reclining furniture 101

Since its invention in the mid-1800s to a permanent place in homes and offices across North America, the reclining chair has come a long way. But did you know this now common style of furniture has surprisingly noble roots? Napoleon III was an early adopter of the new technology and is even rumoured to have owned one of the first reclining chair prototypes!

So, what has made reclining furniture so enduring? It all comes down to comfort. Recliners and reclining sofas allow you to lean back, prop your feet up, and find the perfect angle for relaxing, watching TV, and, of course, napping. For some (looking at you, Dad), nothing beats the comfort and snoozability of a good recliner.

To help you navigate the ups and downs of the many kinds of reclining furniture you’ll find in our stores, we’ve prepared this helpful primer. Keep reading to see how reclining furniture can put a little life (and a lot of comfort) into your rooms, and find out how the right piece can, quite literally, sweep you off your feet.

Dark grey power reclining 3- seat sofa.

The Benefits of Reclining Furniture
Reclining furniture is designed to provide the utmost in comfort and support; even just a few minutes of rest in a recliner can rejuvenate the mind and body, reduce stress, and promote healing.

Reclining immediately puts your body in a state of relaxation and encourages you to relax after (or during) a long or challenging day. In the reclined position, the back and legs are supported, the spine is rested, and pressure is taken off your joints, relieving pain and reducing stress.

Another big benefit of reclining furniture is it allows you to find YOUR perfect position for exactly what you need at that moment. From closed to fully reclined—and every position in between—you can fine-tune your comfort and choose the most suitable angle for reading, visiting, watching TV, crafting, or napping.


Help with Your Health Concerns
In addition to being an incredibly comfortable place to relax, recliners can help provide some relief from certain health conditions and are often “prescribed” for post-op and long term care. For these and other health concerns, be sure to consult a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan, especially if your condition is reoccurring or worsens.

Sore Back
Reclining the body takes pressure off your spine and allows your core muscles to rest, heal, and become stronger. If back pain is a concern, be sure to choose a recliner that supports the head, neck, and lumbar area, and elevates your feet above your heart to release muscle tension. For the ultimate relief, look for recliners with built-in heat and massage.

Healing from Injury or Surgery
Sitting with your feet elevated naturally reduces inflammation and can help your body recover from surgery or injury faster. Recliners also make it possible to vary your seating position, which can help prevent stiffness and keep you comfortable while you recover. As well, if you find it difficult to sit down and get up without assistance, a power lift recliner will ease you in and out of a seated position, helping you regain your independence faster.

Acid Reflux and Heartburn
People who suffer from acid reflux, heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may find some relief when resting on a recliner because the semi-reclined position keeps stomach acid from rising.

Circulation Issues
Relaxing in a recliner can help improve blood flow in the legs, helping to reduce clots, swelling of the lower extremities (edema), and muscle cramping.

Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Some sleep-related breathing problems, such as obstructive sleep apnea and snoring, can often be helped by sleeping in a fully reclined position with the head slightly elevated.

Note: Napping in a recliner is a great way to get some extra zzz’s but be sure to read “Recliner Safety” later in this article for info on prolonged use.

Dark grey power reclining 3- seat sofa.

Types of Recliners
Reclining furniture is available in a multitude of configurations—from single-seat chairs to sofas and sectionals made up of multiple stationary and reclining components. If you are considering adding reclining seating to your living space, here are some common types you'll encounter in-store and here on our website.

Manual Recliners (Lever or Press-Back)
Manual recliners are operated without electricity. This cost-effective style of recliner uses a mechanical lever and/or the user’s body weight to lift the leg rest and shift them into (and out of) a comfortable reclined or semi-reclined position.

Look for both stationary and rocking chairs, like the Falkirk (above), as well as loveseats, sofas, and sectionals with one or more manually reclining sections.

Dark brown power recliner.

Power Recliners
Power recliner use one or more motors to lift the leg rest and recline the seatback. This type of furniture requires electricity (power cord or battery pack) to operate, and the motors are controlled by buttons built into the armrest or side of the chair (like on the Gaspar, above), a remote control, or even an app in your smartphone.

You'll find chairs, loveseats, sofas, and sectionals with one or more power reclining sections in a wide range of styles, fabrics, and configurations.

Beige recliner with power lift.

Power Lift Recliners
A power lift recliner, like the Markridge (above) raises the back of the chair while you are seated to gently help you into a standing position. These handy chairs are perfect for the elderly or anyone who needs a little help getting onto their feet.

Galahad zero wall massaging power recliner in dark grey leather and faux leather.

Massaging Recliners
The ultimate in indulgence, massaging recliners allow you to treat yourself to a relaxing massage (or heated massage on some models) whenever you need a little extra TLC. The Galahad
(above) offers the choice of three relaxing air massage stettings—steady, pulse, and wave—as well as a cozy heated seat.

