Recliner or Ottoman: How to Make the Choice

Recliner or Ottoman

Have you found you need a new piece of furniture in your home for a place to sit and relax? Maybe you have considered comparing recliners and ottomans, but do not know how to make the right choice. Although these are both pieces of furniture that can add to your home and offer seating, their functions are actually quite different. 

A recliner and an ottoman are both types of seating. A recliner is a large, padded chair, and an ottoman is a low, upholstered seat that does not have a back or arms. Recliners are usually better for back and neck support, but may be more expensive and harder to move than the smaller ottoman.

Although both recliners and ottomans are pieces of furniture that can offer seating in your home, read on to figure out which one you may want from your home based on their functions, size, design and price. Then you can figure out whether a recliner or ottoman will work best for you to comfortably sit, relax, and enjoy your day.  

What is the Difference Between a Recliner and an Ottoman?

Recliners and ottomans are both places where you can sit down and relax, but beyond that one function these two pieces of furniture are actually quite different. An ottoman is actually a type of footstool that is a low upholstered or padded seat that does not have a back or arms. They come with wooden legs or without legs and sit flat on the floor. 

An ottoman has a variety of uses, from acting as a foot or leg rest to a coffee table, side table, or a place to sit. They are hollow inside so there is storage space inside of the cushion, which makes ottomans attractive over other types of footstools. If you have a bad back, however, you will probably want to opt for a recliner over the ottoman. 

As the name alludes, a recliner is an armchair that can recline back, lift up your feet with a built-in footstool, and sometimes also comes with a padded headrest. It represents the essence of comfort and relaxation, in that it supports every part of your body. Recliners are usually more expensive than ottomans and can be much larger. 

If you have the money to spend, recliners have been known to help with back pain since it supports the head, neck, and lower back. However, some less expensive recliners have actually been found to cause more back pain if they do not support the curve of the seat and your lower back. There are pros and cons to both pieces of furniture. 

The Benefits of a Recliner

There are many benefits to purchasing a recliner over an ottoman, and the main one is comfort. When you sit down in a recliner, there is no need to use pillows to support your back or prop your feet up on a coffee table because the chair does all of this for you. You may find your recliner ends up being the most comfortable chair in your home. 

Although the benefits of a recliner probably do outweigh the cost, the cost can be pricey depending on what you need in the chair. There is a huge difference in prices when it comes to purchasing a recliner and this is definitely a situation where you get what you pay for. It just depends on whether you want a manual or power version of the chair. 

Purchasing a recliner can be intimidating because there are traditional, manual recliners, power recliners, along with rocker, glider, and even swivel and lift recliners in which to choose. All of these different versions come with different prices. First, you should decide whether you want one of the following options available today: 

  • Manual recliner—These are the least expensive type of recliner and use a lever on the side of the chair to recline back and lift up your feet.
  • Electric recliner—These are the most common types of recliners because they use an electric motor to recline the chair. You simply push a button and recline back comfortably.
  • Electric rise and recliner—A more expensive version of the electric recliner because it combines the electric reclining with tilting and rising so that it is easier to get out of the chair. These recliners are advantageous for individuals with mobility issues.
  • Massaging recliner—An added luxury of soothing massage within the chair. This recliner can come in the manual or electric option.
  • Massaging rise and recliner—For the most expensive price, this recliner offers the supreme amount of luxury by combining reclining, tilting, rising, and massaging all at the touch of a button. 

A recliner is not something that should be ordered online. Instead, you should try out the recliner before you buy it. Although most online companies do offer money-back guarantee, recliners should be test-driven like a vehicle to ensure it offers the best comfort for your body. If you do not need back support, an ottoman could work for you. 

