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Recliner vs Office Chair (Epic Analysis)

A woman lounging in her office while sitting on her office chair.

So many chairs, and yet you only have so much space and money. If you take a quick spin around a furniture store, you’ll come across many different types of chairs. Dining room chairs, recliners, desk chairs, baby chairs, bowl chairs, gaming chairs, lounge chairs, office chairs, and more.

You can even find a standing desk, which does away with chairs all together! Or you could opt for a kneeling chair or massage chair.

So Which Chair and Setup is Right for You?

It can be hard picking out the chair that will best suit your purpose and needs. That’s why we’re going to take a look at the differences between an office chair and a recliner. Once we cover these differences and important features for each chair, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed choice!

Pick wrong, and you may end up wasting money and space while dealing with a chair that, quite frankly, doesn’t suit your needs. Pick right, and you’ll enjoy plenty of comforts both now and well into the future.

Now let’s take a look at both office chairs and recliners. We’ll cover their features, benefits, uses, history, and more!

Recliner vs Office Chair

Recliners and office chairs are both chairs. This means they’re designed for a single adult (versus, say a couch that might fit 3 adults) in an upright position.

While recliners and office chairs are both chairs, there are some important differences between the two. That’s why we’re going to cover the differences between an office chair and a recliner. This way, you’ll be in a better position to chose which chair is right for you.

Still, when determining which chair to purchase, you’ve got the final say-so. While we cover many of the most important features and differences for both office chairs and recliners, you should closely consider your own needs.

What is a Recliner?

A woman talking on the phone while lounging on a black leather recliner.

Recliners are chairs that can recline. This means you can tilt the back of the chair backward and typically you can also raise a retractable footrest or leg rest. This allows you to basically lay down in the chair.

You may hear recliners referred to as reclining chairs. Still, while recliners are indeed reclining chairs, other chairs beside recliners may also offer a reclining function. In fact, you can even find reclining office chairs complete with a footrest. You may also find reclining couches and other pieces of furniture.

When people use the term “recliner,” they’re typically referring to an upholstered chair with cushioning that reclines That said, you may find chairs that aren’t upholstered but still allow you to lower the back and extend a footrest.

What is an Office Chair?

Four officemates playing a racing game with their office chairs.

An office chair is designed for home offices and workplaces. As such, productivity is often just as important as looks. You’ll sometimes see these chairs referred to as a desk chair, task chair, or computer chair.

Office chairs come in many shapes and sizes. You can even find a reclining office chair. Most office chairs, however, are swivel chairs, meaning you can spin around in the chair. Most office chairs also feature wheels that allow you to move around.

You may also find gaming chairs that function quite similarly to office chairs. A gaming chair is designed with gamers in mind. Since gamers often spend long periods of time sitting, a good gaming chair offers plenty of lumbar support and comfort. These chairs are often flashier and may stick out a bit in an office setting, but a gaming chair can function as an office chair.

Now that you understand the basics of both office chairs and recliners, let’s take a deep dive into the features of each chair, so you can better understand their similarities and differences.

What is the Difference Between an Office Chair and a Recliner?

Let’s take a look at the individual features of recliners and office chairs. By understanding these features and their purposes, you’ll be able to more easily identify different types of chairs.

Perhaps even more importantly, you’ll also understand why an office chair may suit your purpose better in one situation, while a recliner may work better in another position.

What Materials Are Used in Recliners and Office Chairs?

Recliners Are Often Upholstered Chairs

This is a close look at a two-seater black leather recliner chair.

Recliners are typically upholstered chairs. This means the chair features soft padding that is enclosed in cloth, leather, faux leather, or another material. Essentially, upholstered chairs are padded chairs. They may feature a removable seat cushion, or the cushions could be permanently fastened to the chair.

The padding in recliners is often made out of cotton or memory foam. Many recliners are quite soft and plushy. That said, if you’re going to sit in a recliner for long periods of time, you’ll want to ensure that the padding provides proper support.

You often won’t find plastic or metal on the exterior of the recliner. However, peak underneath the fabric, and you’ll likely find wood, metal, and perhaps plastic.

Office Chairs Use Different Types of Padding

This is a close look at a black leather swivel office chair.

Office chairs can be made out of many different materials. Plastic is one of the most common materials used to construct office chairs, but you may also find metal, cloth, padding, and more. Many office chairs feature metal parts to ensure durability and extra support.

You may find high-quality upholstered office chairs that use leather, faux leather, and fine cloth. Many executives prefer a leather chair owing to the premium look and feel. You may also find cheaper cloth upholstered chairs. Some office chairs feature no padding at all while other chairs offer a lot of cushions.

Premium office and computer chairs may feature memory foam padding. Memory foam often provides additional support and is typically quite comfortable.

Mesh backs and even seats are becoming more common for office chairs. Rather than use padding, mesh chairs use a mesh material that provides a cushion, sort of like a hammock.

A full mesh seat also features a mesh seat. Mesh is comfortable, durable, and doesn’t take up much space. As such, mesh chairs are becoming more popular. Quite a number of office chairs use padded seat cushions combined with a mesh backrest.

