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Ottoman Empire

Up close and personal with the queen of the fifties footrest

From their perfectly situated Los Angeles showroom, Veronica Koltuniak and her former partner erected a design studio simply known as Mildred in 1991. There, they kept themselves busy, producing high-end window hardware and draperies for Hollywood types like Madonna and Matthew Perry. But one life-altering day, while driving through the alleyway behind their workroom, the intrinsically observant Koltuniak came upon a crusty old vinyl ottoman that had obviously been uprooted from its posh living room of 40 years and finally put out to pasture.

Inspired by its fun, cylindrical shape, Koltuniak went to work fashioning her own line of retro ottomans. With three sleek designs in tow, she hit the trade-show circuit, where the pieces outsold her drapery designs.

fixture perfect: Eventually splitting from her partner, Koltuniak continued the colorful drapery designs and established a toll-free number and a series of brochures for her current line of six campy footrests. With sales of $300,000 last year, Koltuniak offers "ottomnal" concoctions such as the Hazel, which resembles a carefully tiered tower of three pillowy green lifesavers; Goo, a small, plush cylinder of brilliant crimson; and Eleanor, a fiery pyramidal sandwich.

ottomatic: Koltuniak, who first discovered her passion for fun and functionality while working for an imported furniture retailer, has always loved to design, engineer and sculpt. Inspired by her love for art and nature, sans any formal design training, Koltuniak knew she could never be a "fine" artist because she was just way too practical. "To me," she says, "if you can have something that is practical and beautiful, it doesn't get any better than that."

give it a rest: So, we ask, can you ever have too many ottomans? "Well, they do end up looking like toadstools around your house," reluctantly admits the 35-year-old Koltuniak, who recently relocated herself and her family to Austin, Texas, and now plans to focus primarily on the furniture aspect of Mildred. "And you can overdo anything, but they are pretty unobtrusive little creatures."

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