Although much of the recliner’s written history began in the early 20th century, the recliner chair dates much further ago. In the late eighteenth century, the first recliner chairs actually appeared and were essentially identical to the recliners of today. The goal was always to encourage the client to sit upright or recline with their legs and feet off the floor.
What has been dubbed as motion furniture by many designers, the recliner has been with us for over two hundred years in one form or another. Modelled after the chaise lounge, this iconic piece of furniture has been seen by the recliner’s long history from easy to completely motorized. The recliner’s origins, considered to be an American creation, are as far back as Napoleon.
The French invented a reclining camp bed in the era of eighteen-fifty, one of which was allegedly owned by Napoleon III. This camp cot was quite versatile to fit multiple purposes for its day. The camp cot is supposed to be modeled after the daybed lounge, acting as a chair, a bed and a chair lounger. The reclining camp mattress, well upholstered for the period, was compact, with comfortable arm rests and a steel frame. While there was no complex mechanism for the Napoleon camp cot, it was no less practical than the recliner models of today. The client may sit upright, recline with high feet or lay out the cot for sleep.
A variety of models for motion chairs appeared in the late eighteen hundreds. Such early recliners, usually made of wood, with a padded seat and back, might have been more of a conversation piece than a traditional furniture like a chair or couch. Designs from France and America often included what was considered a text or a keeper of a journal.
Two American brothers, Knabush and Shoemaker, were honored on a wooden recliner with securing the patent. The model had nothing special as it appeared like a wooden beach recliner. The patent was the distinction between this recliner and other recliner. Issued in twenty-eight years, the patent contributed to LayZBoy’s creation. The cousins would not invent an upholstered design with a mechanical movement until nineteen-thirty-one. It wouldn’t be until nineteen forty-seven to introduce a built-in foot rest to a competing company. Having a foot rest would become a regular part of the design of the recliner.
Although the cousins did not develop a piece of reclining motion furniture for the first time, they were the first to establish a marketing campaign for their company. Many other furniture companies started manufacturing and selling recliners using mechanisms that were very similar. For a number of recliner systems, it wasn’t long before other businesses sprung up. From relatively simple designs to more complex motorized and power actuated models, today’s recliners provide user needs with specialized solutions.
Many recliners allow the consumer to sit in the chair by pressing upwards, raising a button, or pulling on a cord. Power lift recliners can literally rise to meet the user. The power lift chair development proved to be a boon for people with limited mobility. Power recliner normally incorporates a form of remote control that allows the user to push a button to manipulate the motion of the chairs.
The recliner’s idea predates the era of mass production behind the fabric, color and style. The recliner has once again become an essential piece of living room furniture after a decline in popularity during the nineteen-seventies.