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Every man should read this one

Why does Comfortable have to be Ugly?

By 06/09/2010February 10th, 201745 Comments

My sister called me the other day to have a chat. She informed me she was comfortably ensconced in her husband’s black (and lumpy I might add) recliner. She has 2 very small children so she is fine with comfortable instead of fashionable at the current moment. She will pick up the battle to relegate the lumpy recliner to the depths of the basement in the future when the kids are older.

It seems like I’ve had this conversation with a few clients lately so it got me to thinking. . . why does comfortable furniture have to be ugly? I know recliners have come a long way (below) but [some] husbands still seem to be only interested in the cushy “Michelin man” looking ones.


It’s the same with a chair and half. They were a big fad in the 80’s but the scale of a chair and half is usually too big for most spaces not to mention they are generally not attractive pieces of furniture. But they sure are fun to sit and lounge around in. What is up with that?



You’ll be happy to know I’ve figured it out. And here’s what it is, you cannot take pillows, wrap them in leather, and basically expect beautiful? That’s just the way it is. And there’s nothing else we can do ladies, except find a new and fabulous spot for the TV that is hidden, out of the sightline of your living room or great room (I know pretty impossible right?)

Sigh. I fear the battle of comfort over beauty will rage on because I don’t know if this is a good enough argument to get your husband to agree to buy this (above) kind of recliner instead.

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Related posts:

An Open Letter to my Lover on Decorating

When to Buy Leather Furniture

Happiness is. . . A Happy Wife

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  • Karena says:

    Maria, I think in the right spot the newer styled/ designer ottomans can be perfect!!

    Art by Karena

  • Vanessa@decor happy says:

    So true! I recently had a client that wanted to spend $7000 (yes that's right) on a leather lazyboy sectional – with recliners in most seats. I tried to suggest other, more stylish options but they were stuck on the lazyboy for comfort so they ordered it. I won't be taking any "after" photos of this one! (sorry clients and lazyboy)

  • Kim@Chattafabulous says:

    I am happy to report that my husband has learned to live without a recliner! (thank goodness) Hope you can stop by again soon!

  • s. says:

    I totally agree, Maria. I commend Lazeeboy for trying to "up" their style quotient in recent years but just as a general statement, comfy does not have to = ugly. I have a 15 year-old sofa that has seen better days, but is comfy and I cannot afford to replace at this point in time. So, I draped it with a lovely ralph lauren bed coverlet and a few pillows I discovered on sale and I think it has kept the sofa's comfort but made it look infinitely better.

    This reminds me of an ongoing discussion from the fabulous YouLookFab site, where we note how many folks wear stained sweats and flip flops on airplanes now. While I'm ALL for comfort on flights, there are definitely ways to be both comfortable and inoffensive in dress.

    Keep up the good work!

  • mydivabydesign - The Diva's Home says:

    I think people believe that the only way to be comfortable is to be slouchy. In dress as well as furniture. If they would only take a chance and sit in other furniture styles, they might be surprised. I moved our lazy-boy out of the house. I had a really good excuse! It doesn't fit in with the Feng Shui flow!:)

  • Elizabeth Brown says:

    I believe most husbands would agree to the above pictured recliner if that woman came with it!

  • Mary says:

    My husband has an ugly Lazy Boy that he refuses to give up. He tells me it's his house too. BLAH BLAH BLAH. The day he gets hit by a bus that sucker is going to the curb.

  • Kat says:

    Totally agree… just managed to get rid of a very ugly, large, blue, leather matching sofa and love seat that came with a terrific guy…
    Also just looked at your kitchen post…Great inspiration our kitchen getting a face is over 100 years old and the kitchen was renovated 28 years ago and way to "modern" for the house.

  • Tammy@InStitches says:

    When I was first married, my husband wanted a Lazy Boy recliner. I let him get it but I made sure it was in purple leather ! Ha.