Rocker/Glider Recliner
These popular armchairs combine the laid-back comfort of a recliner with the soothing, rhythmic motion of a rocking chair or glider—perfect for calming a fussy baby. For even more versatility, look for models with a locking mechanism to prevent rocking, like
the Dorsten (above).

Power recliner with map print upholstery and wood legs.

“Secret” Recliners
With wooden legs, hidden mechanisms, and discreet footrests, these stylish recliners look just like traditional armchairs. (We won’t tell if you don’t.) Look for a wide range of styles, including graceful, high-leg wingbacks and sleek, low-leg modern designs. Available in both power, like the Sembler (above), and manual.

White leather theatre-style recliner and reclining loveseat.

Theatre-Style Recliners
The ultimate in convenience and comfort, theatre-style recliners have deep seats, wide armrests, and enhanced head and neck support. Fully-loaded models, like the
Party Time chair and loveseat (above), also include extra features like cupholders, storage armrests and/or consoles, USB charging, and LED lighting to enhance your movie-watching experience.

Charcoal grey wide seat recliner.

Wide Seat Recliners
Built for those who need a little extra room, wide seat recliners, like the Coombs (above), are up to 50% wider than regular styles.

Zero-Gravity Recliners
Mechanisms in zero-gravity recliners like the Next-Gen (above) lift higher than those in traditional recliners, evenly distributing your weight, relieving pressure from the spine, and encouraging maximum relaxation. Fun fact: These comfy recliners get their name because once you are in position—head slightly elevated and legs above the heart—you experience a weightless sensation.

Zero-Wall Recliner
Unlike traditional styles, zero-wall (aka “wall hugger”) recliners, like the Theo chair (above), need just a few inches between the back of the chair and the wall to fully recline. These stylish space-savers are a great option for small or narrow rooms, or wherever you need the furniture to sit against a wall or window.


Power vs Manual: Which is Right for me?

Although there are many styles of reclining furniture, all can be grouped into two categories: power or manual. If you are on the fence about which type to purchase, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of each. Here are some important points to consider:

Power Recliners—the Pros

  • Easy to operate; reclines smoothly at the touch of a button.
  • Fine-tune comfort with infinitely adjustable positions.
  • Solid, heavy construction; can be operated by people of all strengths and sizes.
  • “Techy” options available include massage, heat, USB charging, Bluetooth speakers.
  • Battery conversion kits available for some models.
  • Lift chairs available to assist people with mobility problems.
  • Warrantees on motors/electric components protect your investment.

Power Recliners—the Cons

  • More expensive and heavier/more difficult to move than manual recliners.
  • Must be placed close to an outlet or used with a battery pack.

Manual Recliners—the Pros

  • Generally less expensive than power models.
  • No power outlet needed to operate; can be used anywhere.
  • Simple, quiet operation.
  • Broader range of styles available, including recliners that don’t look like recliners.
  • Lighter than a power recliner; easier to move.
  • No motor or electrical components to fail

Manual Recliners—the Cons

  • Fewer reclining positions available.
  • May be difficult to operate for slight or lighter-weight people.
Cavalcade power reclining 2-seater loveseat with storage console in beige.

Recliner Safety
Protect your investment and keep your family safe and healthy by using your reclining furniture with care.

Avoid Extended Overnight Use
Although reclining furniture is ideal for relaxing and short naps, sleeping for long periods on a regular basis is not recommended. If you are unable to sleep in your bed due to any of the health concerns above and find yourself regularly moving to your recliner for the night, you are probably an ideal candidate for an adjustable bed.

Adjustable, or “lifestyle,” beds give you the best of both worlds—the customizable, lounging position of a recliner and the deep, pressure point relief and support of a mattress—but with less restriction. Plus, adjustable beds are remote-controlled and available with many of the same deluxe features as your favourite chair or sofa, including zero-gravity, massage, remote control operation, and USB charging.

Safety Tips for Reclining Furniture

  • Do not let children stand on a recliner or use reclining furniture unsupervised.
  • Only the occupant should operate the mechanism.
  • To prevent tipping or injury, never sit on the arms or leg rest of a recliner.
  • Always fully close the recliner before getting out of it.
  • Ensure pets are clear of the bottom of the chair or sofa before opening or closing the mechanism.
  • Do not reach into or under the mechanism to operate the chair or sofa, or while anyone is seated in it.
  • Ensure safe use of power cords an always unplug furniture before moving or servicing.
  • Replace and destroy reclining furniture manufactured prior to 1990. Older items may not meet certain safety standards adopted in the late 80s.

Let's Take This to the Next Level
Discover our full selection of reclining furniture online, or visit our in-store furniture experts today to learn more and find your perfect chair, loveseat, sofa, or sectional.

Pro Tip: Book an appointment at your local store for a relaxed, no-pressure shopping experience with a dedicated sales professional.

Subscribe to our emails to receive special offers, advance notice of our sales and contests, and news about product launches and events in your community.