Upholstered storage benches are the ultimate two-in-one furniture pieces. With their padded seats and lifted lids, they provide both cozy seating and out-of-sight storage. An upholstered bench adds style to your entryway, bedroom, living room or any other space while also organizing your belongings.
When selected properly, a storage bench becomes a treasured decorative accent that gets used daily. This complete guide covers how to choose the ideal bench to match your home and needs. We’ll explore popular types of upholstered benches, top products on the market, design considerations, ideal placement in your home, and proper care for years of enjoyment.
What Are Upholstered Benches?
An upholstered bench, also sometimes called an upholstered ottoman, combines seating and storage in one furniture piece. The frame is made of wood, often with turned legs and carved details if it has a traditional style. Padding and upholstery cover the exterior, providing a comfortable seat cushion and stylish appearance.
Inside, an empty compartment offers out-of-sight storage. Many upholstered benches act as literal trunks, with lift-top or hinged lids to access the spacious interiors. Some benches open with flip-top lids, while others have removable upholstered tops. The storage space allows you to tuck away blankets, shoes, toys, books, or anything else you want to conceal.
Upholstered benches range widely in size and shape. Small, round ottomans can work well in cozy reading nooks. Long, rectangle benches are ideal for centering under large windows. Basic cube shapes with tufted tops provide classic style beside beds. The versatile furniture piece fits any room in need of extra seating and storage.
History of Upholstered Benches
Using padded benches for seating furniture dates back centuries ago. Early Egyptian, Greek, and Roman furniture sometimes incorporated primitive padded stools without backrests. By the European Middle Ages, basic benches with upholstered seats became more common. Wealthy households could afford stylishly carved wooden benches with embroidered or leather-upholstered cushions.
But hinged-lid upholstered storage benches really emerged in the 1800s. Victorian households used them as window seats to provide storage beneath the lifting top. The compartment could hold linens, clothes, or other household goods nearby for use. This allowed the upholstered chests to serve double duty of seating and storage.
Similar in function to hope chests or trunks, upholstered benches remained popular into the 1900s. They allowed homes with limited space to optimize furniture for multiple purposes. Ottomans also became trendy as plush upholstered seats without storage inside. The origin of the word “ottoman” actually comes from the ornate footstools used in Ottoman Empire palaces.
Today, we still use this classic furniture type for its elegance and practicality. The soft cushions provide comfortable, padded seating for living spaces. The hidden storage keeps rooms neat by concealing items inside the bench cavity. This winning combination ensures upholstered benches remain decor staples.
Types of Upholstered Benches
Upholstered benches now come in an array of shapes, sizes, and styles. But most can be grouped into a few main categories based on their design. Here are some of the most common upholstered bench types and their distinguishing features:
The versatile ottoman features a padded, upholstered seat atop short legs or feet. Many square, rectangular, round, and oval ottomans still open with lift-top or hinged lids to reveal storage space inside. Smaller ottomans often have removable tops to enable storing items beneath the cushion. Ottoman poufs offer a cozy footrest but lack storage capacity.
This classic bench mimics old-fashioned travel trunks. It typically has a rectangular shape, leather or fabric upholstery, and flat or lifted hinged top. Transitional and contemporary trunk benches have clean lines, while traditional versions showcase detailed woodworking. The roomy interior is great for holding blankets, books, or toys.
Similar to trunk benches but with more ornate detailing, chest benches draw inspiration from antique hope chests. They usually have an arched or lifted lid, carved wooden frame accents, and legs or feet. The ample storage works well at the end of beds. Puffy padded lids with button tufting deliver extra elegance.
Custom-fit for the space below large windows, these built-in benches maximize seating and storage. The lift-top or removable seat cushion hides contents neatly away when not in use. Under-window benches allow enjoying cozy window nooks without clutter.
Sliding smoothly underneath bed frames, these low-profile upholstered benches roll out when you need extra seating. Some feature hinged lids to tuck away extra bedding inside or allow lifting the whole cushion up. They create handy hidden storage for small bedrooms.
Once you decide what type of upholstered bench best suits your needs, it’s time to choose a specific style and model. Keep reading our detailed upholstered bench buying guide for help selecting the perfect furniture piece.
Top 5 Upholstered Storage Benches
I’ve compiled descriptions of my top bench recommendations below to provide an idea of popular and highly rated options. But you’ll want to browse more choices to find your perfect fit. Let the upholstered bench buying tips later guide your search.