Other Recliner Choices

A recliner will definitely be a comfortable chair to sink into after a long day, and the price will depend on manual versus electric versus rising and even massaging. However, there are other options you may need to choose between when searching through the vast options of recliners that are on the market today: 

  • Two-position recliner—This may be an option when it comes to manual recliners and means the recliner only has two positions, which are upright or fully reclined.
  • Rocker recliner—These usually have several angles in which you can recline, but they usually do not recline all the way back into a laying down position. This makes them ideal for smaller areas of the home because you do not recline all the way back.
  • Glider recliner—These are similar to the rocker recliners but they move back and forth on a direct lined path.
  • Push-back recliner—The only part that moves on these recliners is the back and they do not have a built-in footrest like the other recliners. You just have to push back on the recliner so that it reclines.
  • Riser recliner—These are the electric versions discussed above and recline and lift upward with a push of a button.
  • Swivel recliner—These have a circular base that lets them swivel left and right in addition to moving up and down.
  • Wall-hugger recliner—Perfect for a small area with limited space in that they only need around four to six inches of wall clearance to move about because they sit up straight and have a more limited range of motion. They are also easier to get out of when in the resting position. 

These are just a few of the other choices, as sifting through the different types of recliners can get confusing. You may also hear the term “lay-flat” recliners, which is simply a recliner that lays fully out so you can literally take a nap. As you can see, there are a lot of choices to sift through when shopping for a recliner. 

Choosing Fabric, Color, and Style of a Recliner

In addition to choosing manual versus power, recliners come in either leather or fabric, and choosing one cover over the other is a fundamental decision when purchasing a recliner. You will want to consider appearance, comfort, durability, maintenance, and, of course, your budget when deciding between a leather or fabric recliner. 

Leather is easier to clean than fabric because you can simply wipe it down, so it may be the better choice if you will have children or pets using the recliner chair. However, not all leather is created equal. Top-grain leather offers the most protection from spills and the most comfort for your body, but it will also be more expensive than other leathers. 

There are also numerous choices of top-quality fabric upholstery for recliners and styles that range from more casual to modern and contemporary. There are performance fabrics that are designed to endure more wear and tear, stain-resistant fabrics for younger users, and even pet-friendly fabrics that are durable against scratches. 

What type of recliner will fit into your home? Some individuals want the classic recliner that is huge, comfy, and darker, while others want a more contemporary and sleek look. Traditional looks are usually wrapped in leather or textured fabric and are darker, but there are more contemporary options available on the market. 

What is an Ottoman?

An ottoman can also be used for seating, but first and foremost an ottoman is a type of footstool. It is lower to the ground than a recliner, does not have a back or arms for support, and has many more uses. A recliner can really just be used as a seat in a living or family room, but an ottoman can be purchased for nearly any room in your home:

  • Seat
  • Foot or leg rest
  • Coffee or side table
  • Small table to hold drinks or food
  • A display area for books, magazines, or decorative items

What makes an ottoman more beneficial than the average footstool is that it is hollow on the inside for storage. They are also larger than other footstools, which make them ideal for seating as long as you do not need back support. You could push an ottoman up against the wall to lean against, but it would not be as comfortable as a recliner.

Ottomans are some of the most versatile pieces of furniture. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, and you can get an ottoman with wooden legs or without legs. Ottomans can also be sold with a set of corresponding furniture, like a matching armchair, while recliners are usually sold on their own and not with a set.

Depending on the function of the ottoman, there are different types in which to choose. If you are comparing an ottoman to a recliner, however, you are more than likely looking for seating. Therefore, the larger the ottoman, the better depending on how many people need to fit on the ottoman. You will need to consider your space for both types of seats. 

The Benefits of an Ottoman

Ottomans are usually large compared to other types of footstools and come in a rectangular shape. They offer much more storage than a recliner and have multiple functions beyond just being used for seating. You can hide away any blankets, toys, or anything else that you are not using often while also using it to sit or prop up your feet.

This makes ottomans much more versatile than recliners in that they can fit in nearly any room in the home comfortably and have more uses than a simple chair. Another benefit of an ottoman is size and weight. Once you purchase a recliner and have it placed in your chosen room, it will be very difficult to move.

