Modern Recliners: What to Consider Before Buying

Modern Recliners: What to Consider Before Buying

By: Mandy Anderson

Recliners- although typically associated with casual styles, plenty of modern options are available today. When shopping for a recliner with an updated look, you’ll want to examine both style and comfort considerations before making your final selection. The most popular variations of modern recliners are outlined below, along with tips to keep in mind while shopping.

High Leg Reclining Chairs (with Concealed Footrests)

Triump, Prestige and Kanston Recliners by Southern Motion
Triumph, Presitge and Kanston High-Leg Recliners by Southern Motion

High-leg reclining chairs offer the function of a recliner with the look of a standard living room chair. These chairs are ideal for those who like to lean back or place their feet up and prefer a smaller sitting space with a slightly firmer feel. Their design allows for a plethora of style options but often limits comfort features. These chairs most commonly come with push-back operation - where the user physically pushes on the seat back to create the recline position. Manual levers and power recline options are also available on some of these chairs.

Style Benefits:

  • Does not look like a recliner
  • Offers a wide variety of style options (modern, traditional, cottage, wing chair)
  • Keeps living room spaces looking formal
  • Tends to forgo the bulky looking recline handle for push-back operation

Comfort Considerations:

  • Footrests often have firmer padding with empty space between the cushions, offering support but lacking the sink-into, pillow feel
  • Seat width and depth may be narrower than other recliners
  • If the seat cushion looks firm, it probably sits firm (same for the back cushion and headrest)
  • Headrests tend to be lower and offer less neck support
  • Usually does not recline as far as a standard recliner
  • Push-back operation may be physically demanding to operate for some users
  • Tend to offer less add-on features than other recliners (example; power headrests, swivel, rock and glide functions)

Standard Padded Frames (with Sleek Silhouettes)

Viva, Dugout and Krypto Recliners by Souther Motion
Viva, Dugout and Krypto Recliners by Southern Motion

If you’re looking for the traditional comfort associated with reclining chairs, but with a modern design, then consider a recliner that falls into this category. Standard recliners with sleek silhouettes often include nearly as much padding as their casual counterparts. The main difference is found in the style of the chair. Instead of having cushions that resemble pillows, the padding appears smooth and sleek. Tip: Try searching for recliners with track arms or home theater seating when searching for this type of recliner online.

Style Benefits:
  • Silhouettes have a smooth look with sharp, clean lines
  • Often easy to find in both fabric and leather options
  • May be available in bright, unexpected colors
Comfort Considerations:
  • Usually sit similar to a plush cushioned recliner
  • Often have sleek arms with less padding than casual recliners
  • Seat construction may be narrower than other recliners
  • Headrests may have less padding and offer a memory-foam feel rather than a poly pillow feel

Euro/Scandinavian Styled Ergonomic Chairs

Signature View Recliner by Stressless
Signature View Ergonomic Recliner by Stressless

Ergonomic recliners are easily identifiable by their sleek, minimalist style. Resembling the look of a padded office chair, often with a coordinating ottoman, these chairs are usually designed to fit the individual purchasing them. The in-store shopping process for a higher-end ergonomic recliner usually involves choosing a chair style, as well as a chair size, that matches your body type. Though customization leads to comfort, these chairs usually have a higher price point than standardized recliners.

Style Benefits:
  • Offers a sleek, minimalist style (often referred to as Euro or Scandinavian design)
  • Often available in neutral and bright colors, sometimes with customizable wood finishes
  • Select styles come with an ottoman instead of the traditional pop-up footrest
  • Generally occupy less space than standard recliners, making them ideal for small spaces, usable in bedroom reading nooks or even home offices
Comfort Considerations:
  • Usually designed to “fit” the user’s body size (frames may be available in multiple seat and back sizes)
  • Padding may be more targeted for specific muscle areas to assist in relieving aches and pains
  • Minimalist design makes padding less pillow-like which may lead to a memory-foam, rather than sink-in, feel
  • Ottomans have a different feel than standard recliner footrests and do not offer multiple recline angles
  • Tend to offer less add-on features than other recliners (example; power headrests, swivel, rock and glide functions)

Keep the Cushions, Change the Cover

Olson Recliner by Klaussner with Green, Teal and Blue Fabric Options
Olson Recliner with Customizable Fabric Options by Klaussner Home Furnishings

Achieving a more modern look can sometimes be as simple as changing out the fabric or leather used to cover the recliner. Generally, recliners are shown online and in stores in solid, neutral-colored fabric options. This can leave shoppers feeling like they are looking at a sea of tan, brown, and gray. These colors are shown because they are often the most popular among consumers, but that doesn’t always mean they are the only option. Some manufacturers offer a wide range of brilliantly dyed leathers. Others have fabrics with updated geometric patterns. If you’re looking for a unique color or pattern, be sure to ask store sales representatives about recliners with custom fabric/leather options. Some websites will also let you filter by recliners that are available in custom fabrics/leathers. Tip: This is sometimes the most price friendly option for modern recliners.

Style Benefits: 
  • A significant portion of upholstery style comes from the upholstery itself; bright, solid fabric or leather can give you a modern touch
  • Trending/updated patters (ikat, geometric, novelty) can create a more fun and modern look. Look for patterns that use bright solid colors and thicker lines/outlines, rather than blended colors and traditional patterns like plaids and paisleys.
Comfort Considerations:
  • All the comfort of a plush pillow recliner without the casual color tones
  • Often offer the most add-on features (swivel, rock, wall-saver, power headrest, etc.)