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A Look at the Changes in Recliner Design from Classic to Contemporary

11 January 2024

Recliners have come a long way from their humble beginnings. They were originally designed for those with mobility challenges and have now become one of the most popular pieces of furniture in the modern home. How has their design evolved over time and how has this phenomenal growth come about? In this blog post, we take a closer look at the changes in recliner design from classic to contemporary and how this has increased their popularity.

1. Classic Recliner Design

The first recliners, designed around 1850 were simple wooden chairs with a backrest that could be adjusted manually to change positions. Gradually, companies started adding padded seats and armrests for more comfort. Classic recliner designs were bulky and had a very traditional look.

They were often made of wood or leather and had wingback or tufted details which was quite redolent of the time period concerned. To see an early recliner now, you would very much agree that they were "of their time" both in terms of looks and functionality.

2. Mid-Century Modern Recliner Design

In the 1950s and 1960s, furniture design shifted towards a more sleek and modern aesthetic. This was a stylish time generally, with all manner of enhancements being made across the scope of modern life. It was a time of optimism after the war, and culture and fashion were very much in evidence in ordinary life.

Recliners underwent a transformation during this time, with designers creating chairs with clean lines and minimalistic features. Mid-century modern recliners were often made of metal or fibreglass, with leather or vinyl upholstery and a swivel base. They were a serious departure from the classic recliner designs and reflected the changing times with their more frivolous and whimsical aesthetics.

3. Contemporary Recliner Design

Today's recliner designs are all about blending style and comfort. Many contemporary recliners no longer resemble the bulky chairs of the past but instead are designed with slim lines and clean curves. The design aesthetics may vary but the basic idea is still one that is popular to this day. Being able to maximise comfort whether in a sedentary or lying position is still as popular as it ever was, perhaps even more so.

There are also eco-friendly options made from sustainable materials like bamboo or cork and smart recliners that can be operated through an app on your phone. These new technological advances help to keep them popular with the younger generations as well as the more traditional older clientele who may have previously wanted them.

The incorporation of new technology for control and sometimes the inclusion of heated sections, or back massagers has meant that there are multiple different ways of helping to assuage the aches and pains of the day, in the comfort of your own home.  

4. Electric Recliner Design

One of the most significant changes in modern recliner design is the shift to electric recliners. These chairs have a built-in motor that allows you to adjust the backrest or footrest with the touch of a button. They're perfect for those with mobility challenges or people who just want a more convenient reclining experience. Electric recliners come in a variety of styles and materials and can be customized to your individual specifications.

Modern recliners were popularised in recent years by the TV series Friends, where two of the characters had recliner chairs that they loved to use on the show.

5. Recliners for Every Style

No matter your style preference, there is a recliner out there for you. From classic designs with traditional features to contemporary models with sleek lines, there is a vast variety of recliners available to suit any home decor. Although everyone has a different idea of what looks good, there are so many different varieties of recliners that there is one to fit everyone's taste preferences.

With options like leather, fabric, and microfiber upholstery, as well as power reclining, heat and massage features, recliners can be tailored to each individual's needs.

The image of a recliner just being for those who have additional needs due to disability or old age has definitely been banished, and many younger people see them as a symbol of status and comfort. They are seen as desirable objects to lounge on while watching TV or playing the latest video games.

Recliners have undergone significant changes in design, from their simple beginnings to modern-day models that are both functional and stylish. Whether you prefer classic details, mid-century modern lines, or a contemporary blend of both, there is a recliner out there that is ideally suited to your taste. So, if you're in the market for a recliner, take some time to explore the different design options available to find the perfect one for your home.