THE BATTLE OF THE RECLINER + RECLINER ROUND-UP
What I’m about to say may astonish you. It will likely leave you bewildered, wondering if it could be possible:
There exists husbands—this is true—who do not require a recliner to place their rears on at the end of the day. Any chair or sofa will do. Meanwhile, his other half happily chooses whatever furniture she pleases!
Now calm down, if you’re like the rest of us and married the other type: you’re in the majority. This recliner-less type of man is scarce. And these recliner-types are good men! We love them. I find them to be hard-working, self-less people and if you ask my husband WHY the recliner, it’s simple: it’s comfortable.
Of course, I’m teasing. Kind of. If you’re not into design maybe you could care less what the chair looks like. I know plenty of men and women who simply go to the nearest furniture mart and find a recliner to tick “comfortable chairs” off their list. There’s nothing wrong with that (she said through her teeth). I also get that sometimes, especially for the elderly or people with medical issues, a recliner is necessary. But you’re talking to a designer and so, of course, I think about aesthetics.
The recliner love/hate story starts, for my husband and me, at the beginning of our marriage. Days after our wedding day. His parents wanted to get their son a wedding present and, you guessed it, they got him a recliner. Of his choice. Believe me, I have awesome in-laws and they had the sweetest intentions. However, there arrived this beastly bloated behemoth man pillow thing, which became a source of contention placed squarely in our immature, unsettled newly marital life.
My husband loved it. I mean, LOVED IT. A giant elephant womb to cradle him while he watched the game—what could be better?! Because it needed so much space in order to recline and was so massive to begin with, it took up half of the living space. Naturally, this addition kinda snuffed out my design fire in the living room. There it stayed until it literally fell off it’s hinges SIX YEARS later. And it didn’t end there. It was broken, but not enough for my husband to part with it for another year or more. The arm was to the floor and it was perpetually in the recline position, making visiting with people a little awkward (“Come in, come in! I’d get up to have a face to face conversation with you but I can’t without doing Pilates.”) Ugh. If you know me, you know how far back my design obsession goes and I patiently waited for that chair to take it’s course. I mean, that’s love. lol
Recliners don’t have a great history, design-wise. You can read all about the history of the recliner here. As a design and history nerd, it’s very interesting to me! And I think some of the earlier models were attractive. You can still find some vintage ones that tick all the boxes for design (I included a couple in the round-up below).
But as we exited the mid century, recliners became more and more bloated and oversized to ensure the consumer at a glance that that particular chair was the most comfortable on the market. These types are still available and rampant today. However, some furniture companies are making the effort to design recliners that are both comfortable and attractive. (YAY!!) I’ve included my favorites in the round-up at the end of the post.
To me, it is surprising that so many men love these contraptions. That is what they are. There are mechanics to the thing.
For those of you with a recliner, think about this: how long have your recliners lasted in comparison to standard lounge chairs? All that movement eventually causes something to loosen, something to rub wrong, and eventually fall apart while the lounge chair remains in tact. My husband usually goes for long lasting, well-built things.
I know, I know, they’re comfortable. And to my husband and probably a lot of people, that is the ONLY parameter in selecting a piece of furniture. I agree completely, comfort is key when selecting such an often used piece of furniture. However, there are extremely comfortable lounge chairs on the market that don’t recline. I would probably never choose a recliner for my space. I’d rather get a chair with an ottoman or a chaise before ever getting a recliner.
But when you share your home with someone, the answer, I think, is to compromise. On both sides.
If you find yourself in the same boat, there’s good news: some recliner design has come a long way in recent years: apparently, some furniture designers are listening.
I’m in the process of shopping for a recliner for a client as we speak (husband is a recliner-type, lol) and so I figured I’d pass along some of what I’m finding for those of you needing a compromise. Keep in mind these may not work with every home (differences in architecture and other furniture selections should be taken into account). But there are options! Another tip is to check out the baby and child furniture sections—makers market to parents for furnishing their nurseries with recliners and especially swivel and glider chairs. I haven’t sat on most of these recliners to attest for their comfort yet, but please share in the comments if you can vouch for them (or can’t). And do share if you’ve encountered your own spousal battle of the recliner.