April 2016

Ottoman bed base guide

Ottoman bed bases are the relative newcomers to the mattress world. They are now enjoying far greater popularity amongst people who are short on storage and don't have the room for a full set of 4 drawers in a base.

However, there’s much more to ottoman bases, just like the tricky world of mattresses, so we have written this guide to help you avoid the pitfalls of buying an unsuitable mattress base.

John Ryan Ottoman bed bases in a "silver hopsack" design

What is an Ottoman bed base?

An ottoman mattress base is a style of base that allows the platform top part, where the mattress sits, to be lifted up. This allows for far greater storage space than a 4 drawer divan base. They have become more popular as space in people’s houses is increasingly at a premium. Ottoman beds allow you to store far more items within, and aren’t as restrictive as some drawers in a divan base can be (such as a two-drawer model to allow for bedside tables). Think of it as a chest where the mattress sits on the lid, and then by lifting up the lid you can raise the mattress up, allowing you to use the box frames of the bases to store things in.

Aubergine Crush Premium Ottoman Bed Base from John Ryan

How do Ottoman beds work?

An ottoman bed base works on the principle of pistons (or, more commonly, gas struts) taking the weight of the mattress both on its rise up and its movement back down. If you look at the boot of a car, you can see gas struts in operation here to lift and close the boot. They stop any sudden movements or crashing down of the lid or mattress. They are essential and, without them, ottoman bases would not function correctly. In fact, they would be almost impossible to lift on your own without them! This is why hinged bases without these struts should never be used.

The details of the pistons on a John Ryan Ottoman "charcoal bracken" bed base

What are the benefits of an Ottoman base?

Ottomans allow for far greater storage than a traditional bed frame, divan or platform top bed base. They are typically used in smaller bedrooms, apartments, flats or areas where bedside tables restrict a 4 drawer bed base option. For example, they can be used to store spare bedding, particularly if you have both a winter and summer tog duvet that you swap out. They are also useful for storing bedding, towels, clothing (such as seasonal items), shoes, books and boxes of keepsakes.

Pretty much anything can be stored in them, but there are weight limits (as in, you probably wouldn’t want to store very heavy items in there, but common sense would dictate what kind of items are suitable).

You can see how a mix of different household items, from bedding to books and boxes, can all be stored out of eyesight and easily accessible.

Details of books, bedding and boxes stored in a John Ryan Ottoman "charcoal bracken" bed base

What should I look out for when buying a mattress Ottoman base?

As with all mattress and bed bases, you’re looking for a high quality, sound construction method. If you see chipboard glued together, flimsy joints, nails or plastic tabs, then you should walk away.

Ottomans must be solidly made, given they will be lifting anywhere between 40-80kg in weight for a kingsize quality mattress. A cheap or poorly made Ottoman will simply collapse very quickly.

Our John Ryan Ottomans are 40cm in height from the floor when used with glides or castors.

Ensuring the Ottoman is well-made

You’re looking for a solid corner jointed box, ideally two separate boxes in a kingsize and above which are made of substantial veneered MDF. MDF is incredibly strong due to the layers, which is then lined or backed underneath with either stitchbond or hessian. The last thing you want is splinters catching your items when they are in there. Some manufacturers use a very cheap plastic coating or recycled material that’s very thin and ghastly. Stitchbond, which is a very thick plastic woven coating, is usually the minimum standard you should expect, but some manufacturers use hessian which is highly resilient and slightly more breathable.

Our Ottomans feature the following specifications:

Ottoman Bases
Platform top divan - no springs
Solid wood top and corner joints. FSC Approved.
MDF veneered lined base construction
Fully upholstered in a range of fabric options.
Hessian backing underneath.
1000-Newton Gas Struts
Threaded joining bolt and base brackets to join two piece bases together.
Can take upto 85 kg in mattress weight.
Fixings for both Shepherd castors and headboard bolts.

Ottoman bases are all platform top bases

One thing to bear in mind is that ottomans are not spring edged. This is due to the weight restrictions of the product. If you’re looking for a sprung-edged mattress base, a sprung-edged divan is a far better alternative. This gives a mattress a softer feel and is used in nearly all top end mattresses. However, it is subjective if you like the feel of a spring-edged base or prefer the solid platform top feel of an Ottoman.

"Aubergine Crush" Premium Ottoman Bed Base from John Ryan

Understanding the components of Ottomans

There’s a huge number of cheaply imported mattress bases which can be found at ‘bargain prices’. Just like the world of mattresses, you need to really understand exactly what the product is made of and the details of the components. If the descriptions are ambiguous and full of fluffy wording then please approach with caution!

Descriptions such as ‘sumptuously covered in luxury upholstery, with a state of the art gas hinges allowing the flexibility to store masses of goods within your bed‘ should be interpreted as being meaningless. You need to know the construction method; is this solid wood, or just flimsy and cheap chipboard?

