Have you ever wondered what exactly a tuffet is, as in the perch on which Little Miss Muffet sat while tucking into her curds and whey? We call it a pouffe, although some say pouffie or pouf-fay.
But whatever name you give it, this hard-working little seat is probably the most underrated piece of furniture around, while also being just about as versatile a piece as you can get.
Lightweight and infinitely movable, it’s a hardworking perch around a coffee table, a decorative seat in the bedroom, or slid under a console table in a smaller hall which doesn’t have room for a chair. It can also provide extra living room seating at a snap which will prove infinitely more comfortable and inviting than the typical three-legged stools most of us wheel out when we have company and are shy of a few seats.
While some pouffes can be luxuriously soft to sink into, others are firm and supportive, but all are far more than just makeshift chairs, often been known to double job and even do an additional night shift as a footstool or occasional table.
With so many shapes, sizes and finishes, there’s a something for every one quality about the pouffe, pretty much like cushions, but I would reckon significantly more practical.
According to Ger Cooney, interior designer and colour consultant, right now it’s probably a little overlooked in the seating world.
“In my grandmother’s time everyone had a pouffe to put their feet up sitting next to the fire,” he says. “Now they’re starting to come back after being under-appreciated, even the poor relation of the sofa and chair. I’ve noticed that so many of my clients are against the idea of a coffee table in the living area because of the sharp edges you get with wood and glass versions, so having something like a pouffe or an ottoman gives a solid surface like a tray, but it’s a bit more ornate in nature. It can be a focal point in the room but not as large or imposing as a coffee table and it can also pull the look of a room together like a rug will do, and it’s a point of interest.”
“Pouffes are great in small apartments where there’s no room for a coffee table if you want one,” says Ger. “It can be used in a reading area next to a single chair for comfort to put your feet up and it can also have storage. We’re at home more now and we need space for everything so it can have storage for things like the remote controls.
“I’m even seeing them being used by young mums as a station for nappies and baby wipes so they’re not in your face. And there are no hard edges with small children around. A larger one can even be used for toys, and older children can use it as a seat. When the lid is closed everything is tucked away.”
When it comes to aesthetics, there’s the option of tying it in with the colour of your sofa or taking the opportunity to do something different on a small scale which won’t overwhelm a room.
“Bearing in mind that even though the pouffe is practical it’s also an accessorising piece where you can go for a contrasting fabric,” Ger adds. But he offers a word of caution about practicality and durability.
“I’d advise using a hard-wearing fabric especially if you’re putting your feet up on it and there are little sticky fingers around. Velvets are beautiful but not practical for feet or if you’re using the pouffe as a tabletop. You want to make sure there’s built-in durability so it will still look good after six months.
Typically, furniture buying involves a reasonably significant financial outlay, but according to Ger, you don’t necessarily have to invest a lot of money in a pouffe.
“I’ve seen people pick up things at auctions and in second-hand shops. If you can’t find something off the shelf look at vintage shops. In the past few years people have been looking for an unusual thing that no one else has, something with a story behind it. You’ll be amazed what you’ll find and with a new covering you’ll have something unusual.”