Fine Reclining

Today’s Best Power Recliners & Other Motion Furniture

Power recliners are slimming down in price and in size. How­ever, the cost of leather is soaring, and manufacturers are searching for alternatives that can duplicate the look.

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Are you literally stuck in the rut of your cushy, oversize power recliner? If you’re shopping for a sleeker recliner to spruce up the family room or to replace Dad’s old brown clunker, you’ll find more power-reclining options and more leather-substitute coverings than you would have found 4 years ago.

Trapped in an industry slump thanks to the moribund housing market and the sluggish economy, recliner-makers have introduced models that have slimmer, straighter and more tailored designs. That’s a turnabout from the market lineup in 2008, when we observed that overstuffed models were making a comeback. But all of the furniture experts and manufacturers with whom we spoke tell us that power recliners are so prevalent now that the emphasis is on making them as nimble and as sleek as possible. In fact, manufacturers even are introducing power-reclining elements into more models of love seats, sectional sets and sofas.

“Today, everyone wants power,” says Don Hunter of Catnapper, which is a recliner brand of Jackson Furniture.

POWERFUL. A big reason why power recliners have been able to slim down is because the electrical components that drive power-reclining mechanisms have shrunk so much in size and price in the past 4 years. A power-reclining mechanism can be added to most styles of recliners as an option, and a power version can cost as little as $100 more than the manual version.

That price drop—and an increased interest in creating home theaters around high-definition TVs in the family room and living room—has turned power recliners into a major focus of recliner manufacturers in the past 4 years, says Chip Piekenbrock of manufacturer Flexsteel. For consumers, this means that they can expect to find about 50 percent more models of power recliners on the market than were available in 2008. That’s notable when you consider that the business climate has been so shaky for furniture-makers that the well-known brand Berkline closed in 2011 and another well-known brand, Barcalounger, went through bankruptcy in 2010 (but remained open).

Four years ago, power recliners that were marketed for home-theater rooms that have large-screen HDTVs and elaborate lighting and sound systems looked like bulky versions of movie-theater seats. But today’s models are sleek, and they now often come with their own LED mood lights that are located under the seat. And features that are aimed at a home-theater audience are coming to lower priced models. You now can find power recliners that have storage pillows, illuminated cupholders, touch-control headrests, and coordinating trays and tables that start at about $900. Recliners that had those features 4 years ago started at roughly $1,300.

But manufacturers also are bolstering their products. Power-reclining mechanisms are becoming more rugged, and companies now are willing to back their power components with a longer warranty. Flexsteel and Klaussner are the first to include 5-year warranties for all of the electrical components that are in their motion recliners; typically 1–3 years is the industry norm. No other manufacturer has announced plans to follow Flexsteel and Klaussner’s lead with a 5-year warranty for electrical components, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see more companies extend their warranties in the next year or two.

And Flexsteel and Palliser now sell cordless battery units—typically a $299 option—to operate any of the power recliners that are in their lines. Having a battery unit allows you to place your power recliner anywhere in your home; it doesn’t have to be near an outlet. The rechargeable power packs work for 200–300 cycles of opening and closing, which means that they’ll work for up to 50 days based on average use before you need to recharge the power pack. The power pack beeps, like a cordless phone does, when it has to be plugged into an outlet to recharge. This is useful, so you can avoid getting stuck in your chair by a dead battery.

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