Like recliners, some office chairs are upholstered. Sometimes, the seat is upholstered, but the rest of the chair isn’t. While recliners typically have a plush armrest, many office chairs feature a hard plastic, metal, or rubber adjustable armrest.

Distinctive Features of Recliners Explained

This is a close look at a brown leather padded recliner chair.

With a recliner, the seat cushion and padding will be fastened to or housed in a metal and/or wooden frame. As far as chairs are concerned, a recliner’s frame is quite complicated. That’s because the recliner itself is designed to change shape. This requires a lot of complicated moving parts.

This is a close look at a cushioned cloth-covered armchair and recliner.

With a recliner, you can typically lower the chair backrest, allowing you to lean back while still enjoying plenty of support. Most recliners also feature a retractable footrest, which extends out. Typically, you push a button or pull a lever to get the chair to recline.

This is a side view of a power recliner with dark gray leather.

Some recliners offer multiple different reclining levels. You might be able to keep the recliner mostly upright, or perhaps you can lay the chair down flat, so it stretches out.

This is a two-seater recliner sofa with cup holders in the middle.

Also, some recliners feature small storage areas where you can place your TV remotes and other devices. Some even offer cup holders.

This is a gray cushioned rocking chair with wooden legs.

Some recliners can also swivel (a common feature for office chairs, by the way). Some also function as rocking chairs, which is great for families caring for infants.

Reclining Serves an Important Function

Recliners allow you to stretch out while still enjoying support throughout your body. Some recliners allow you to essentially lay flat, while other recliners will leave you in an angled position. Either way, being able to stretch out is one of the key benefits of a recliner and can offer maximum comfort.

A bulldog lounging on a recliner.

You can also stretch out on a couch or bed. A bed typically isn’t appropriate for living room furniture, however, and a couch can take up a lot of space. Recliners are comparatively quite small, especially when they’re folded up. With recliners, you can pack a lot of comfort into a small space.

Distinctive Features of Office Chairs

This is a red swivel office chair with mesh back.

Mobility is very important for office chairs. The vast majority of office chairs offer wheels that allow you to roll around. You may need to roll the chair back to stand up, or you might want to roll yourself down to a different part of your desk. Office chairs are almost always mobile and wheels are among their defining features.

This is a gray cushioned office chair with tall back.

Usually, the wheels are set up in a five-star pattern, meaning that five wheels are used, and they’re arranged essentially in a circle. This five-wheel setup provides a lot of stability and control.

This is a gray swivel office chair with mesh back.

You can also find an ergonomic office chair with a headrest. Still, headrests are a bit uncommon for office chairs. Many office chairs feature a backrest that will only provide support (including lumbar support) for your back.

This is a close look at a pink swivel gaming chair.

If you do want an office chair with a headrest but are struggling to find one, consider a gaming chair. These chairs offer most of the same features, including wheels, as a traditional office chair. Many gaming chairs also feature a headrest.

Office Chairs Are Typically Adjustable

Many office chairs allow you to adjust the height of the seat and have an adjustable armrest. Since office chairs are primarily designed with productivity in mind, it’s important to ensure that people can sit at a proper height and easily access keyboards, monitors, and other pieces of equipment.

This is a close look at a black swivel office chair.

This adjustable height makes it easier for you to enjoy maximum comfort and lumbar support. When choosing office chairs, you should consider various ergonomic factors. You’ll want an adjustable chair that offers an appropriate weight capacity and fits your height, which can help ensure superior comfort.

How Durable Are Recliners?

Recliners are often quite durable. Recliners are also quite heavy, so you probably won’t be moving them around a lot. Moving pieces of furniture may wear them out more quickly, so leaving your recliner parked in one spot could extend its lifespan and reduce wear and tear.

This is a close look at a black leather recliner chair.

As with most types of furniture, the overall quality and durability may be impacted by the price, material choices, construction, and brand quality. Some recliner chairs may last decades without any maintenance, for example.

Since recliners use complicated systems, these systems can break down and can be difficult to repair. You might find that the lever used to recline the chair no longer works. Or the recliner might become jammed in the open or closed position. If this occurs, you might have to spend quite a bit to get the chair fixed.

How Durable Are Office Chairs?

Durability among office chairs can vary widely. Since these chairs are mobile, they’re often on the move. Unfortunately, this may increase wear and tear. Further, if the chair is being adjusted frequently, say by different members of your household, they may break down more quickly.

This is a close look at a brown leather swivel office chair.

Cheap office chairs may not be particularly durable. Some may last only a few months or perhaps a few years. You may find certain parts breaking down, like the wheels or the adjustment levers.

That said, high-quality office chairs may last a decade or more. You may have to lubricate the wheels or patch up tears as time goes on, but a premium office chair may provide comfort for years to come. Some premium office chair companies even offer limited lifetime warranties.