Ottomans, on the other hand, are much lighter and can be moved easily in your chosen room or even placed in a different room in your home if necessary. For example, if you need extra space in a room for a party, you can pick up an ottoman with ease. This is not the same case for a recliner in that it is much heavier.

Ottomans come in a variety of shapes and sizes versus the standard recliner. Since they are upholstered, there are numerous choices of colors, fabric, or even leather coverings to match your current décor or add a new, bright look to a drab or boring area. They are easy to clean, easy to move, and are a versatile piece of furniture. 

What Can You Fit Best in Your Room?

When choosing between a recliner and an ottoman, the first thing you need to consider is the space in your chosen room. Both recliners and ottomans come in a variety of sizes, so you should measure the dimensions of your room before heading down to the local furniture store. First, decide what room it will be in, a family room, office, or den. 

Then you can measure the room to make sure the recliner or ottoman will fit comfortably. When measuring the dimensions of your room, make sure you take into account walkways, doorways, windows, and gathering areas to watch television or socialize so that you know you are placing the piece of furniture in the right spot. 

You may even want to take pictures so that you can show the furniture salesperson the layout of the room if you are purchasing the recliner or ottoman from an actual store. You also want to consider the colors, style, and décor of the room. Recliners are usually muted leather or fabric colors, but ottomans come in a variety of colors and materials: 

  • Cotton
  • Leather
  • Twill
  • Microfiber
  • Chenille 

The most popular colors of an ottoman are blue, brown, beige, and gray, but they can even be found in bright pinks and purples, baby blues, and stylish patterns. It is usually recommended to purchase ottomans in a more neutral color unless you want them to stand out and be the center of attention, as well as a place to sit and relax. 

Size of a Recliner Versus the Size of an Ottoman

Choosing the right size recliner will depend on how tall you are and your body type since you will want to customize it for your own individual comfort. If numerous family members will be using the recliner, you should size it for the tallest person so that their feet are not hanging over the footstool and their head can comfortably lay on the rest. 

Smaller, more petite individuals will still feel comfortable in a larger recliner. That being said, the size of the recliner should be customized to the family member who will be using the recliner most often. That way, they will not hurt their back or neck when spending the most time relaxing in the chair. 

If you think you may want to move the seating throughout the room, you will probably want to purchase an ottoman over a recliner. This is because recliners are bigger and much heavier than an ottoman. If you need to move a recliner, you will probably need more than one person to do so. This is where different ottomans comes into play: 

  • Ottoman glider—Ideal for moving around the room because it comes on wheels instead of wooden feet.
  • Cocktail or tray-top ottomans—Both can be used for entertaining and holding beverages, and are also small enough to move easily throughout the room.
  • Smooth ottoman—Perfect for seating, as it resembles a bench that is upholstered with smooth fabric and has sturdy legs to hold different sized individuals.
  • Tufted ottoman—An elegant, upscale ottoman that is perfect for seating. This choice of ottoman is made with high-quality upholstered fabric and may come with or without storage. 

If you need a seating choice that is smaller and can be moved into different areas of your room or home, the ottoman is the best choice in that it is light and smaller than the cumbersome recliner. If you want a larger chair with comfort and support and you will never need to move it from the one chosen spot, then the recliner is the better choice. 


Now when you enter your local furniture store or shop online, you know whether your seating needs can be satisfied with a recliner or an ottoman. Ottomans are probably less expensive than a recliner and can be moved into different areas of the home. They are usually rectangular, lower to the ground, and do not offer back or arms for support. 

Recliners are the better choice for someone who needs added support for the head, neck, and back, and are available in manual or power versions. But, recliners are usually more expensive than ottomans and are so big and heavy that they are extremely difficult to move once they are placed in the perfect spot in your home.


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.

Related Posts