A Guide to Types of Recliners: Expert Advice and Tips

Recliner Chair
As recliners have increased in popularity over the years, various types of recliners have hit the market. From wall-hugger recliners built for small spaces to large recliners that work with remote controls. There is a reclining chair to fit every budget, room, and style.

If you are interested in buying a recliner, you are probably wondering what the difference is between a pull handle recliner and a wall hugger recliner, or what makes a glider recliner so different from a swivel recliner.

Read on to learn about the many different types of recliners as well as what to look, and how to find the perfect recliner for your space.

What is a Recliner?

A recliner is a large single-seater armchair or sofa that can have the back adjusted to a reclined position while lifting the footrest forward (some will also have a headrest that is adjustable).

"A recliner sofa is just as it sounds, a sofa that has the ability to recline by foot rests extending and changing the incline of the seating position," adds interior designer Sara Chiarilli.

Although once thought to be fairly unattractive, the design and style of these chairs has come quite far — in fact, modern recliners are often stylish pieces that can work in almost any room.

In living rooms, they are great for leaning back with a book or snuggling with a pet in front of the television. They also work well in bedrooms or studies for as reading chair in a little nook.

The 6 Most Common Types of Recliner

Just like there are many different types of couches, recliners come in different designs as well.

There are too many different types of recliners to list, so we have the six most common types. Apart from these, you also get the wall hugger recliner, the lift chair recliner, an orthopedic recliner and massage recliners.

1. Rocker Recliner

Lancer Rocker Recliner
Lancer Rocker Recliner

As the name indicates, a rocker recliner both reclines and rocks. These chairs are great for insomnia sufferers. It also works well for nursing mothers who are trying to get their babies to sleep.

“A rocker recliner is a type of chair that rocks back and forth on a central axis, similar to a rocking chair. However, unlike a rocking chair, a rocker recliner typically has a mechanism that allows the user to recline the back of the chair into several different positions," says Karen Rohr.

Rocker recliners are designed to provide you with back support while keeping your body in a relaxing position. Rocker recliners worth their money will offer lumbar support by following the contour of the spine.

2. Glider Recliner

Swivel Reclining Glider
Swivel Reclining Glider

Glider recliners and rocker recliners look similar. But where a rocker moves back and forth, a glider recliner moves on a track.

Glider recliners move linearly in one smooth motion, making them great for mothers with newborns. This chair also works well in cozy living rooms or an office if you are aiming for that cottagecore style.

"It is also an excellent piece to transition from one space to the other; for example, you might get it for the nursery room...knowing that you can move it to a different room when the time is required without taking up too much space," explains Karen Rohr.

3. Power Recliner

Matera Power Recliner
Matera Power Recliner

A pull-handle recliner has been the standard recliner for many years. With these types of manual recliners, you pull a handle and the seat reclines to one set position.

Enter power recliners.

"A power recliner is a type of chair that uses an electric motor to adjust the position of the chair. This can be done with a remote control or by pressing a button on the chair itself," says Karen Rohr.

This type of recliner is perfect for those with mobility issues or physical impairments as it is motorized and easy to operate.

Power lift recliners can also lean forward, which helps you get up into a standing position with ease.

Karen continues, "Whether you're looking for a way to improve your mobility or simply want a relaxing place to kick back, a power recliner may be the perfect solution."

4. Lever Handle Recliner

Morrison Rocking Recliner
Morrison Rocking Recliner

Sometimes sticking to what works is the best way to go.

A lever handle recliner is the image that most likely pops up in your head when you think of a reclining chair.

These traditional recliners use a handle situated on the side of the chair. When pulled, the reclining mechanism is activated, and the backrest reclines. The footrest also extends forward at the same time.

This is a truly iconic piece of furniture that works in almost every room! It is a great everyday armchair to use in front of the fireplace or television and is also great for reading in the office or relaxing in the nursery.

For a classic, budget-friendly option, you cannot go wrong with the traditional lever handle recliner.

5. Push-Back Recliner

Teasley Faux Leather Manual Standard Recliner
Teasley Faux Leather Manual Standard Recliner

When first looking at a push-back recliner, you may not even notice that it is a recliner at all! These modern reclining chairs have been designed to look just like a normal armchair.

The backrest is the only part of a push-back recliner that moves. There is no footrest.

“Push-back recliners usually have a mechanism that uses the weight of the user's body to recline the chair," explains Karen Rohr.

To activate the reclining position, you simply have to lean back against the backrest.

This type of recliner works well in a modern home since it has a sleek design. The missing footrest feature can easily be replaced by an ottoman or stool for ultimate comfort.

Karen Rohr continues to explain when to use these chairs: "This can be a great space-saving option for small rooms or apartments, as well as a convenient way to relax without having to get up out of your seat.”

6. Swivel Recliner

Swivel Recliner
Paxton Manual & Power Swivel Glider Recliner

Swivel recliners suit a variety of people. It is great for new mothers, people with physical disabilities, the elderly, as well as someone simply looking for a comfortable chair in their living space.

These swivel chairs are able to spin completely around while also offering a rocking motion. This is because the chair is attached to a circular base. This increased mobility is a brilliant feature of these chairs.

Karen Rohr describes the benefits of these chairs: "For those who want the best of both worlds when it comes to reclining furniture, a swivel recliner is the ideal choice. This type of chair offers the user the ability to rock back and forth while still being able to rotate the chair 360 degrees."

It may take up a bit more space than some of the other recliners on this list, but swivel recliners are also the most comfortable and versatile of all the common types of recliners.

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How to Choose the Right Type of Recliner for Your Space: 3 Essentials to Consider

When it comes to deciding on the best type of recliner for you, you need to consider the function, size and style before hitting purchase.


"When choosing a recliner, it is important to consider the functionality of having one. If you are looking for a chair for reading or watching TV, a model with a built-in head and footrests may be ideal," explains Karen Rohr. " If you have back pain, you might want to look for a recliner with built-in lumbar support or if you are looking for a chair to use for napping or relaxing, then a model with a softer, cushioned seat may be your best bet."

The purpose for why you are buying the reclining chair should guide which chair you should go for. Consider how long you will require it and whether you have any special needs, such as mobility issues, that should be taken into consideration. Your needs will impact how you look at recliner features like the ability to lay-flat or what type of lift mechanism you want from your chair.


The biggest mistake you can make is buying a recliner that is too large for your living room space. For example, if you only have room for a loveseat-sized recliner, you don’t want to fall in love with a sectional that’s way too big for your space.

"One of the most important [things to consider] is the size of the chair."

"One of the most important [things to consider] is the size of the chair. Measure the available space in your room before making a purchase. If you have a small space, you might want to choose a compact recliner that takes up less room,” advises Karen Rohr.

When measuring a sofa, most people focus on the width — which is 100% the place to start. But you also need to consider the recliner depth, height, and seat position (both when reclined and in the upright position).


"There are many different types of recliners on the market, so it's important to research them before making a purchase," says Karen Rohr.

When deciding on the best recliner for your space you need to consider how it fits with your interior design style, the amount of floor space you have, as well as which room you place the chair in. For example, a recliner placed in a formal study will have a different style than one chosen to be a feature part of your living room furniture.

"With so many variations try to take some time on looking for one that suits your room aesthetic to blend with the overall design."

Karen Rohr concludes, "With so many variations try to take some time on looking for one that suits your room aesthetic to blend with the overall design."

Meet the Experts

To help explain the different types of recliners, we have consulted with experts in the interior design industry. In this article, you'll hear from:

Written by
Ash Read
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
Ash Read
Written by
Ash Read
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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