Price Difference Between Office Chairs and Recliners

You can find a standard office chair for less than $50. Most recliners, on the other hand, start north of $100. Some fashionable budget brands sell recliners for around $250, although some assembly may be required.

A high-quality recliner can easily cost north of $500, while premium chairs can cost more than $1000. You may find recliners selling at a steep discount during various seasonal sales.

High-quality office chairs with an ergonomic design can also cost quite a bit. You may find office chairs retailing for $300 to $500 or more. The highest quality chairs, which you may find in a Chief Executive’s office, may cost more than $1000. These chairs often use premium materials, are quite reliable, feature high adjustability, and typically offer excellent ergonomics.

An ergonomic desk chair could boost productivity. If you or your employees are in pain, a sore back or neck could be distracting. Indeed, a computer chair with an ergonomic design may boost your bottom line!

Ultimately, recliners are typically more expensive than comparable office chairs. That said, if you select premium furniture, you may end up paying quite a bit no matter the type of chair you chose.

Benefits of Office Chairs Versus Recliners

Both recliners and office chairs offer their own unique benefits. Office chairs are very mobile, often offer great lumbar support, and are highly adjustable. The right office chair may even boost productivity. These chairs can be quite affordable and can fit in tight spaces.

A recliner can add a lot of comfort to your living room. Compared to couches, recliners don’t take up a lot of room. Yet they can be very comfortable to lay down on.

History of the Recliner Chairs

This is a close look at a vintage dark brown leather armchair.

Recliner chairs started to appear in the 19th century. Around 1850, reclining camp chairs were becoming increasingly popular in France. These chairs could be folded into a bed, an upright chair, and a lounge chair (meaning you could stretch out your legs). For crowded military camps, these chairs offered a lot of flexibility.

Napoleon the III was among the early adopters of the recliner chair. Still, the reclining chairs developed and used in the 19th century were pretty primitive by today’s standards.

Modern reclining chairs began to appear in the 20th century. In 1928, Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker, a pair of cousins, obtained a patent for a reclining wooden chair. The cousins went on to establish La-Z-Boy, one of the most well-known manufacturers of reclining chairs.

Daniel F. Caldemeyer would later receive a patent for his reclining chairs in 1959. His chair used kinetics science and some of his designs were used by NASA in spaceships. Throughout the 20th century, reclining chairs become more popular, and different models and designs proliferated.

The History of Office Chairs

A close look at a vintage dark leather swivel office chair.

Some historians cite the first known office chair as belonging to Julius Caesar, who used a special gilded chair while conducting official business. Office chairs would continue to evolve through the centuries and by the time trains were becoming popular in the 19th century, Centripetal Spring Armchairs were developed for use aboard trains.

Employers came to realize that the right chairs could be great productivity tools. It’s believed that Charles Darwin, who founded the basic theory of evolution, was the first to attach wheels to his chairs. This allowed him to quickly scoot back and forth in his lab.

Otto Von Bismarck, who played a crucial role in uniting Germany, was also a famous patron of the office chair and ensured that it was distributed to members of parliament.

By the time the 20th century rolled around, office chairs were becoming more common, and more designers were working on them. Many early office chairs vaguely resemble the chairs used today. Still, as our understanding of ergonomics improved, designers have been able to produce increasingly comfortable chairs.

By the 1970s, designers were considering things like blood flow, the number of hours spent in a chair, and other factors to develop a more scientific approach to chairs and ergonomic design. The famous Aeron chair, one of the first popular chairs to rely mostly on mesh for the seat and back support, was introduced in 1994

During the 1990s, computers became more popular in offices and more people found themselves spending more time tied to the desk. As such, many business leaders began to more closely consider the comfort and support offered by office chairs.

Conclusion: Is an Office Chair or Recliner Right For Me?

So which chair is right for you? The answer here will primarily depend on your use case. If you’re looking for a chair for your living room, a recliner is typically a better option. Some smaller swivel recliners may also work as an office chair, but keep in mind that without wheels, you won’t be able to move around.

A nice ergonomic office chair is perhaps more important now than ever before. If you’re working from home, you’ll want a supportive chair that you can use day in and day out. Office chairs are also very flexible. If you need an extra chair in the living room, say while entertaining guests, you can grab the chair from your office.

Recliners are typically more expensive than office chairs. A cheap recliner is going to cost more than a cheap office chair. And a high-quality recliner likewise will cost more than many high-quality office chairs.

If you’re looking for a chair for the living room, a recliner will probably serve you better than an office chair. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a gaming chair or something to put in your home office, an office chair will typically function better.

Once you determine which type of chair you need, you’ll next have to do some research to find the best chair in your price range. Generally speaking, the more you spend, the better the chair. That said, some pieces of furniture are overpriced while others offer great value.

When selecting a chair, also consider if it has to be assembled. If you’re not comfortable with tools, you may find the process of assembling a chair difficult. Many office chairs require assembly, while you can often purchase already-built recliners.

Ultimately, these two chairs serve different purposes. When deciding between an office chair and a recliner, you need to consider your wants, needs, and budget.

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