  • Jeannine 520 says:

    My take on this is that people like to use their kids as an excuse for living in a sloppy house. In my experience those with lovely (or sloppy) houses will be consistent and they will live basically the same way when the kids are older. As far as recliners go, you'd be more likely to see a rhinoceros in my house! Luckily my husband thinks anyone who is too tired to use a regular piece of furniture should put themselves to bed. I knew I'd marry him when I heard those words! 🙂

  • Laurie - Little Blue Chairs says:

    I had this battle with my husband. I had him make a choice on which was more important, rocking or reclining. We ended up with a nicer leather recliner. It is still hard to place in a room, but it is better than that monstrosity that we had before.

    And I don't in general believe that comfortable has to be ugly. Just like practical does not have to be ugly.

  • Mariska Meijers says:

    I just bought an oversized vintage Artifort chair It is really comfortable and I am going to have it reupholstered. I think it will look really good when ready!

  • summerbl4ck says:

    How about this question–does stylish mean uncomfortable? I think s. hit on something that cuts both ways "there are definitely ways to be both comfortable and (stylish)". As an avid reader of design mags and blogs I know I've seen a lot of great "looking" rooms that would not be comfortable. I think sometimes designers forget that clients actually have to live in the house and that it's not just for a photoshoot. You can't just disregard a whole category of furniture that people obviously find comfortable. Let's think a little deeper–what exactly is it about the recliner that is so desirable by some, are there other more attractive solutions that incorporate the elements of comfort and casual style?

  • Annie @ The House That Jade Built says:

    When we first got married, my husband NEEDED a recliner. So I bought a Lazy Boy in a great light olive leather – it's super comfortable and looks great like a fat chair. Then, we had babies and had to have a rocking recliner. So now I have two stinking rocking recliners in my house. They are as nice looking as can be for rocking recliners, but ugh when I don't need to rock kids – they will go!

  • That one girl says:

    Husbands and recliners, I don't get it. We don't even USE the recline in our couch but heaven forbid we have a couch that doesn't recline. I guess this is like throw pillows with girls. My husband doesn't understand them, "We don't even USE all these pillows and you are buying more?!" But they are pretty, don't you GET IT?! And the battle rages on!

  • Annie Wilcox Designs says:

    You are right, it is not like the only other option is a Victorian Couch/Settee. There is always a middle ground. Perhaps those who fall in love with plush don't explore their options.

  • Karla @ Kerrisdale Design says:

    As the wife of a guy who loves comfort and the mother of two small children {who are messy, like to jump on furniture and generally cause impish mischief} I say that having a comfortable, kid-friendly home does not mean sacrificing style. Make smart choices when it comes to materials, textures, and finishes,but please {PLEASE}, don't pick frumpy furniture! There is no reason for it. Make your home something that is beautiful, stylish, comfortable, and enjoyable for the whole family. This isn't a herculean task…it's realistic and attainable.

    Here's to happy, stylish homes without a Lazy Boy in sight!


  • ddu says:

    My husband's beached-whale of a chair is in our living room for three more years, until our son graduates from high school and we can get our study back (he uses it for his schoolwork now). It's like having a fine leather backhoe in the room! I try to focus attention on other decorative features in the space, but all eyes eventually settle on the tonnage of the chair. Sigh. . .

  • Squeak says:

    Thank God I've never married! I'm sure there must be some advantages to having a husband, but I still haven't figured out what they are.

    Since I get to choose what my home looks like, it is both stylish and comfortable. Some friends of mine have two LaZBoy chairs and a LaZBoy sofa, none of which I find comfortable. I think the LaZBoy stuff must be designed for tall people: I'm 5'2" and just can't get comfortable in any of the chairs.

  • A Gift Wrapped Life says:

    Recliners are the design gods way of reminding us that we can't win every design battle-lol! Happy to report that there isn't a recliner here though I know in my heart that it would be appreciated beyond words.

