Are Recliners Tacky? The Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Are Recliners Tacky

Recliners have long been known as large and comfortable chairs that you can sink into at the end of a long day and fall asleep in while you watch Jeopardy. But they are also often thought of as worn and dirty because once people find a comfortable recliner it is hard to get them out of it. Does that make recliners tacky?

Recliners are tacky if they are old and worn and dirty. They can also be tacky if they are:

  • Too big
  • Too mechanical
  • Dominating the room they are in

But recliners do not have to be tacky if they are placed in a less formal room or are of a less imposing style.

Recliners certainly have their negative points, but they are not all bad. They have many health benefits. The fact is your father fell asleep in one every night because recliners are super comfortable. However, if you are dead set against recliners, there are alternatives. But first, read on to learn why recliners are considered tacky and how you can flip that narrative.

Why Are Recliners Tacky?

Recliners have two main features that generally make them tacky. They are often:

  • Aesthetically unpleasing
  • Exceptionally worn and dirty because of heavy use

Probably the biggest problem of the two is the first. Wear and tear is a problem (which will be discussed in a moment) that can be mitigated, but there are features typical of recliners that are hard to get away from.

This is not to say that recliners have no redeeming value. They certainly function in ways that many people appreciate. Read on to see a breakdown of the pros and cons of recliners. 

The Cons of Recliners

The things that make a recliner so comfortable are the things that also tend to make it tacky. Almost everyone loves to sit in a recliner, but few people love to look at them, and almost no one incorporates a recliner into a room for its fashion or design flair.

There is also the problem of the demographic that recliners are typically marketed towards. Later on, this article will discuss the positive aspects of recliners, which mainly include health benefits. For this reason, recliners are often marketed to an older demographic who struggle with joint or back pain.

Just because recliners are often used by elderly people does not make them tacky. But it can mean that in the minds of a younger demographic recliners serve more of a medical purpose than an aesthetic one, and for those people who do not struggle with pain, the inherent features of typical recliners can be an unnecessary addition to a room.

Recliners Can Be Too Big

Traditional recliners are large pieces of furniture, especially when compared to standard sitting room chairs. For this reason, they tend to become the main feature of a room. Some recliners look so big they threaten to swallow whole the person who sits in them.

In addition to the overall size of a recliner, there are features that tend to emphasize how large it is:

  • The headrest
  • The armrests
  • The footrest

All these things can contribute to the typical recliner’s size and actually make the chair seem bulkier than it really is.

The headrests of recliners tend to poof out to accommodate and cushion the head of the individual but this feature tends to exaggerate the height of the recliner and also make them seem intimidating and unreasonable. If an individual is not of the right height, then the cushion pushes their head forward instead of supporting it.

Armrests are another major offender since they tend to poof out above and away from the frame of the armrest itself. The same thing is true of footrests. When not in the reclined position, the cushion extends well beyond the actual footrest itself. Simply put, recliners cater to function over form and that is why they tend to be tacky.

Recliners Can Be Too Mechanical

This fault of recliners may be a little less common, but it is still worth mentioning. Even basic recliners are known for the many positions that they can conform to for the comfort of the individual sitting in them. The handle that makes this possible can often stick out like a sore thumb, looking awkward and ugly.

But recliners can take this even farther, exaggerating this function with electronic motors that manipulate them into certain positions. Sometimes this functionality makes the recliners larger and other times there are gaudy control panels attached to the chairs.

These kinds of recliners excel at functionality, especially for people with certain needs (as this article will discuss later), but they are lousy in terms of aesthetics. Having a mechanical monster in your living room is off-putting and dominates the look and feel of the room in more ways than one.

Recliners Dominate the Functionality of a Room

Form and function should work together, but when recliners get involved they can tend to eschew the balance in favor of function. The problem is that this functionality only favors the person sitting in the recliner, and only one person at a time can sit there.

This creates an elite class of recliner users. The two people in the house who lay claim to a recliner are probably going to put it right in front of the TV which puts the family seating off to the side. So once the recliners take over the room, it is hard to create seating that includes others who might want to watch something.

And sometimes the recliners in a home can dominate the room by being the only decent seating in it. If a couple or a person lives alone, then the recliner may be the one or two decent seats they invest in, while visitors are stuck with dining room chairs.

This can be tacky to visitors or even other family members who want to feel included in what is going on. They may want to converse with someone on a couch or sit close to someone, but can’t because the padded behemoth is in the way.

Recliners Can Be Overused

This is a nice way of saying that recliners are often worn and dirty. As was mentioned earlier, this can be mitigated by regular vacuuming and cleaning, but the reality is that the comfort of the recliner makes the owner want to be in it all the time. The more sedentary the person is, the more this is the case.

Because recliners are bulwarks of comfort, getting the owner of one to sit anywhere else is near impossible. Recliners tend to become the throne from which the owner:

  • Converses
  • Relaxes
  • Naps
  • Watches TV
  • Eats

As such the recliner is the chair in the room that usually receives the most abuse if only because it is so hard to dislodge the person who loves it.

The Pros of Recliners

But recliners are not all bad. They do have a lot of benefits that can positively affect the user in ways that are above and beyond falling asleep on your lunch hour.

Recliners can have a lot of health benefits, especially for the person who struggles with:

  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Poor blood circulation

This is probably why recliners are marketed to an older demographic. As people begin to struggle more and more with these things, they tend to want something comfortable and not really care about how it looks in a room.

For that reason, it is important to keep in mind that the pros of recliners are mostly functional. The large poofy recliner is not ever going to be chic, although as this article will discuss later there are slimmer, sleeker reclining alternatives. But for now, here are the pros for having a monster recliner in your living room.

