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Styling Tips That Make a Difference When Decorating a Living Room With Recliners

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While gathering my thoughts for this post on decorating a living room with recliners, I know it will get two types of responses – readers who love them or readers that truly dislike them. :-)

Whether your living room decorating tastes run from traditional to farmhouse to modern – comfy chairs like recliners are one of the best investments when it comes to making your house into a comfortable home.

I think when decorating, comfort can be forgotten when we get too wrapped up with how a room looks. It is for this reason that I am sharing a few styling tips on how to decorate a living room with recliners or comfortable upholstered chairs so that you love them – both for their comfort and also their style.

Two Different Types of Chairs

There are two kinds of chairs we have in our homes – the chairs you sit ON and chairs you sit IN.

The style of chairs placed around a dining table are the kind you sit on – these are appropriate when eating, but never right in terms of ease and coziness as the style of chair we retreat to when we are looking for relaxation and comfort.

Soft comfortable furniture in living room.

These types of chairs – the cushy kind with plenty of padding with a seat cushion to sink into for movie watching marathons, reading the latest best seller, taking an afternoon nap or to simply enjoy kicking your feet up after a long day. This is the kind of chair I think every home needs.

If you already own a recliner or two, then you know just how these chairs make your living room, family room or den truly comfortable.

Read on for ideas on how you can style them to make them look their best.

If you are on the disliking side of this comfy home seating option, then also read on to see what you are missing out on. :-)

A House Versus a Home

When I refer to my house, I speak about the walls, fixtures, flooring and the studs that make it stand. When I refer to my home, you will read words such as haven, comfy, cozy, and personal.

HOME outdoor doormat from Pottery Barn

Home for most of us is more than just a house. When you have a home, you know the feeling… it is the only place on earth that you feel true comfort. 

Comfort… you know it every time you walk through your front door. No fancy hotel or perfectly styled room we see on Pinterest or Instagram will ever offer us the same feeling, EVER!

1. Making Your Living Room Feel Human

It is time to get over thinking recliners are something to hide in a back room that no one sees. I used to think like this, but no more. Life is too short not to be truly comfortable in your own home.

A few years ago I wrote a post titled, How To Decorate So You Feel At Home.  I refer to this post as my decorating manifesto.

In the post, I wrote about how I enjoy my home from the perspective of all 5 of my senses and plan it first and foremost for function and comfort.

Autumn decorated living room using items from nature to create a white and woodsy look.

Having two recliners in my living room deliver on both function and comfort. The recliners are multi-purpose and are placed in front of the fireplace which is the focal point of the room. They rock when we need a little thinking time.

We can feel like we are at the theater when we watch movies when the chairs face forward in the reclined position, then they swivel 360 degrees when we want to read facing the fireplace or to simply gaze out to the lake.

A motionless chair just doesn’t come with these factors. We would forever be trying to shift non-motion chairs around in the room to accommodate our needs.  It is nice to have one chair do it all.

Soft comfortable furniture in living room.
My recliners are from Southern Motion. Model name: Shimmer. Leather in the color Toast.

When I chose the two matching recliners for my living room, I made sure that they were a rocker recliner that also swiveled. It took a lot of research and trips to local furniture stores.

I didn’t want power recliners or models that have heat and massage controls or super oversized recliners. These are all fine if these features are what will make you feel cozy and comfortable.

Forget About Perfection When Decorating

When decorating my living room I also tried not to aim for perfection, as imperfection in decor adds more personality and interest to a room.

Some interior designer advice misses the notion that a home should be an oasis of comfort. Instead they focus only on looks, trends and style.

A comfortable home includes the way the room looks; whether it feels balanced, uses soothing colors, is convenient for entertaining, and contains special pieces that reflect your personality.

If you have uncomfortable seating – the best investment you can make to live comfortably in your own home is to remove uncomfortable seating and add new seating that will be perfect for every member of your family. I can guarantee you will love the room even more after doing this.

When I ordered my recliners, we had to wait 8 weeks to get them. In that time I had promised our sofa to my older daughter and gave it to her. I didn’t think it was a big deal not having comfortable seating in the room, but boy was I wrong.

Airstone Fireplace makeover with wicker chairs in front.