  • Tara says:

    Isn't this always the issue? I've declared our house a LaZBoy-free zone. (Although I did give my husband the option of choosing a surprisingly nice looking recliner from Ethan Allen, which he passed on.) We've ended up finding furniture we could both agree on for its style AND its comfort.

  • Kiki says:

    This is a funny post that Mr. X and I actually had a discussdion about; so much so, I posted a topic on finding the perfect man chair…LOL


  • The-Countrypolitan says:

    Thank goodness there are still some men that can get beyond the L.B. mentality… in favor of good design.

    I just installed a new custom contemporary sectional in a gorgeous brown leather and a swivel chair in a tweed fabric for a young 20 something year old man who is on his way up.

    In lieu of the typical recliner… a great alternative is a push-back with an ottoman. Flexsteel Furniture has a decent looking one called the "Wayne Press Back Chair & Ottoman"

  • Lazy Gardens says:

    If you want to kill off that blimped-out doughboy of a recliner, point out that it's going to give the user back problems. Ergonomics applies in the living room as well as the office cube and the factory floor.

    I just went through this with my MIL, whose back has developed problems that her furniture is making worse.

    Sinking into a chair that's so butt-spring your butt hits the floor as your knees hit your chin can't be comfortable. Getting out of it strains your knees and back.

    A chair that is so oversized that you can't sit in it without a C-curve in your spine is not good for you. Sitting with your feet on the floor, and the bend of your knees at the edge of the seat, you should be able to feel the back of the sofa or chair against your butt. If you have to curve to touch the back of the furniture, the seat is too deep. Get a firm pillow or buy a smaller chair. (in a tasteful color, of course)

  • Carol@TheDesignPages says:

    LaZboy aside, there are a ton of comfortable and stylish options for sofas, sectionals and chairs but they're not inexpensive. Have you ever heard the marketing adage, Fast, cheap, good. Pick 2"? Well in design I'd say, "style, comfort, price". Pick 2. Don't give up the fight!

  • Grace says:

    My parents want me to help them redecorate their living room – and they want to incorporate not one, but two recliners. Yikes, I don't even know where to begin.

  • Donna says:

    Wow, Maria! You seem to have hit just the right chord with everyone. Being rather out of sync with the stylish world, I have seen so many homes with recliners in them that I just thought that you were supposed to have one.

    This is so embarrassing to admit! I love our recliner! It's my favorite chair. In fact, I have to fight to get it too because everyone wants to sit in it during a movie. Poor dear hubby hardly ever gets to use it. Even the dog and cats fight over who gets the foot part. Ha!

    I guess we aren't careful enough about style. But I'm looking forward to a day when that will change. The post you wrote about why hubbies want to spend more on trips, tv's etc, really got me though. Except for the day we bought our furniture which was a long time ago, there's never been a real budget available.

    I'd like to send that open letter to my dear hubby and see about a decorating budget. :o) Frankly, the chair has got to go. We need something that is comfortable but nice looking too.

    Maybe next year!

  • barbara@hodge:podge says:

    Glad to see I am not alone in the "husband wants cushy recliner chair" club. But gosh darn it – somehow our recliner "broke" when we moved, so sad…..not!

    We do have a leather sofa and loveseat but I went and bought one with modern and clean lines, no marshmallow cushions – love it!

  • chanteusevca says:

    What a chuckle I got from this post, Maria. Thankfully, my husband agrees with you and me and he does not want a "Michelan man" recliner. He told me this recently when we were visiting one of our daughters in her new house where her husband had delightly placed his chair and a half recliner in the middle of the room. Now if I could only get him to agree on paint colour!

  • Marcus Design says:

    I am so thankful that my hubby does not desire a recliner or Michelin style sofa!! Thank God 🙂 Although there are a lot of other things around the house that bother me every time I walk passed them that he does not seem to notice (that little ding in the wall that was filled and never painted over…you know what I mean!), but over all we have been able to attain a comfy environment without the frump. I hope that will continue!!


  • Anonymous says:

    Although I am not a husband )or male for that matter), I am sometimes overcome with the urge for a recliner. And I can tell you exactly when those urges strike.

