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September 01, 2015

Stylish ease

The relaxing comfort of a recliner lends to the easy-going nature of a room

Kathy McCormick

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So what would you rather have? A down payment for a house or the most unique bean-bag chair in the world? Both cost around $10,000.

The bag of beans, though, is wrapped in luxurious shearing or soft, black leather and created by a renowned designer.

For most of us, however, a more modest version simply does the trick.

Bean bags are comfy, pliable and suitable for any room in the house either for a chair, an ottoman or even a makeshift kid’s bed — and they can be had for under $100. Check out a few of the Canadian websites for ideas:, and

Ottomans have never gone out of style, whether bean bags or other material. Some come with little legs; others can be made to function as a coffee table simply by the addition of a decorative tray on top. Versatility is key — and they come in a wide range of colours and materials.

In fact, says Cathy Miller, they are perfect for multiple functions — and great for smaller spaces. “They’re used for sitting, as an extra side table or as a footstool,” says the media relations expert from Crate and Barrel. “Some offer storage, which is a huge benefit.

“A pair of ottomans tuck nicely under a console table and can be pulled out when needed for extra seating for guests.”

The stools can even be used to extend a sofa’s seating, says Sebastien Fauteux, creative director at Urban Barn. “Ottomans can extend the seat of a sofa to create a sofa chaise another popular use of these versatile furniture pieces.”

It’s also a great way to introduce elements to your room, Fauteux says. “It’s an affordable way to add colour and patterns with less commitment — and it’s even more practical in a small space due to its versatility.”

And it’s popular whether indoors or outside, Miller says. “They serve multiple functions as well as acting as a statement piece or colour punch in the space.”

While Urban Barn hasn’t seen a lot of people asking for bean bag chairs, “what we have seen is a growing demand for smaller poufs,” Fauteux says. “The pouf is a variation of the same theme — and some may see it as a more mature version of the bean bag.”

The smaller poufs or cubes are ideal for small spaces, such as condos, says Miller. “They can be easily moved around for seating and are much less cumbersome than extra chairs or a bench. They’re also great in an entranceway for putting on shoes.”

All materials are common, she says, from leather, to fabric, rattan, suede, and lambskin. “Sizes and shapes vary, too, and I see them at every price point.”

But the main attraction is still the larger furniture pieces to sit on — and recliners have evolved to become a mainstay for every room, especially with the advent of the over-sized big-screen TVs and theatre rooms.

“Recliners were once very popular,” says Fauteux. “They were primarily bought for comfort only and not so much with design in mind. They were bulky and lacking in style, making it hard for people to find a recliner to co-ordinate with their décor — and for that reason, people fell out of love with the recliner.”

That has changed today, though, with more attention to design details and styling.

“People today prefer a recliner that looks more like a regular upholstered armchair with a hidden mechanism,” says Miller. “Streamlined, modern recliners have definitely increased in popularity.”

And the choices include chairs that are much smaller — not only ideal for the condo owner or the smaller home sizes, but for everyone, says Fauteux. “Even with larger homes, people tend to purchase multiple chairs for a larger spaces, or have an accent chair in a room such as a bedroom or den.”

Adds Crate and Barrel’s Miller: “The advantage of a smaller recliner is that you get the comfort of a chair with an ottoman, but have a much smaller footprint in the room.”

Big and puffy is out, she says. “Sleek, simple and clean is in. A chair that doesn’t look like a recliner is the ideal.”

And today’s styles are more ergonomic, featuring a slimmer profile, adds Fauteux. “Recliners today have an easy-to-operate mechanism (sometimes even with a power motor).”

Colours tend to be solid and neutral, he says, to “blend in with other upholstery pieces. Leather recliners have been our best sellers in past seasons.”

Mechanisms are more versatile and sophisticated today as well. At Crate and Barrel, for example, they have a push-back mechanism that allows you to simply lean back to activate the recline function, rather than the side handle that is standard on many other recliners.

And recliners today can do much more than simply recline.

“How about a white leather recliner for the nursery that rocks, swivels and reclines?” says Fauteux of one of the Urban Barn models.

“Urban Barn recliners feature a 360-degree swivel base, adjustable headrests, a rocker, and upholstered in top grain Italian leather.

While prices vary greatly depending on style and quality, they can range from $1,400 to $3,000.

It’s all about comfort, says Miller.

“I think the idea of taking time out to relax has entered the public mind recently. Life is so busy that people plan their leisure and there’s limited time for it, so it’s considered quite valuable and they make purchases of all sorts of things, furniture included, to improve their leisure time.”

Add on the convenience and strides in TV programming that has added to the desire for comfort seating, she says. “We always watched TV and wanted to relax but even more so now, when digital subscriptions and cable channels allow for a home movie experience anytime people want it.”

Just need the popcorn and you’re all set.

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