I brought in two outdoor wicker rockers to sit on for the 8 weeks, notice I wrote sit ON, not sit IN. I was never so uncomfortable in my own house. These outdoor chairs were pretty, but too stiff to sit in to read or watch TV for any length of time.

When the recliners finally arrived, along with a new deep seated Pottery Barn sofa, I was elated – the room immediately felt better with the addition of truly comfortable seating.

Have you ever tried sitting in every chair in your home for about a half hour? Are they comfortable? If not, ask yourself why you are keeping it? Is it for looks only?

2. Function vs. Style

When furnishing a room, don’t forget to consider the function and uses for each item in the room. Remove furnishings and accessories that are not needed for comfort or decorative appeal to make room for what is needed to live your best life.

  • For example, if you use your living room to watch movies with the family on a regular basis, you will want to have a comfy, “sink-in-to-it” seat for everyone, versus the straight upright seating that a more formal living room would dictate. 
    • This could be a big sectional with a connected chaise or two. Or a pair or more of matching recliners.
  • Or do you play board games in front of the fireplace? If so, make sure you have a table, table lamp and chairs to do this activity without having to rearrange the room to enjoy the past time.

3. Designate a Space Just for You

A room feels comfortable when you add “YOU” into the decor. Depending on how you like to relax, create a cozy space just for you to relax in the way that feels right for you.

Wicker table by a recliner

Don’t worry about what other people are going to think. Just because your home doesn’t look like the cover of an interior design magazine doesn’t mean it isn’t fabulous. I want you to enjoy your home – every inch of it.

Even in small living rooms, set up this designated space to become your reading nook, a place to knit, listen to music, watch TV or to do what you enjoy.

In the photo above is my designated comfy corner in my living room. It is where watch TV, read and where I write and edit most of my blog posts every night.

The butter-soft leather recliner, a dimmable floor lamp, the basket table I made where I store throw blankets and candles on the top all add up to create a cozy feel that functions for my needs.

In my living room layout, Ed has a matching recliner along the short fireplace wall in the room. He is happy just to have the chair with a side table to place a drink.

Large basket made into a diy end table. It sits next to a brown leather recliner with a white throw and pillow. A floor lamp behind with a dimmable socket to adjust the light.

Make this personal space the best it can be by adding what you need to pursue your creature comforts:

  • For example, place a knitting basket next to the chair or add bookshelves to the wall behind the chair for all your favorite books so they are in arms reach.

4. What to Know Before Buying a Recliner

I wish more companies would make stylish recliners, but there are many custom styling options you can add to most recliners so don’t just look at one in a furniture showroom at face value, imagine it with a different fabric and trim.

When choosing a recliner for your home, don’t purchase any chair or sofa without sitting in it first.

brown leather recliner in furniture showroom.

When selecting a recliner for your home, you also can’t rely on the reviews of others since we all come in different body types and sizes.

I thought for sure we would find a recliner that both Ed and I liked at our local La-Z-Boy. After all that is what they are famous for and it is a great place to start looking. But after 2 trips to the store’s showroom and trying out all their recliners, we didn’t feel comfortable in any of them.

Where we did find a recliner style that we could both live with was at a local furniture store that has a wide range of manufacturer’s recliners.

We sat in literally dozens of them and whittled our choice down to a few. We went home and went back a few days later to try the few we liked the best to see if they still felt good, then we both agreed on the one in the photo above that was comfortable for both of us and had the features we wanted.

How to Choose a Comfortable Recliner

Seating can look beautiful when styled for a photo in a decorating magazine or catalog to entice you, but the bottom line (no pun intended) to ask yourself when buying a recliner is:

  • Does the seating fit your body so it is comfortable when sitting upright as well as when reclined?
  • Is it deep enough to put your feet up under you?
  • Does the fabric feel good against your bare skin?
Creating a Comfortable and Relaxing Home using motion furniture that reclines, swivel and rock.
  • Is it good quality? Since recliners have moving parts and it will become the most used chair in the house, you want to make sure it is well made. It is worth paying more.
  • If the head rest cushioning has too much padding, it can make your head angle forward – this is not comfortable. Seats and cushions should have evenly distributed stuffing to ensure comfort.
  • When in reclined position, does the open gap between the seat and the foot rest hit your legs in a comfortable way? 
  • When in an upright position, do your legs touch the floor or hang freely?
  • Are the arm rests at a comfortable height from the seat for your body size?
  • Is the length of the seat – back to front, fit the length of your upper thighs. You don’t want this to be too short or too long.
  • If thinking about purchasing a power recliner, there is the benefit of being able to adjust the chair’s seat and headrest separately. But do know that the chair will need to be near an electrical outlet and there will be a cord on the floor from the chair to the outlet.
    • Also know that the electronics may break down years before the actual chair needs replacing.
Fireplace decorated for the winter months.

