blankets and bedding in the great Victorian houses of the late 19th century. Today they are most commonly found in the bedroom as useful linen and linen storage stools, in bathrooms as taller and narrower partner units as laundry and laundry receptacles or in living rooms as pieces for storing papers and magazines.

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