How To Choose A Recliner

Recliners can range from a comfortable place to relax to a utility furnishing that can assist with a physical disability. Purchasing one should take into consideration several important factors.

Your buying guide for recliners begins with assessing the size, age, and physical fitness of the person who will be using the recliner. If it is too large, the contours will not match the frame of the seated person, if too small or not sufficiently supported, the contours will not only not match, but the weight of the seated person can damage the chair. Style, material and floorplan footprint are also considerations.

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What are the major considerations when gettting a recliner?

User Size

Recliners are available in sizes that range from those for small children to seats designed for the big and tall crowd. The height of the person is a primary consideration because most recliners have built-in headrests.

A person who is too short for the recliner will find that their head is resting in the space normally reserved for spinal support, whereas a person who is too tall might find that the headrest becomes a neck brace. Width is also important, especially for larger adults.

It is not very relaxing to be wedged between two armrests, unable to shift legs apart from each other or to be able to redistribute weight.

Black Upholstered Solid Wood Kids Recliner With Cup Holder
Small Polyester Foam Manufactured Wood Manual Recliner
Nursery Swivel Rocking Chair Metal Solid Wood Reclining Glider
Black Polyurethane Faux Leather Manual Glider Recliner
Metal Manufactured Wood Microfiber Microsuede Polyester Blend Manual Recliner
Tan Metal Solid Manufactured Wood Microfiber Microsuede Oversized Manual Recliner

Available Floor Space

Recliners tend to take up more room than your ordinary armchair. Not only are they often an overstuffed furnishing, but some models require room behind the chair so that it can be reclined.

Wall-hugging models can help solve some of this, as can recliners that are designed for small apartments. This design of recliner sits on a track, so the chair moves forward as you recline. But if you are considering the chair for a large-sized adult, the need for width can limit your ability to downsize as a space-saver. Some compromise might need to be reached between chair size and space available.

Anyway, a standard recliner typically requires approximately 1 ft of travel space to open completely. When fully reclined, the headrest and footrest of your recliner should remain no closer than five inches from the surrounding furniture or the wall. A standard recliner would also need between 40 and 50 inches in terms of width, depending on the size of the user and the chair.

Light Gray Polyester Solid Manufactured Wood Manual Recliner
Black Faux Leather Solid Wood Manual Recliner
Gray Manufactured Wood Nursery Reclining Glider
Dark Gray Metal Steel Upholstered Reclining Glider

User mobility

Nearly everyone has sat down on a recliner or easy chair and discovered that the soft cushions and comfortable upholstery, although great while you are seated, can make getting back out of that chair difficult.

For people who have a disability, however temporary, or the elderly, that human-eating chair can prove a real difficulty. Recliners, due to their tendency toward a lower area toward the back and a higher front, can prove especially challenging.

That's where power-lift assist chairs come into play. Power-lift assistance means that the chair can be gently tipped forward removing the need to balance on the front edge of the seat before getting up. They can allow the seated person the ability to slide out of the chair, rather than heave themselves up out of it.

This is especially nice for someone who is using a walker or crutches, or who needs to transfer from the chair to a wheelchair. It is even helpful to someone who is a little bit short for the chair.

Brown Polyester Twill Metal Lift Assist Power Recliner
Blue Polyester Metal Plastic Push Button Lift Assist Recliner

Depth of the Recline

Recliners are not all created equal. Some have various stages of reclining, others have only one. Some recline to a gently recumbent position, while others will go all the way back and can be used as a spare bed.

It is good to know whether your recliner can become a flat, horizontal surface or whether it will simply lean back enough to be a good place from which to watch TV. The depth of the recline will also affect the amount of floor space that the chair will require to function.

If you have a small apartment or are living in a tiny house, the space your chair will need to fully recline is an important calculation.

Light Beige Faux Leather Foam Solid Manufactured Wood Power Lift Assist Recliner
Gray Canvas Metal Plastic Manual Recliner
Gray Polyester Dark Espresso Solid Manufactured Wood Manual Recliner

Reclining for One, Two or More

Reclining is no longer just for one chair. Want to snuggle with your sweety? A reclining loveseat is perfect for watching movies with your dearest, while both of you are leaned back in the same seat.

Sectional couches sometimes have one or more parts that recline. They can recline at the same angle or individually. Being comfortable no longer means that you must each sit in your own chair and reach across an end table that is loaded with drinks, snacks or stacks of books and papers.

Brown Polyester Solid Manufactured Wood Pillow Top Arms Loveseat
Dark Brown Leather Match Pillow top Arm Sofa
Red Bonded Leather Metal Manufactured Wood Solid Wood Reclining Pillow Top Arm Sofa

Size/Body Measurements

When you're purchasing a new recliner, you want to ensure your body fits the recliner comfortably. This is especially relevant when you're buying your new recliner chair online.