    They hit right after I look at a design magazine/feature/blog/book that features uncomfortable and otherwise exquisite furniture.
    Couches that come up to your shoulder blades – I'm not wearing a corset, I would like to be able to lean.
    Chairs that you can't sit on – art is lovely, but please keep it off my ass.
    Etc, etc. I would trust designers more if they didn't seem to value form over function. I'm not trying to insult here, but it needs to be said. A sofa should be comfortable and beautiful. If you are willing to sacrifice comfort for beauty you should not be designing furniture.

  • Mona Thompson says:

    Oh , I wish I could post a picture here of my family room. If you are interested I will send it to you. Believe me I am NOT a fan of lazy boy recliners or leather sectionals. Ugh. However, we bought a wonderful leather recliner several years ago. It was pretty expensive. It looks nothing like a recliner. It has soft supple leather that has faded and worn beautifully. It doesn't have those huge ugly rolled arms or big marshmallow back cushions. It looks like a tailored club chair with wonderful aged nailheads. I have had numerous people call and want o know where we purchased it over the years but it has been discontinued. I have NEVER seen another one like it. It is sitting in my family room beside a great looking Wesley Allen chair and ottoman and my sofa is a cotton velvet with aubusson pillows. We literally fight over who is going to sit in it. You definitely don't have to sacrifice comfort for style.

  • shiree segerstrom says:

    Worry not! Comfort and beauty can and do coexist! Think soft velvety fabrics, cushy seating, diaphanous curtains, books everywhere, down pillows, and plenty of fresh cut flowers. Shiree Segerstrom

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Anonymous with the urge to buy a recliner after reading stuffy design mags,

    I agree with the uncomfortable furniture, but a piece of furniture that feels like you are in bed, is not attractive. That is my only point. I'm not saying we should design uncomfortable but sexy rooms at all.

    And Grace, my mom and dad have a reclining sofa too. I think all you can do there is pick a great fabric and still design a room around that. There's a certain age where comfort does take priority and I can get that, certainly with my parents I do!

    Thanks for all your comments!!

  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I can't believe the controversy this has stirred up. Husbands hit by buses? Hello. Here is my humble non decorator opinion: Lazy boy recliners and all that super cozy comfy stuff belongs in the movie/entertainment room. That's where we like to sit and watch t.v. , sports, movies etc. Comfort is a must during 'The Matrix' trilogy marathon. Keep the covered pillowed stuff out of my living room where I want some comfort but mostly beauty for sitting and visiting. I don't want my guests falling asleep in beds masquerading as chairs . . .

  • DesignTies says:

    I enjoyed reading the comments almost as much as the post, Maria!
    Looking forward to tossing OUR recliner one day (not a poofy one thank goodness)…

  • The Asbury Family says:

    Laughing. And I think you know why. Very humorous. And very true.


  • Donna says:

    This has to be the funniest post yet. I laughed and laughed reading everyone's comments! Who knew furniture could be so gender specific (except for me of course who loves that Lazy Boy–should they call it Lazy Girl?) Anyway, I like what one of your commenters said about the I wish we had one! We would have to give up the sewing room…and know I'm not about to do that! :o)

  • Michelle says:

    oooohh booy, tell me about it! I let my husband choose our couch and warned him it would look terrible in a month, he didn't believe me. Now we are re-doing it, so satisfying to hear him tell me I was right…now I get veto rights on all furniture.

  • Joseph says:

    Wow, a lot of posts, and not very many from guys. Here’s the problem with the specific recliner with the foxy looking lady in it that you used as an example of all things wonderful, recliner-wise. It’s too small. The model is actually slouching in the chair so her head will hit the head rest. If she sits up straight, it will be at too low a height. Aaaannndddd, she is undoubtedly considerably shorter than I am because I’m six feet tall. So, something like that would be, for most men, very much a non-starter.