If you find a recliner that you like, but don’t like the fabric or the chair doesn’t rock or swivel, most furniture manufacturers can add these functions easily, so don’t hesitate to ask.

5. Recliner Style: Leather or Fabric  

When thinking about buying a recliner, make sure the style of recliner coordinates with your existing furniture.

Creating a Comfortable and Relaxing Home using leather recliners
  • If you have a sofa with tufting or other types of decorative ornamentation, then selecting a recliner with cleaner lines would be a nice mix.
  • If you are looking to bring a sense of formality into your space, then a more traditional style with nail trim, button-back or a wingback would look just right.

6. Recliner Placement in a Room

When deciding on a recliner to buy for your home, you will need to consider if you have the space needed and seating arrangements so that everyone has a comfy place to sit.

A recliner needs more space around it then a regular upholstered chair so it has enough room around it when it is fully reclined. You don’t want the reclined headrest to hit a wall or the foot rest to hit a coffee table.

  • Most recliners need 10-14 inches of clearance from a wall or another piece of furniture to fully recline.
Fall leaves in basket placed in an unused fireplace flanked by 2 leather recliner chairs.

The placement of a recliner should also balance the furniture arrangement in the room.

  • Due to their larger size, a recliner can make a room feel lopsided, so placing the chair across from another larger visual element in the room like a large bookcase can counterbalance and make the room as a whole look it’s best.
  • Place a recliner on an area rug that is large enough to include a side or end table. This will create a more cozy appeal.

6. Tips for Accessorizing Recliners

When adding recliners to a room, don’t forget to add a luxurious throw over the back or armrest. This will add a touch of cozy interest, texture and color.

Leather recliner in living room with fall throw blanket and fur over the arm.

Recliner Styling TIPS:

Throw Blankets:

  • When adding a throw blanket to a recliner, consider the thickness of the fabric. If it’s too thin, it may look wimpy or not feel as comfortable as a thicker more lush fabric like fur or velvet for the colder months when you want to get super snuggly and comfy.

Decorative Toss Pillows:

Toss or throw pillows are usually not needed as recliner chairs usually have enough cushioning.

  • When the chair is not in use though, a decorative throw pillow placed in one corner of the seat will give the room a more styled feel.
  • You can keep a basket on the floor nearby to place the pillow in when you are using the chair.

Side Tables:

When setting up a seating area, recliners look better when placed next to a large side table. A small table will look out of scale. A coffee table will have to be placed too far away to give space for the pop-up foot rest.

When placing a side table next to a recliner, be sure to select one that is in scale with the table. A too small side table will look off.

Also make sure the side table has a heavy bottom so that if the chair has a swivel, you don’t knock the table over if the chair bumps it.

Still Don’t Like Recliners – Consider This Type of Seating

How to decorate a home with recliners and still have style.

If you still are not a fan of recliners, but would like to add more comfortable living room furniture to your space, look into a reclining loveseat or couches where there is a hidden lever inside the armrest that you pull to open the seat to a reclined position.

It may cost a bit more for this feature, but no one will know the seating is a recliner, except you and your family.

Reclining seating like this looks like regular upholstered furniture while giving you a reclined seat function.

I had a sofa and a loveseat like this in my previous home when I was on the dislike side of decorating with recliners.

Chair & Ottoman or Sectional

  • As an option, add a footrest or an ottoman in front of an existing upholstered chair or two in the room that can double as extra seating as well as serve as a comfy place for your feet when sitting in an upholstered chair.
  • A well-made sectional sofa or a sofa with a chaise are other comfy seating options.