On top of knowing the construction method, you need to know the upholstery type and stuffing used, and then finally the gas struts or pistons used. If you’re struggling to find this information or the seller isn’t forthcoming, then we suggest you find a more reputable mattress base manufacturer who should be able to answer all of these questions with ease.

Ottoman pistons and gas struts explained

The pistons or gas struts used in ottomans are the single most important item to inspect when purchasing one. Similarly, to pocket springs, there is no standardised gas strut or piston, so you really need to know exactly what the weight tolerance is for these struts. Also, some struts are a far better quality than others. You can see this at first glance as more advanced gas struts and pistons will have solid brackets, joining them to the base with at least 2 screws (if not 4). They will look like they are fit and sturdy for their purpose. Have a gas strut on each side of the mattress base (in a kingsize example, there are two bases joined by hinges).

Some cheaper manufacturers supply them with only two struts, meaning the centre of the mattress is left completely unsupported. This leads to the risk of damage or failure of the struts. We use 800-Newton gas struts; this relates to the force and weights that the struts can take and hold when in use.

The gas struts in an ottoman bed base

Plastic struts or spring hinges should be avoided as these will not be able to endure the weight of your mattress. You also have to consider your safety. Using cheaper or lightweight struts means the mattress may fall back down as you’re accessing the storage areas. Fingers, heads and hands could be caught and trapped, so it is paramount that the struts are made for the weight of your mattress.

How to find out if the gas struts will lift your mattress

Before buying any ottoman base you need to know the exact weight of your mattress from whichever supplier you choose. We list all of our mattress weights on each product and also have a handy table of our mattress weights article to list exactly what each model and size weights.

Each set of struts or pistons should specify, from the supplier, what weight range the struts will lift.

Our gas struts will lift up to 85kg and there are struts positioned on each side of the base (4 on a kingsize upwards). Our struts are 800 newton struts, which can take heavy mattresses.

Again, if you choose a cheaper or lighter weight strut then it either won’t be able to lift the mattress or, if it does, it will soon defect as it’s simply not made to take that strain. Cheaper ottomans use cheaper struts or even flimsy spring units, so it’s a matter of common sense to double check the weight tolerances of them, or it can be a wasted and expensive purchase!

If your supplier can’t tell you the weight tolerance, then we would advise you walk away. This is key information that is essential for purchasing mattress bases.

Details of an open Ottoman "silver hopsack" bed base

Are Ottomans heavy to lift?

Ottomans do require some strength to lift up initially. After that, the gas struts should assist in raising the mattress. This is why it is so important to make sure that the gas struts are suitable for the weight of the mattress. If you are concerned about lifting the mattress, we would ask you to bear in mind that a quality mattress will be heavy, especially given the number of upholstery fillings in it. If strength is a concern then maybe a divan with drawers would be more suitable for you.

How to stop mattresses sliding off an ottoman?

One issue with cheaper ottoman bases is that the covers of the top of the mattresses are non-stick. This means that, when the mattress is lifted up to access the storage, they can slip and crush the headboard. It also means the mattress has a chance (if not properly aligned) of sliding off to the left or right, causing damage to bedside tables.

We have designed our ottoman bases with a non-slip top cover which holds the mattress in place. It’s another development that sets our products apart, as we build our bases for design and functionality. The last thing you want is to be fighting against a heavy sliding mattress! A picture below shows what this non-slip cover looks like on the top side of the mattress.

Can Ottoman bases be used with zip & link mattresses?

Yes, in theory, ottoman bases can be used with zip & link mattresses. In this case, you wouldn’t connect the two lids with the fixing bolt: just the two bases together with the clips. This would mean you could lift each side independently. The clips can be removed if you need to fully separate each side for, say, two guest beds.

One thing to bear in mind is that you would need to unzip the mattress and remove any bedding. It depends how frequently you’re going to separate the beds or lift one side without the other.

We would advise that, if you’re not separating the beds frequently, that you do join them, as this will give better support overall and keep the two sides lined up exactly.


Ottoman bed bases can offer you more storage (especially in smaller rooms) than bases with drawer options. They can also provide a clean look without drawers. However, they can be heavy to lift, and are probably not suitable for people who are not sure they can lift and support the mattress before the struts take over. Ottomans can’t be sprung edged, so this is a consideration for many as well.

Please note we have stopped making Ottoman bases in favour of our more popular Divans and Bedframes which you can view here.

However, for people wanting bags of storage and who want to be free to have furniture up close to the bed without needing to move it, such as bedside tables, then an ottoman could be the ideal base solution for you. Why not give us a call to talk through the options on Ottomans on 0161 437 4419.

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