    My first good chair, purchased in 1968, was a rocker. I used it for reading. For my first birthday celebration after we got married my wife (34 years now and counting!) got me a rocker/recliner for my study. I kept that chair for 25 years until it finally gave up the ghost. It fit my body perfectly and was simplicity itself to switch from recliner to rocker as I shifted my body from time to time. I read well over 500 books in that chair. Sadly, it has now been replaced with a rocker/recliner that does not suit me nearly as well.

    The reason guys like the big lumpy looking chair is usually because that’s the one that’s the most comfortable for them. And lots and lots of guys think it’s stupid to have a beautiful, absolutely gorgeous chair if it’s not comfortable. Stupid guys, right? Really, form follows function. Those who design ignore that dictum at their peril.

    Frank Lloyd Wright designed beautiful dining room chairs no one could sit in because he could not bring himself to design them with anything but a back that came up at 90 degrees to the seat. The first thing I learned in the woodworking class on chairs is that the back must be tilted back 11 degrees. And when the bottom comes up at 5 degrees, you have a chair that is eminently comfortable, all ready for those wonderful dinner party/conversations that last until the wee hours of the morning. You can get by without the tilted bottom, but an absolutely perpendicular back is sheer torture. Wright knew that, of course, and once said that he could only bear sitting in his own chairs for a short period of time. But with him, as it is for many others who design, his design concepts were more important to him than their utility. I am an avid fan of his work, but on this issue I firmly believe Wright was, well, wrong!

  • allie says:

    Hey, guess what all??? I'm an in-home designer for a La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery. Did you even know they have in-home design? Yep, they do. They have so many more things besides recliners. I must admit that a lot of the stuff is just down right ugly!! But…after working there for a year, I've learned that ugly does equal comfort. Basically, the more tufts and lumbar support, the more comfortable it is. The more streamlined and stylish, the less comfortable. I always tell my customers, you have to be comfortable first and foremost or you won't ever use what you are investing in. The challenge is making the reclining pieces look less ugly by choosing the best color and fabric. I think the recliner is never going away because it IS so comfortable. I'm almost thinking of getting one myself! And I don't have a husband! Maybe the Hayden pushback which fits me perfectly, in a nice fabric, of course, with nail heads!! Ugg! I never thought I'd hear myself say that!

  • Rebecca says:

    Wow – I am not about to get rid of my hubby. He had about as good look of recliner as they come in a navy wing back style but he did not like the fact that his feet hug over the edge when it reclined. So a few years ago we got two push back chairs and one ottoman. It was not long before I ordered an ottoman for myself. Sharing did not work even tho the space was a bit tight for two. I used to hang out on the sofa but since having the chair most of the time that is where I end up sitting. I am all for style but if we do not have a comfortable place to read and watch a movie what use is the living room? I now fell the room is comfortable and about as stylish as my budget allows.

    I suspect very little time is spent in most of the rooms featured in design magazines.

  • Anonymous says:

    I totally understand why guys find the LazyBoys more comfortable. What I don't understand is why other furniture makers don't make more comfortable furniture and why LazyBoy doesn't have a better selection of fabric to make theirs look better. (I went to a showroom & looked but couldn't find anything I liked.)

  • allie says:

    The reason La-Z-Boy does not have better fabric selections is because the fabrics for the recliners must be totally tough and durable. The recliners get so much use and I have seen some 25, even 30 years old in my customer's homes. So unfortunately in the fabric market so many of these fabrics are not that pretty. The great prints are not usually in super durable fabric. But given that, keep in mind that their corporate headquarters are in Monroe, Michigan, the middle of nowhere, and they could probably use better fabric direction. Feel free to write to them and let them know they need more/better fabrics! That would make my job easier!

  • Cathie says:

    yes this post is old but i just ran across it.
    Although i hate the michelin look of comfy furniture, i do believe why some people pick that is for comfort and they have more important things to worry about such as life and not whether the sofa or chair’s style will be approved by the home decor police.

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