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Recliner chairs -- from Archie Bunker's living room to modern times.

Recliner chairs have always been a coveted luxury in American homes. As a child growing up in the 1970's I remember never missing an episode of All In The Family. I always loved the scene when somebody sat in Archie Bunker's recliner chair. He would tilt his head sideways, purse his lips together, and furrow his brows until the "intruder" got out of his chair.

I witnessed in my own family the same status given to the sacred recliner chair. Usually this recliner chair existed exclusively to comfort the man of the house. (Remember, this was the 1970's) I have to admit that I did not see this in my own house, because my father was not fond of sitting down for long. It was in my grandparents house that I saw this recliner chair phenomenon. I recall visiting my grandparents one fine summer and discovered the most bizarre thing. After dinner I went over to their television, selected a show to watch, and proceeded to get comfortable in the big recliner chair in the corner. When my grandmother came around the corner after cleaning up the kitchen she gasped. A look of shock was upon her face as she saw me laid out with my feet up watching the Bugs Bunny Road Runner hour. (It must have been a Saturday right) She quickly corrected the situation and hurried me out of the recliner. She said, " had better leave that chair for your grand dad.....that's his chair and nobody else uses it." Well, I was surprised to witness such drama about a beat up recliner chair. I realized that there was more truth to the character of Archie Bunker then I had ever imagined.

It's three decades later now, I'm 40 years old, and I have a home of my own now. I too have a favorite recliner chair. In fact, I'm sitting it right now as I type this little jewel out on my ancient laptop. (Can you say 286? ........Sure ya can.) The difference with my marriage is that we bought two black leather recliners. My wife and I use them both and there is no personal attachment to one or the other. (That's probably why we bought avoid clashes over who gets to sit in the recliner)

Owning leather recliners is no longer a luxury for the wealthy minority.

You'll notice that I said "leather recliners". We are not wealthy people by any means, and that goes to show how the status of leather furniture has changed. There was a time not too long ago when only the privileged minority could afford such a luxury. In the past leather recliners were very expensive. Their cost was due to the manufacturing process and the cost of the leather used. In order to have a large chair completely upholstered in real leather you need to have a large animal hide. Way back in "furniture history" earlier Renaissance styles were high status items. The Spanish were exceptionally enamored by leather pieces and of course we can't forget about the English. The English aristocrats were proud owners of high quality leather furniture. Keep in mind that in those days leather furniture was ALL leather and not corrected, blended, or sectioned.

The 18th century craftsmen had perfected the art of tanning. Tanning the leather is a process where you introduce dye and prepare it for the end state. Tanning in the 18th century took approximately 9-12 months. There was even a tradition for some royalty to start the process of building a fine piece of furniture when a child was conceived. The death of the Ox or Cow was paramount to a sacrifice and the chair would be delivered the same time as the baby. Of course the craftsmen could never dream of owning a leather chair. They could only take pride in their work. (I'm sure they tested their work when nobody was looking.) Just in case you are wondering....we still use cattle hides to make leather furniture. Cattle hide is ideal because of it's size, strength, and durability. Leather recliners wear over time and actually become softer and smoother.

As time went on the demand for leather furniture grew. Now you can buy a nice leather recliner for 500-1000 dollars. Of course you can buy more expensive pieces if you can afford them. The reason that the price has dropped is due to the sheer demand from the public. In order to keep manufacturing costs down, the leading furniture companies use blends, composites and sectional priority. They will use real leather in the area of the recliner that you rest your arms, head, and back on, but they will use vinyl on the back, sides and foot rest. Some consumers insist on investing only in the finest recliner(s) and they can spend three to four times what the average buyer will spend. To some degree you get what you pay for, but the comfort and appearance of the lower priced recliners is outstanding. This was not always the case. In the last decade furniture manufacturers have managed to satisfy consumer demand by keeping costs down and delivering perceived luxury.

Of course, leather recliners are not the only recliners on the market. Upholstered recliners of various materials and coverings are very popular. I've heard many people say they don't like leather furniture because it is sticky in hot weather. They claim that leather "sweats" or that it is cold when you want it to be warm. I've found it to be the opposite. Our leather recliners are actually cool when we have a hot summer's day. In the winter we often have fleece covers over them. They seem to always gravitate towards the colder end of the spectrum. It all comes down to taste and preference.

If you are shopping for a recliner chair I recommend you click the links in this article to browse through some of the better made recliners on the market. I hope you have enjoyed this short article on recliner chairs. Come back and visit soon. You may want to bookmark this page for future reference.

Brent Truitt is a freelance writer and publisher for

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