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Solutions: Recliners go mainstream with stylish design

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

In the past, it was easy to make a case against recliners, but recent developments may sway some naysayers to the other side.

“Recliners have come a long way,” says Cheryl Sauer, interior designer and manager of Gorman’s in Novi. “They’re no longer the Archie Bunker chair.”

“A lot of companies that are more design-oriented have recliners that are very good looking. Lots of spaces can have them and they’re not the elephant in the room,” she says.

“Real people want comfort in their rooms to gather with family and friends. They want something that will do more than just look nice.”

Products from Stickley, Sherrill Furniture’s MotionCraft and Hancock & Moore have well-designed comfortable sofas with motorized reclining ends with different positions.

Some styles require less clearance from the walls, like incliners that slide forward instead of backward.

Today’s recliners also come in smaller sizes for those who would be overwhelmed by a bigger piece. One example is Stressless, which conforms to the individual and comes in three sizes with a power push button that’s easy to operate.

Sauer says that because most rooms include a television for watching sporting events or movies, you can also choose an upholstered chair with an ottoman for comfort. She says that years ago, when a guy said, “I want to be able to sleep in my chair,” he was told, “Go to bed.”

But, today’s recliners appeal to women and men of all ages. “Younger people are absolutely looking for comfort in the home,” Sauer says.

Now you can take a nap or doze off while watching TV in chairs that conceal their identity. “It’s difficult to tell if it’s a recliner sometimes because they have upped the game so much,” Sauer says.

Tracey Garcia, who owns TG Designs in Farmington Hills, has experience with recliners in disguise. For one client, she found a lovely tufted style with a rounded back, like a barrel chair. “You would never expect that it’s a recliner,” she says.

“Sometimes people, especially husbands, want a recliner and the wives want it to look nice in the room,” Garcia says. “You can get a leather recliner that looks like a club chair and has other fabric options. It looks nice in the room and it doesn’t overpower the space.”

Their placement can vary throughout the house, like her client who was so fond of her butter-colored leather recliner in the living room that Garcia got one for the bedroom, as well. “It’s cream-colored corduroy. It’s comfortable and soft looking and it doesn’t take up a lot of space,” she says.

Make sure you have enough clearance in front of a larger recliner for a coffee table in a media room, for instance, or at least an end table. “They’re great where people really want to get comfy,” Garcia says. “If you have the space, it’s a nice option.”

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Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at