  • To discern whether the recline position will be comfortable for your body, measure yourself, and then match these measurements against the chair's specifications. Measure from your knee to your heel and record the measurement. Do the same for the length between your heel and your tailbone.

  • These measurements, compared with the measurements of the chair, will let you know if you will fit in the chair comfortably or if your feet will hang off the end when it's in the recline position.

  • To make sure your recliner will be a comfortable fit for your torso, decide if you want a shorter back, in which case your head will overshoot the top of the chair or a full back.

  • You also need to ensure that your new recliner will be wide enough. For most people, the widest part of their body is their hips. Take a measurement across your hips and compare to the width of the seat or how far apart the recliner's arms are. For some, their shoulders are also broad, so make sure the recliner can accommodate them, as well.

Solid Manufactured Wood Polyester Push Back Manual Recliner
Foam Polyester Metal Steel Solid Manufactured Wood Reclining Glider
Faux Leather Manual Swivel Recliner With Ottoman
Leather Gel Polyester Manual Glider Recliner
Brown Linen Blend Solid Wood 3D Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair

Electric vs. Manual Reclining

The main difference between electric and manual reclining chairs is that one has an electrical mechanism that adjusts the recline of the chair, and the other reclines with a traditional lever-pull.

Four elements can influence your decision as to whether you want an electrical or manual recliner.

  • The cost of an electrical recliner will be more than a manual one, mainly because the manual chair does not include electrical components.

  • In terms of maintenance, a manual recliner has fewer parts that are prone to damage than a power recliner. Without as many electrical components, the manual recliner, if taken care of, will need less maintenance than a power recliner.

  • One of the major reasons that power recliners are popular is that they have a variety of options and settings. Manual recliners only have two positions: reclined and sitting. However, you need to place your power recliner close to an electrical outlet to benefit from all its positions.

  • Longevity is the last consideration for anyone considering a recliner. Although power recliners are more expensive and may require more maintenance, they also endure less wear and tear due to their mechanized motion, so they may last longer than a manual recliner.

Black Metal Faux Leather Power Lift Assist Recliner
Polyester Metal Push Button Lift Assist Recliner
Light Brown Polyester Faux Leather Metal Power Lift Assist Recliner
White Polyester Manufactured Wood Metal Power Lift Assist Recliner

What are the best materials for a recliner?

Back when recliners first entered the market, they came in one general over-stuffed style. Color choices were minimal, and the upholstery was usually faux leather. They have come a long way since those days!

You can now obtain recliners in a wide range of styles, from the original moderately overstuffed Naugahyde monster to dainty occasional chairs, gravity loungers (for outdoor use), love seats, sectionals, rocking chairs, recliners with built-in footstools, recliners with separate footstools, and more. The upholstery materials range from varying grades of faux leather to buttery-soft luxury leathers.

  • Faux leather recliners probably lead when it comes to durability. The synthetic material is tough and easy to clean.
  • Real leather is also highly durable, but a little harder to clean, especially split leather, but will go nicely with Victorian or Edwardian formal decor.
  • Fabric, in print or plaid, will easily blend with country, shabby chic or even some modern styles, depending on the color. It tends to have a shorter wear life than leather or faux leather, but can be easily reupholstered when necessary.
Faux Leather Solid Wood Manual Recliner
Velvet Polyester Wood Manual Recliner
Farmhouse Country Cotton Blend Manual Recliner
Faux Leather Zero Gravity Reclining Heated Full Body Massage Chair With Ottoman
Beige Faux Leather Manufactured Solid Wood Reclining Massage Chair With Ottoman
Blue Polyester Solid Manufactured Wood Standard Manual Recliner
Caribbean Blue Polyester Solid Manufactured Wood Manual Recliner

What extra features to look for in a recliner?

Some recliners are set up as rockers or gliders. These have the added benefit of the same soothing motion we experienced as unborn infants. This can be comforting at the end of a long day.

Speaking of comforting, there are also recliners that have a vibrate mode and/or heater. These are great for relaxing sore, tired muscles at the end of a long workday. No need to go to the spa or hire a masseuse. Just come home and let gentle heat, vibra-massage and a chair that fits you ease the stresses, tired muscles and general fatigue of your working day.

What budget should I allocate for a recliner?

When looking at cost, leather is usually the most expensive, followed by fabric, then finally faux leather. Units for multiple persons are likely to cost more than those for individuals, but not always. The very least expensive recliner is the gravity balance lawn-chair/lounger, which is usually made from plastic mesh or canvas on a metal tube frame. Gravity recliners are great for the patio or for camping, but can also be used at home if you need an inexpensive seating or even extra sleeper solution.

With so many styles and designs of recliners available, you can absolutely have your recliner designed your way. Whether your home or office is decorated in formal Victorian or Edwardian styles, clean-lined modern, comfortable country, or delightful shabby chic, you are likely to be able to find the perfect recliner style for you and for your interior décor.