Don’t Miss Out on Comfort

When it comes to decorating a home, my only regret over the years is that I wished I had added recliners to my living room sooner and wasn’t so caught up on them being non-design worthy.

What makes your home or living spaces comfy cozy? We all have items and rituals that we do to feel comfortable at home or relax after a busy day. What are yours?

Where to Buy Recliners

As I mentioned earlier, I would never purchase an upholstered armchair I haven’t sat in first, but I rounded up a few recliners that I found online to show you the variety of styles they come in.

All of these recliners can be made up in many colors of leather, trim like nailheads and also hundreds of fabric choices to coordinate with your room’s color scheme as well.

a selection of affordable recliner chairs that offer function and style.

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43 Comments

  1. I completely agree. I am so over rooms that couldn’t handle a child or a dog because they are so pristine, white, and staged. I want true comfort. I want inviting rooms. I want my rooms to feel right far more than look right.

  2. I love the way you think and live, Diane. Comfort always trumps looks in my book. The leather on your chairs is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never been a recliner gal, I’ve always thought they were for big people because I never sat in one anyway that was even close to comfortable… but that’s not you for sure.

    Alexander Stoddard is a favorite of mine, too. She inspired me a lot when I was first married and I’m so grateful to the woman who gave her very underlined book to me. You know, puttering is a wonderful thing, too. I’m pretty sure it’s one of my happy places. ;)

    1. Hi Diane – Recliners come in all sizes, we saw one that was HUGE. I tried to fine one that was comfy, yet not too big. Back in the 80’s I bought and read every one of Alexandra’s books and still have them. I even met her and got to go to her house. She was truly inspiring.

  3. Awesome post today. I agree with the post above….so many blog posts just dont look like comfortable rooms that say come in and have a seat.

    Thank you for the amazing tips.

  4. Too bad for those bloggers that put style above form and function. So many of the pictures I see show homes that are draped in items that are just for show. That is not a style I wish to emulate, at all. Recliners serve so many functions, as you accurately described, ceiling fans are very necessary and serve several functions as well; cottage cheese ceilings….I have no defense for those eyesores! Around here, there are companies that remove the cottage cheese and re-texture the ceiling for $99 per room. The home instantly looks 35 years newer!

      1. I live in Orange County, California. The ads for popcorn removal are in all the local home improvement booklets that get mailed to all residents practically every week. The workers tape huge sheets of plastic up next to the ceiling at the tops of the walls, across the floor, right across to the opposite side of the room and up to that ceiling; they wet the popcorn, scrape it, retexture the ceiling’s surface. Then it needs to dry. Their job is done and soon it’s ready to be painted.

        1. Sue, That is a great deal! We priced our popcorn ceilings (SW Fl) seven years ago and it was $3000 for the whole house (garage included). Eventually, I will just learn to live with it!

          Diane, I really appreciate your comfort-first style. How nice to be comfortable in a beautifully-decorated home. Thank you for sharing your beautiful home with us as well as all of the inspiration… I’ve learned so much!

      2. I really enjoyed this post. Home to me represents a loving, comforting, safe place to surround yourself with meaningful objects that bring you joy. My house may not look like anyone else but it’s perfect for me and my family. I have three recliners, two with heat and massage and one that is leather. I love the heat and massage recliners but I also love my leather recliner. I like the option of a chair to suit my mood or the task at hand that I may be working on while sitting in a chair. Appreciated the detail that you went into on this post. I am considering new sofas. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks for being real.

    1. Where do you find this? I don’t have popcorn ceilings, but I would like my tiny bathroom that was painted with old gloss paint and has the stamps removed and repainted. They really messed it up and that gloss paint is a horror. I live in Jacksonville, FL on the westside.

  5. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I LOVED this post. I follow lots of home decor bloggers and I love so many different styles. But often, I look at their homes and think “that would just not be comfortable”. Those recliners made me smile. Making memories with people you love in a comfortable home is the goal of homemaking in my opinion. Thanks for being real. Just so much goodness in this post.

    1. Thanks Christy – I agree with you about making memories with people you love in a comfy home. It is my goal, too. I know when my daughter’s and their significant others come to visit, they are going to love the chairs. Hopefully in a few years I will even be able to rock a grandchild in one of the chairs. :-)