Relief From Arthritis Pain

Recliners can actually have a positive effect on the pain that people suffer due to arthritis. This is one of the big reasons why elderly people can benefit from recliners. Shifting the body weight can relieve the pressure that is placed on aching joints.

Mechanical recliners have a huge benefit in this category because they do not require you to manipulate a lever in order to lift the footrest. The use of that can aggravate arthritis pain, but raising and lowering a footrest with a push of a button can provide immense relief.

Relief From Swollen Legs

If you suffer from poor circulation, a recliner can be very helpful. Elevating your legs is key to restoring circulation because gravity works against you keeping blood in your feet and lower legs, causing swelling.

With the ability to elevate your legs, you have the ability to:

  • Restore your circulation
  • Help prevent long-term problems
  • Potentially forestall surgery

You wouldn’t think that a piece of furniture could do that, but recliners can be very helpful in this way.

Relief From Back Pain

You do not have to be elderly to suffer from back pain. Whether you are lifting heavy objects, working manual labor, or sitting at a desk all day, these activities create different stresses on your back.

Recliners can actually help reduce back pain by shifting the weight of your body so that your back muscles get a break from the pressure they are under throughout the day. This can also apply to pregnant women.

Recliners are also effective for this because they can be adjusted to fit different positions that your back needs. Even mechanical recliners are a help here because they sometimes come with heated seats and backs.

Relief From Stress

If you do not have back pain that is specific to your lower back or upper back or specific joint pain, you can still benefit from a recliner. The simple non-technical way to put it is that recliners relieve stress.

If you have a desk job then you are probably familiar with the aching desire to lean back in your stiff office chair and recline. This is a natural desire to relieve some of the stress you’ve been experiencing all day.

When you recline you stretch out and ease the tension in your muscles. Again much of this has to do with shifting your body weight. When you get into the reclined position things ease up from your body and your mind as well.

Recliners are Great for Informal Settings

The old tatter recliner is perfect for game rooms and places where the kids hang out and watch movies. Because recliners are made for abuse, they are ideal for an informal family area.

The placement of recliners in a family room area can also make a difference. Try to keep recliners off to the side or in an area of the room where they are as likely to become the focus of attention. Setting up the couch so that the group seating is dominant to whatever the family will be doing is perfect for offsetting the recliner.

Are Reclining Sofas Tacky?

If you want the benefits of a recliner but just cannot face having one in your living room, there are alternatives. Reclining sofas are basically sofas with recliners attached to the ends. With a reclining sofa, you can have the best of both worlds:

  • A sleek and trim looking sofa
  • The functionality of a recliner

Some sofas mirror the placement of padding that recliners have, but not all. And when it is put together in one piece of furniture it tends to lessen the impact that a single chair has on a room.

A reclining sofa also provides seating for more people, which means a group can sit together, not just an honored one or two people who get the recliner. Of course, there may still be some fighting over who gets the reclining portion of the sofa, but at least the setup is more inviting for family and visitors.

Alternatives to the Recliner

If you want to recline but you do not want a recliner, you are not without options. Alternatives do exist and they are worth checking out. While nothing can replace the comfort of a big old recliner, there are some options that come close.

These options include:

  • Alternative recliners to traditional recliners
  • DIY strategies
  • Furniture you may have forgotten about

Read on to see what approach appeals to you the most.

Recliner Chairs

Not all recliners have to be large. Recliner chairs are a nice sleek alternative that looks indistinguishable from a regular chair. With this style of recliner, you can go for a mid-century modern look, a leather study chair look, or a sitting room chair look, and they all look normal until you pop up the leg rest and relax.

But bear in mind that while the chairs recline, they are not going to be exactly the same as a traditionally large recliner. Those recliners are comfortable for a reason. They have lots of padding on that large frame.

You are probably not going to get that amount of comfort from this style of recliner. But you can get some of the benefits of reclining, and if you need more padding, you can always use some throw pillows.

Sectional Sofas

Sectional sofas can be an alternative to recliners, even if they do not have a reclining portion attached to the sofa.

Sectionals allow for a variety of different sitting postures and give you the opportunity to stretch out your legs with your back against the angeled portion of the sofa.

Chaise Lounge

A chaise lounge is not as popular in homes, but can still be a worthy alternative to the recliner. They even sometimes come attached to a sectional.

A Chaise lounge has an angled back and an extended seat that allows you to recline a little and put your feet up. With some of those handy throw pillows, you can adjust the elevation of the legs.


Finally, do not forget about the trusty ottoman. For decades ottomans have enabled couch users to recline a little and elevate their feet.

If you have a couch or sectional that has a little less structure to the cushions, an ottoman can provide a nice reclining experience. Also if you get one that is big enough, you can share the legroom with someone special.


The recliner is one of the most comfortable pieces of furniture ever invented. It can help relieve stress, back pain, joint pain, and poor circulation. It can also help you take a really good nap. But the fact is that from a design point of view, recliners are tacky. They often dominate the room they are in both aesthetically and functionally.

But as with most things, recliners come with a choice: form or function. The people who tend to value function over appearance will probably go for the benefit of comfort that the recliner offers. Those who relax when they see a well-designed room that has furniture with sleek lines, do not really need a recliner.

Whichever you choose to go with, remember that tacky, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So go with what you need and what you want. It is only furniture after all.


Hi there! I’m Alex, the one behind this website. I ran and operated a Local Furniture Store in Southern California. The store opened in 2010, during the “Great Recession,” It is still thriving today; however, I have dedicated my time to helping our online customer base. My primary focus is to help you with all your furniture & mattress questions.

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