Safavieh Madison Ottoman
This classic square ottoman comes in sophisticated dark brown leather. Standing at 17 inches tall, the Safavieh ottoman works well as a coffee table or as a bench beside chairs. The neat cube shape fits into both modern and traditional decor.
Though referred to as an ottoman, this piece still offers hidden storage capacity. Lift up the padded top to reveal an empty compartment inside. The sturdy birch wood frame ensures longevity even with frequent opening and closing of the lid. With its simplicity and versatility, this upholstered ottoman easily blends into home offices, living rooms, and bedrooms.
Belham Living Lamont Tufted Ottoman
For traditional style, the Belham Living Lamont ottoman showcases exquisite details like turned wood feet, carved trim, and diamond tufting. Available in light beige linen or darker grey polyester upholstery, this ottoman suits many color schemes. Measuring 17 inches tall with a 42 inch width, it works well in large living rooms or at the end of beds.
Despite its elegance, the Lamont still functions as hidden storage. The lift-top cushion opens to reveal ample empty space to tuck away your belongings. Materials like solid wood, plywood, and foam make this piece sturdy and durable for everyday use. The neutral shades also let your home decor shine.
HomePop Pierce Large Storage Ottoman
With its budget-friendly price yet quality construction, the HomePop Pierce ottoman proves you don’t have to overspend for style and utility. Offered in five muted shades like light grey and navy to match any room, the soft rounded ottoman appeals in modern or contemporary homes.
The lift-top opens to reveal deceptively spacious storage space inside. The manufacturer boasts their extra strong hinges withstand frequent opening and closing without issues. With assembly required, the ottoman’s wide, short stature only reaches 15 inches tall making it ideal as a coffee table or foot rest.
Divano Roma Mid-Century Leather Bench
This handcrafted mid-century modern cube bench comes covered in sleek light brown faux leather. With polished chrome legs and subtle tufting atop the lid, it delivers a hint of retro design perfect for urban lofts or contemporary homes. However, the neutral colors still blend with a variety of decors and rooms.
Perfect beside a bed or below a window, the compact Divano Roma bench offers storage solution in small spaces. Just lift the upholstered top to neatly tuck away items inside the cube-shaped cavity. Though petite, this lightweight bench still holds up to 300 pounds if needed for seating.
House of Hampton Jesenia Pouf
For a bold accent piece, this round pouf ottoman from House of Hampton stands out with its deep blue color and unique shape. The velvet upholstery and tasseled trim offer striking but elegant contrast in living rooms and bedrooms. Though small at just 16 inches tall, the pouf footprint still provides ample storage.
Unzip the top and the bench cushion removes to reveal empty space suitable for stashing spare blankets or anything you want out of sight but nearby. The vivid pouf energizes any space but works best with lighter wall colors and decor to prevent clashing. For traditional to eclectic home styles, this striking bench catches the eye while keeping your space organized.
What to Look for in an Upholstered Bench
When evaluating the array of upholstered benches available, keep these key criteria in mind while you shop and compare options:
- Frame Construction – Look for solid wood frames, ideally hardwoods like oak, over cheaper plywood that can warp. But some engineered woods offer sturdy frames at lower price points.
- Joints – High-quality joinery is key for long-lasting furniture. Benches with mortise and tenon joints outperform those with simple glue and nails. Peeking underneath when shopping can reveal staples or weak corners on flimsier pieces.
- Hardware – Metal hinges, lid supports, and legs prove most durable. Plastic lid supports often eventually crack or break. And beware benches with just Velcro or fabric holding on the lid, which droops over time.
- Upholstery Fabric – For high-traffic seats, microfiber and leather offer longevity. But polyester blends also perform well when tightly woven and treated to resist stains. Make sure the material feels thick and strong.
- Size – First, measure where you plan to place the bench to ensure it fits the space. Then consider the interior capacity needed and ideal height for seating comfort. Standard bench height falls around 18-20 inches.
- Lid or Top – Look for tightly secured tops that don’t slide around. Hinged lids tend to outlast lift-tops, which can weaken or break with age. But lift tops allow inserting plywood supports inside for added structure.
- Skirting – Many benches include skirting or fabric panels hanging from the bottom to neatly conceal the underside. This provides a more polished, finished appearance.
- Ergonomics – Don’t sacrifice comfort. Be sure the bench offers ample leg room and padding. You want a seat height that doesn’t leave your legs dangling or knees feeling pinched.
