Little Miss Muffet has her tuffet; houses of the holy favor hassocks when it’s time to kneel for prayer; and no one truly lolls on a lounge chair without an accompanying ottoman. Its aliases may be many, but whatever you call it, the low-lying, legless cushion is an icon of taking it easy. And unlike lugging a sofa or easy chair around the room, putting your footstool in just the right place doesn’t require breaking a sweat.
Soft fabrics are safe bets for upholstery that feels plush on the tootsies. Donna Wilson covered the Ernest Zig Zag in a series of patterned wool panels, giving its geometric print slight variation in the round; the hand-done, chunky cotton garter stitch on CB2’s Knitted Pouf feels like an afghan from Grandma; and Ligne Roset opted for a smooth porcelain blue Alcantara microfiber for this version of Pierre Paulin’s Pumpkin. The textured patchwork that tops the Mangas Puff by Patricia Urquiola was originally introduced as a rug; this fuller, cushier incarnation is as comfy under heel as underfoot.
For a full-body experience, try the classic Sacco, designed by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini, and Franco Teodoro for Zanotta in 1968. The original beanbag chair is stuffed with polystyrene pellets that reconfigure when you sink in, providing a solid headrest and encasing seat; Francesco Rota’s Play is also filled with the polymer pills. Sushi takes up the most floor space of the bunch and, at 4.5 feet in diameter, is just about big enough to curl up on for a nap in the fetal position.
Firmer, flatter pouffes can even be used as makeshift side tables. Place a serving tray over the polyester-painted cords of Kettal’s ZigZag and the flat-topped frame can become a surface suitable for holding a cold glass of lemonade.
Lest you think that putting your feet up after a long day is just a luxury, it feels blissful for good reason. "Veins do not have muscles in them. It’s easy for gravity to take blood down to the feet but very difficult for your body to get it back up again," says San Francisco podiatrist Charles Starrett. The best way to facilitate proper circulation? "I recommend that everyone should elevate their feet in the evening, while watching TV or reading, raised just enough to get the swelling headed back toward the heart. Essentially, you should never sit with your feet dependent if you can help it." In other words, sit back, relax, and use that pouffe—–doctor’s orders!