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Recliner vs. Glider Chair

A man enjoying music while lounging on a recliner chair.

The comfort of your home rests mostly on the furniture you choose to buy. Care, thought, and imagination should go into the purchase of each piece that you will install in your living area. Seating is one of the things you will need to pay close attention to. If you are in the market for an armchair, then you should consider a recliner or a glider chair.

These are two of the more popular types of armchairs on the market. There are significant differences between them.  

What is a Recliner?

You have no doubt seen this type of furniture in the homes of friends and family members, or in your own home when growing up. Simply put, a recliner is an armchair that reclines by the raising of the front piece and backrest. A recliner can be the heart of relaxation and comfort in a home.

It is designed so that the occupant can stretch their body fully out on it. When you recline, the back becomes a backrest and the front piece becomes a footrest.

What is a Glider Chair?

The glider is an armchair that has gained great popularity over the last decade or so. It is often contrasted with a rocking chair, as both of them relax the sitter through motion. The main difference between the two is that the rocker has arched legs which create a sort of curved up-and-down motion.

The glider, on the other hand, allows the occupant to move back and forth—to literally glide while seated.

Features of Recliners and Gliders

There is much to say about the features of recliners and gliders. There are so many models, designs, and categories of both types of furniture that it would be impossible to create an exhaustive description of them all. The aim of what follows is to give you a general description of each type of furniture and to then give separate treatments for each of the most popular designs.

Recliners in General

With a recliner comes a headrest, footrest, and backrest. For some people, the backrest attached to the recliner provides adequate support. Others prefer to buy a lumbar support pillow. The latter is specially designed to align with the natural curvature of your back.

3D Air Mesh Lumbar Support Pillow for Office Chair Back Support Pillow for Lower Back Pain Relief Back Cushion with Adjustable Strap for Car Seat - Green

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Anyone with lower back problems—and nearly everyone has this problem at some point—should consider buying a lumbar support pillow with the recliner. The other option is to get a recliner with back massage and heating functions. These features are available in a wide variety of recliner models.

In the latter, the backrest acts as a kind of heating pad; it also gives off vibrations that soothe, relax, and heal.

There are two basic types of recliners: manual and powered. Some manual recliners come with a mechanism on the side and require you to pull it back to recline. In other recliners, you must push on the armrest and lean back to recline. You then use your body weight to extend the footrest.

Power recliners are driven by an electric motor. In the most basic types of power recliners, you recline by hitting a switch on the armrest or side of the chair and hit it again to put yourself upright. In more advanced recliners, you can actually control the speed by which the chair reclines and rises.

Recliners by Design

The recliner as a piece of living room furniture is over a century and a half old (more of this below). And there have been since its invention an insuperable number of designs for it. The most popular designs currently available are as follows:

1. The Two-Position Recliner

Power Lift Recliner Chair for Elderly Electric Massage Sofa with Heated Vibration,Side Pockets,Cup Holders, USB Ports,Massage Remote Control,Fabric Home Theater Seat Living Room Reclining Bed, Gray

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This is still the most popular recliner on the market. As the name suggests, it has two positions: upright and reclined. In most models, you adjust the recliner manually—with either your bodyweight or a lever on the side. However, there are powered two-position recliners.

2. Rocker Recliner

A brown leather rocker recliner chair.

What most distinguishes this type of recliner is that it can be used as a rocking chair. The rocker recliner is perfect for people who have trouble falling asleep in bed. If you suffer from insomnia, you may require a little more relaxation to fall asleep.

The soothing rhythms of a rocker recliner can help. This recliner is also popular with nursing mothers and people with young children.

3. Swivel Recliner

Amazon Brand – Ravenna Home Manning Swivel Base Recliner, 34.6"W, Smoke Grey

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This chair allows you to both recline in repose and spin around to engage with others. The armchair sits on a circular base that enables this movement. It is perfect for people who want the option of using their recliner to rest or a seat from which to interact with others.

4. Lift Recliner

This armchair is most suitable for elderly people who have a hard time standing up and sitting down. It is also perfect for much younger people who have problems with their knees, legs, and hips. The lift recliner container has a device within it that pushes the chair from a flat position to an upright position.

This makes it easier for the sitter to get to their feet, as they will not have to exert themselves as much.

Pulaski Button Tufted Lift Chair in Saville Brown

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Gliders in General

Gliders are also known as platform rockers. The frame of a glider chair consists of a seat that is attached to a base on the bottom by way of a four-bar link. The latter consists of non-parallel suspension arms that allow the chair to swing back and forth.

Storkcraft Tuscany Custom Glider and Ottoman with Lumbar Pillow, White/Grey

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Gliders are often compared to rocking chairs—with good reason. Both types of chairs offer the occupant the option of motion while seated. While rocking chairs move in an arc, gliders move along a fixed track. They offer a smoother ride, and have the added bonus of not trapping your toes underneath.

Gliders are heavily marketed as furniture for the nursery. They are billed as chairs used by parents to rock their children to sleep and by nursing mothers to soothe and relax their babies while feeding them. There is no reason why a glider chair needs to be used only by people with kids.