Where to Place Upholstered Benches at Home
One great benefit of upholstered benches is their versatility. The seating and storage combination allows them to be useful in nearly any room of your home. Consider placing benches in the following areas:
A classic use, upholstered benches in entryways provide a spot to sit down while removing shoes. Then open the lid to stash shoes, bags, pet leashes, or umbrellas neatly out of sight. It creates a welcoming vignette and keeps clutter off the floor.
Bedrooms often need extra hidden storage. Put a bench at the foot of the bed to hold extra bedding inside. Or place one under a window to hold folded clothes but allow enjoying the cozy seat. Just don’t overstuff the bench to avoid permanently compressing the cushion.
Living Room Bench
Accent your living room with an ornately detailed upholstered bench by the fireplace or television. Use it to store remote controls, blankets, or reading material conveniently within reach but out of view. Having guests over? Toss extra throw pillows inside to quickly neaten the room.
Family Room Bench
In family rooms, upholstered benches help corral kids’ belongings quickly. Lift the lid and store books, toys, arts supplies, or anything else cluttering tables and floors during messy creative play. Then close to restore order before company visits.
For home offices, slide a narrow upholstered bench with casters under the desk for a place to sit while working. Remove the cushion or lift the hinged top to access interior storage for files, office supplies, or reference materials within reach. Roll it out of sight again when not needed.
The seating and storage capabilities truly make upholstered benches practical additions throughout homes. Just be sure you have adequate room for the bench dimensions and allow proper traffic flow when placing benches.
Caring for Your Bench
With the proper care, a quality upholstered bench should last for years of daily use. Here are some tips for keeping it looking its best:
- Vacuum regularly using the soft brush upholstery attachment to remove dust and dirt from the fabric. Spot clean any spills promptly before they set in.
- Let the bench air out occasionally. Open lids allow air circulation to prevent musty odors inside. Place baking soda boxes in the empty bench to keep smells neutralized.
- Every few months, rotate the bench 180 degrees and swap the sides facing out. This helps evenly distribute wear and fading from sunlight.
- Wipe wooden legs and surfaces with a dry microfiber cloth to remove light dust. Use only minimal water or mild cleaners on wood, avoiding harsh chemicals.
- Check hardware twice yearly and tighten any loose joinery or legs. Damaged hardware should get replaced immediately by a professional.
- With lift-top benches, open lids slowly and cautiously. Added interior supports help but hinges still weaken over time. Have heavy tops professionally tightened or reinforced if needed.
With frequent light cleaning and careful use, you can count on long service from a solid wood and fabric upholstered storage bench. Paying a bit more upfront for durability saves you money over time.
Upholstered Bench FAQs
Have more questions about choosing and using upholstered storage benches? See the answers to these common queries:
What’s the main difference between an ottoman and upholstered bench?
Traditional ottomans only offer seating while upholstered benches provide interior storage space too. But many ottomans today still have lift-tops or removable cushions to access hollow space for storage inside despite the name. Always check specifications.
How much weight can benches hold?
This varies based on frame strength and leg design, but most support 250-300 pounds for seating capacity. Some heavy duty commercial versions can handle over 500 pounds. Check manufacturer guidelines for suggested weight limits.
Should I put anything inside an empty bench?
Yes, placing a piece of plywood cut to fit inside helps stabilize the frame and prevent bench cushion sagging when not used for storage. The rigid plywood backing reinforces the empty cavity.
Can upholstered benches go outside on the patio?
Most indoor upholstered bench frames and fabrics would deteriorate outdoors. But some available benches feature weather-resistant materials suitable for covered porches or patios. Look for “outdoor” benches specifically designed with UV and water resistant upholstery and sealed, rust-proof frames.
Why do some new benches have an odor inside?
The adhesives and chemicals used in furniture production can cause lingering “new smell.” This dissipates over time but airing out a new bench fully before use helps. Baking soda also absorbs odors safely. Just don’t attempt to mask smell with sprays or fragrances.
Upholstered storage benches make exceptional additions to any home with their combination of seating and hidden storage capabilities. Their padded, welcoming cushions provide comfort while their lift-top or hinged lids allow stashing away clutter. With quality construction and materials, these classic furniture pieces serve homes well for many years.
Take time to evaluate your space, storage needs, and style when selecting a padded bench. Measure carefully to ensure it fits the intended room without blocking pathways. Test the seat height for comfort too. Then enjoy the benefits of extra storage disguised beautifully with soft upholstery. A perfectly chosen bench clears clutter while complementing your room’s decor.