Growing up in Western PA and West Virginia; most living rooms or dens showcased at least one, maybe two recliners. Much loved, the right to sit in these thrones was dictated by the family hierarchy; think Archie Bunker. When Archie got home from ‘the plant’, no one had better be sitting in that chair.
If you were very lucky, your recliners were tricked out with all the bells and whistles. Full recline with footrest, heat, maybe massage (in those days vibration) and a pocket to hold the TV Guide on the side. The chair was covered in plush upholstery or corduroy or faux leather; real leather was the exception, not the rule. Neighbors and friends with a leather recliner were obviously doing well for themselves.
My hunch is that the recliner explosion coincided with the space race; NASA research found that in zero gravity, the human body rests most comfortably in a reclined posture – hips and knees open beyond 120 degrees. Astronauts (the reality TV stars of the 60’s and 7o’s) were strapped into their spacecraft in the reclining position. If it works for them, it works for home.
I have to be honest, I hated those chairs. I thought they were ugly and unsightly. How humbling now, especially given our ERGONOMICS focus here at ERGOLAB, to realize that La-Z-Boy and Barcalounger had it right all along. Human Factors experts agree that the most comfortable long-term body posture is the recline position.
Why am I thinking about this?
Just came across this link to CORE77 article which details a research project from the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) , sponsored by Freescale Semiconductors. The research initiative had a VERY broad scope, however, as an ergonomist, one particular category of learning jumped out at me.
A group of students investigated the physical ergonomics within this age group, especially concerning the use of smaller devices. They discovered that a conventional small clamshell laptop is most comfortably used lying down in bed with the device on the thigh when the knees are kept up.
Once again, the RECLINE position. Don’t know if sound Ergonomic principles in design were what drove La-Z-Boy and Barcalounger, but I am willing to admit it when I am wrong.