Gliders are perfectly suitable as furniture for living rooms, dens, and outdoor areas. If you are the one who needs to relax and de-stress after a long day, then you may like a nice stylish glider in which to do it.

A glider is best used with an ottoman. The latter is a kind of large footstool that will allow you to put your feet up while rocking. Gliders and ottomans tend to come as a package so that you get matching materials, styles, and colors.

This is an oak glide rocking chair with a matching ottoman.

Gliders by Design

Perhaps the most convincing proof that gliders are not meant to be furniture exclusively for the nursery is the many styles and general designs they come in. These are the most popular categories of glider design that you will find on the market:

1. Traditional

The styles here are simple and compact with clean lines and uncluttered features. This is the type of design that is most often found in nurseries. It has a timeless and innocent look that appeals to most parents. Traditional designs tend to be of a size and shape that make them fit perfectly in a nursery.

A pink padded glide rocking chair with matching ottoman.

2. Modern and Contemporary

These glider chairs are meant for adults. They are more structurally defined and are more fitting for use in your main living area. While modern and contemporary gliders come in a range of patterns, shapes, and sizes, the one thing they have in common is an advanced aesthetic sensibility in their design.

Lennox Contemporary Style Glider Chair and Ottoman Combo, Espresso with Chocolate

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3. Cottage and Country

From soft pastel colors to floral motifs, cottage and country glider designs are perfect for your ranch, farmhouse, cottage, or summer home. These gliders are meant to harmonize with the countryside, and they are perfect to put out on the porch, patio, or mezzanine of your place outside of the city.

Artiva USA Home Deluxe Camouflage Fabric Cushion Cherry Wood Glider Chair and Ottoman Set

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The Most Common Materials Used in Recliners and Gliders

1. Recliners

Though recliners come in a variety of designs, sizes, and colors, the material they are made of falls into two general categories: leather and fabric.

A close look at a black leather two-seat recliner.

Leather recliners have always been popular. Whether they consist of the smoky brown hue of traditional recliners or the more polished and bright leather of newer models, people around the world like the look and feel of sitting down in a leather recliner, putting their feet up, laying their head back, and enjoying a bit of rest.

There is natural leather and synthetic leather. The best thing that natural leather has going for it is its ability to withstand years of being used. It is highly resistant to staining and tearing.

Genuine natural leather is made from animal hide. It is the toughest—that is, most durable—a type of leather on the market. Bonded natural leather is made from recycled leather materials. The one obvious advantage here is eco-friendliness.

You can also buy a recliner that is made of synthetic leather. Polyurethane is supple and lightweight. Vinyl leather, in addition to being supple and pliant, is also highly polished. The downside of vinyl leather is its impact on the environment. It is filled with plastics, fillers, and additives, all of which are toxic, non-recyclable, and non-bio-degradable.

The only upside of a synthetic leather recliner is its relatively low price.

Some people will not buy an armchair or any other piece of furniture unless it is leather. Others cannot abide leather or prefer to avoid the expense. If you are in the latter category, then you should consider a recliner with fabric upholstery. Once again, you have a choice between natural and synthetic materials.

A brown recliner chair showcasing how it reclines.

Cotton is the most popular choice in the natural fabric category. It is soft and light. Cotton also fades and wrinkles over time and is quite easily torn.

Wool is also an option. If you live in a colder region of the country, it is the perfect fabric to have on your recliner. The downside of a wool recliner is that it is difficult to clean, and the material attracts moths which eat away at the fabric.

Last but not least, there is linen, which is a smooth, soft, durable fabric that does not attract moths.

SureFit Home Décor Simple Stretch Twill Box Cushion Recliner Chair Cover, Form Fit, Polyester/Spandex, Machine Washable, Storm Blue Color

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Among the synthetic fabrics, you have the choice of polyester, acrylic, and microfiber. The last of these is the most popular. Microfabric upholstery is resistant to water and stains. When liquid is spilled, the material beads up in reaction. This gives you time to wipe up the spillage before it soaks into the fabric.

Acrylic is also resistant to stains, has a similar texture to wool, and is relatively inexpensive.

2. Gliders

Gliders are made of upholstery or wood. Upholstered gliders come in the same range of fabrics as upholstered recliners. The upshot of an upholstered glider chair is that it is a plush and comfortable place to sit. Both your bottom and your feet will rest in soft cushioned places. Indeed, some upholstered gliders come with a built-in footrest, which is both convenient and space-saving.

Christopher Knight Home 308985 Ishtar Glider Swivel Push Back Nursery Recliner, Beige, Black

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A wood glider is also an option. And here, you will have a range of styles and shapes to choose from, including bow, sleigh, transitional, curved, grand, and two-post.

Major-Q 9059332 2Pc Pack Transitional Style Natural Oak Finish Taupe Microfiber Glider Chair and Ottoman

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Style—grand style—is the main reason why people go for wood gliders. They are really can enhance the look and feel of your living room. With the right removable cushions, the comfort of a padded armrest, the support of a lumbar pillow, and the right hue of wood, this type of glider can increase the elegance of your sitting room.

