Design Recipes: Day beds, benches and ottomans, and which to use where

A bench adds a modern element as well as texture in a living space. (Scott Gabriel Morris/Provided photo/TNS)
A bench adds a modern element as well as texture in a living space. (Scott Gabriel Morris/Provided photo/TNS)

Day beds, benches and ottomans come in different shapes and sizes. And while some are for actual sleeping, many are not. Often considered as a space-saving alternative to a regular bed or simply as a space filler, day beds, ottomans and benches can serve a useful purpose.

Day beds

Perhaps you picture a day bed to be a piece of furniture made of white or black painted iron, padded with an ill-fitting mattress, camouflaged with toss pillows. This may have been the standard day bed of decades past, but these days, day beds can serve as an attractive, sleek and even modern addition to the home.

Day beds are often long and thin and can come with or without edges or rails. A day bed is wider and bigger than a bench and is often confused with a chaise, which is often part of a sectional sofa seating grouping. A day bed can be used in social areas for extra seating, in entry areas and those in which a mattress can be added for sleeping.


Benches are considerably thinner and smaller than day beds. Benches can be used for function as well as aesthetics.

Benches work well in entryways, at the foot of a bed, as well as in small niches and nooks where a larger piece of furniture typically would not fit. In entertainment rooms such as a living room or family room, benches can also provide extra seating and can even be used as an alternative to a traditional coffee table.


Ottomans, typically half the size of a bench, are the most versatile when compared to a day bed or bench. Ottomans can be either used alone or in pairings, often in a set of two or three.

Ottomans can be used for extra seating, as a foot rest or as a decorative furniture element to introduce a new material or color. Because of their small size, ottomans are often a way to introduce a fun material or fabric into a space. Ottomans can also come in various shapes including rectangle, circle, square and oval.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design home staging expert and short-term rental/vacation home designer with offices in New York City and The Hudson Valley. Contact her at or visit her website at

photo A bench adds an additional seating opportunity in this modern living space. (Provided photo/TNS)
photo A bench provides a decorative touch in a hallway space. (Provided photo/TNS)
photo A day bed provides an alternative to a traditional bed in a small bedroom. (Provided photo/TNS)
photo A bench adds a finishing touch in this bedroom. (Scott Gabriel Morris/Provided photo/TNS)

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