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Recliners in Design: Yay or Nay?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

The debate continues between husbands and wives about how to mix his and her tastes, and one of the common requests by husbands (yes I’m generalizing!) is the placement of a big ol’ recliner smack dab in front of a giant screen. I’ll admit, there’s something comforting about the feeling of certain cushioning recliners for the television and movie watching experience, but the look?  I’ll just say it: I’m not a fan. Raise your hand if you’re with me.

Kathy M. recently wrote to this to me. “How can I incorporate a leather recliner in a design plan for my main living area? My husband is insistent!” I invited contributing writer and interior designer Courtney of Courtney Out Loud to tackle this topic, please welcome him back with his thoughts on the issue of recliners in interior decorating. 

“I don’t think I have ever met anyone who has ever said they want their home to be an uncomfortable and uninviting place. Mind you, that everyone has a different concept of what that is, but I think I can safely say that home is where we all go at the end of the day to kick off your shoes, let down your hair, and relax.

So it comes as little surprise when clients come to me and ask for interiors that exemplify those ideals of comfort. Kate came to me with a question from one of her readers on how to integrate a recliner into her home, I had a moment of pause. To be honest, I still have flashbacks of the large, over-stuffed leather recliners that seemed to dominate the 70s and 80s living rooms. To me, they exemplify an overly relaxed way of addressing a client’s need for comfort.

However, I firmly believe you can still have a place to put up your feet without sacrificing style. Incorporating a recliner into your room is simple as these rules: Reimagine It, Scale It, or Forget It.

Reimagine It.   Canadian designer Meredith Heron, believes that recliners can work in any space but they shouldn’t look like recliners. "I use recliners in many of my rooms" states Heron. "But I do them all custom which allows me the greatest control." In the example below, Heron reimagined the traditional leather recliner as a pair of streamlined, velvet club chairs that flow effortlessly into her pale grey and cream palette. 

merideth heron recliners in living room

Meredith Heron Designs

Stephen Tomar and Stuart Lampert of Tomar Lampert Associates followed a similar approach to Heron in creating the pair of channel back recliners in the serene shade  that serves as the focal point in a monochromatic room.

Tomar Lampert Associates

Tomar Lampert Associates 

Takeaway: If budget allows, a custom upholstered recliner allows you to all the creature comforts of a recliner without sacrificing any style (see also some of Kate’s picks below).

Scale It.   Typically, I love big things. Huge things. The more oversized the better, as they relate to accessories, artwork and lighting. However, when it comes to furniture, pieces should always be balanced and in scale with the room, which is why I have a hard time with recliners. I find many to be bulky white elephants that clients try to shoehorn into a space. They are the furniture equivalent of bullies, forcing all the other furniture in the space to the edges of the room.

Fortunately, retailers have taken heed and are producing some fantastically sleek and deliciously modern takes on recliners. Mid-century modern lovers will undoubtedly love the classic lines of the Milo Baughman Recliner 74 by Design Within Reach. The walnut legs elevate the body of the chair making it less bulky than its current counterparts and the wispy arms along with the elongated back create a frame that is less ballerina than lumbering lumberjack. The sense of lightness and airiness of the piece isn’t overpowering and won’t overwhelm a room.

milo baughman recliner

Design Within Reach


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Stylish Ways to Display Black + White Photos

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

I met a friend at her house a few weeks ago, she has four cute kids and an empty hallway, and she was asking what to do with the “blankness” of it all.  I’m a big believer in “bigger is better, make a statement!” when it comes to displaying photographs, and you cannot go wrong with black and white – they are undeniably classic and oh so sophisticated when gathered in a group on display.

For her hallway, I suggested four extra large black frames and white mats with their darling faces enlarged and all four hung in a grid; or a simple hallway collage like this one I created for another friend years ago.

But it got me thinking…beyond the hallway, there are multiple ways to display black and white photographs, it just depends on the space and whether you prefer a more eclectic and asymmetric display, or if you favor a symmetric or streamlined look.

Symmetry is the easiest look to pull off, just gather up the same size frames in a grid – bonus points for large off-center mats, and then hang your favorites in a series.  The bigger frames and mats are an investment but worth it, the look is timeless.

symmetrical grid black and whites

Samantha Pynn

The best part about a gallery like this is you can change out the photos as you please since photography enlargements are so affordable.   Showcase your favorite vacation, your wedding, silly faces, your family members, whatever is meaningful.

symmetrical black and white photos over console



This image has been seen by many, but it’s still one of my favorites.  It took some thought to achieve the look, but I love how this display keeps your eye moving around and yet it is still so well balanced. Notice the mix of black and white frames in different sizes and that one black mat thrown into the mix, all of it hung on a blue painted plank wall – lovely.

black and white photo display pottery barn

Pottery Barn


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