Durability of Recliners and Gliders

The best recliners and gliders are expensive. But these are the types of furnishings that should be viewed as investments rather than temporary household items. Your return will be in the style and comfort they provide. You want them to last as long as possible, which is why durability is a factor to consider before you buy a recliner or glider.

Recliners last about ten years—even longer if your piece is from a high-end brand and is used infrequently. A powered recliner will not last as long as a traditional recliner. The motor used to move it will sputter out well before the ten-year mark.

Then you will have the choice of buying and having installed a new motor or buying a new recliner. In many cases, buying and installing a new motor is more expensive than buying a new powered recliner.

A leather recliner is the most durable—especially one that is made of animal hide.

A boy laughing while lounging on a recliner chair.

A glider is as durable as a recliner. This will again depend on the brand that you buy, the material it is made of, and the frequency with which you use it. If you buy a glider to nurse your baby, it will certainly last as long as it takes to wean them off such feeding.

At this point, you can either leave it in the nursery, if you plan to have more children or use it in some other part of the house.

Modern and country gliders are also built to last. Carrying out regular maintenance on the tracks helps preserve the functionality of all glider chairs. In most cases, it is impractical to take your glider chair in for such maintenance. However, it is quite easy to perform the task on your own at home.

If you buy the best kind of genuine leather sofa, you should expect to endure well past the ten-year mark. Indeed, it is not unheard of for such sofas to become heirlooms that are passed down from one generation to another.


If you are like most people, the cost will be a big factor in your purchasing decision. For a recliner, you should expect to spend between $250 to $5,000. These figures are the extremes. The more accessories you ask for the more money you will pay. You can purchase a no-frills recliner for less than $1,000 and a reasonably comfortable chair for no more than $2,000.

Glider chairs are, for the most part, reasonably priced. A wood-frame glider chair will run you between $130 to $450. Upholstered chairs cost between $160 to $680. Even if you buy a higher-end chair from a high-end retailer, you are unlikely to pay more than a $1,000.

Benefits of a Recliner versus a Glider

These two types of furniture come with many advantages. First, they are both armchairs, which means they are made to hold one occupant at a time. This is important to people who want cosy seating that is just for them. Second, both armchairs come in models and designs that can elevate the appearance and atmosphere of your home.

That said, recliners are more personable and the best ones are made to last. If you are in the market for a recliner, chances are it is for you or someone who lives in your home. It the kind of furniture that will be used mainly by a single person.

Storkcraft Tuscany Custom Glider and Ottoman with Free Lumbar Pillow, White/Taupe Swirl

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Gliders are more versatile. They are used for a variety of purposes. They can be used as a central place to nurse your baby while at home. Once they have fulfilled that purpose, they can be set in the living room area for family members and guests to use.

Country and cottage gliders are perfect for those who spend a great deal of time outside of the city. They are more than an adequate substitute for the conventional rocking chair. If you enjoy sitting out on your patio on summer nights, staring up at the stars, and swaying yourself to sleep, a glider is perfect for you.

Fun Facts from History

The subject would not be complete without a few fun historical facts about each type of furniture.

The glider has always been closely related to the rocking chair. The latter made its appearance in America in the late 18th century. Benjamin Franklin is credited with their invention. The first glider chairs did not make their appearance until the 1920s! The inventor is unknown. The first models were all made of metal, and they were mostly used to sit out on porches.

A transitional swivel glider chair with cushions.

The recliner made its first appearance in the mid-19th century. The first armchair of this type was owned by Louis Napoleon of France when he served as president of the Second Republic from 1848 to 1852. The recliner began as a camp bed that could be adjusted to serve as a chair or a chaise lounge. Here again, the inventor of the recliner is unknown, but scholars agree that it did originate in France.

Recliner or Glider

Between the two, the recliner is the more well-known and familiar. Styles have proliferated over the years, and the designs of the armchair have changed for the better. That being said, we still prefer the glider.

There is something stiff and stilted about the recliner. Whether powered or traditional, the recliner suggests solitude, isolation, stuffiness, and a kind of domestic reign of the curmudgeon. Not even the most beautifully made recliners can shake the feeling that the person who uses them prefers to be left alone.

Gliders, on the other hand, are more suggestive of youth and dynamism. A simple traditional glider chair that will be used in the nursery embodies this feeling to a supreme degree. But even contemporary and country glider chairs give off a sense of adventure and invite anyone to sit in them—to enjoy conversation or the surrounding view.

There is also something to be said about the relative cost of each kind of furniture. The fact of the matter is that the best gliders can be purchased for much less than the best recliners. This is important if you are on a budget, which most people are nowadays. Gliders are also lighter and easier to move. This makes it simpler to re-use them in different settings in and outside of the house.

We are also swayed by the ottomans that come with the gliders. These footrests are the ultimate form of comfort. They are also stylish and attractive as pieces of furniture to decorate your living space.

It is just as easy to curl up and relax on a glider as it is on a recliner. However, the benefits of the former outweigh those of the latter.

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