Who are the Best American Reclining Sofa and Sectional Manufacturers?
Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Written by Jeff Frank
The companies and ratings listed in this article have been compiled by Jeff Frank, a 40 year veteran of the furniture industry.
Mr. Frank is the author of over 300 articles on a wide range of furniture topics.
Ratings and comments are based on his personal opinion and available information.
No payments or other considerations have been solicited from any of the companies on this list.
General Information About Reclining Sofas and Sectionals:
Motion (reclining) sofas and sectionals can be expected to have a significantly higher rate of problems and reduced durability than stationary sofas made by the same manufacturer.
This is due both to the increased weight added by the reclining mechanisms and additional wear created by the moving parts.
The increased weight makes this furniture very vulnerable to damage caused during shipment from the factory to the retailer, delivery from the retailer to your home and moving the furniture around your room.
Reclining chairs are not as susceptible to damage as the larger, heavier motion sofas and sectionals.
Reclining chairs typically have replaceable components that are easier (and less expensive) to repair if needed.
Over 50% of U.S. motion furniture is sold in leather or faux leather.
One possible reason for the popularity of leather in reclining furniture is that, until the past decade, leather and leather-like materials were the least likely to wear through on a seat where the user is constantly sliding back and forth.
Microfibers and high performance fabrics, have reduced the risks that a fabric will wear out, even when used on a motion furniture piece.
In my experience approximately 50% of people looking for “leather“ furniture do not know the difference between genuine and faux leathers.
A substantial percentage of all complaints about reclining furniture result from bonded leather fabrics that have begun peeling or disintegrating, sometimes within one year.
Do not buy any furniture with bonded leather fabric!!!
At the end of this article I have included information that should be understood before purchasing “leather” reclining furniture.
The Top 6 Manufacturers
The first 6 manufacturers on this list produce reclining furniture at a significantly higher quality level than the remaining companies listed. Prices are also higher.
These 6 companies build furniture that is stronger, better tailored and far more durable than the lower priced mass produced items sold by the rest of the companies listed.
1) MotionCraft, Morganton, NC
MotionCraft, a division of Sherrill Furniture, has been building custom reclining furniture for over 40 years.
The line offers a huge variety of arm styles, sizes, configurations and custom options. Everything is available in over 1000 fabrics and 100 leathers.
This is handcrafted furniture at the highest quality level, built by experienced, skilled artisans. The detailed tailoring goes beyond what is possible for most other motion furniture manufacturers.
Most reclining furniture is designed for efficient mass production, emphasizing simple tailoring techniques such as “sock-on” (pre-sewn) covers requiring minimal time or skill to upholster.
MotionCraft pays attention to the type of details typically found only in the highest quality stationary seating. Pleats are perfect. Brass nail heads and button tufting are meticulously attached one at a time by hand.
They even take the time and effort on details that cannot be seen. This includes things like hand-trimming frames to make sure mechanisms work smoothly and wrapping exposed frame parts in cotton fiber to reduce abrasion and extend the life of the furniture.
Styles are traditional to transitional. Product lines include recliners, reclining sofas, reclining sectionals and home theater.
2) Hancock & Moore, Hickory, NC
H&M is one of the top quality upholstered furniture manufacturers in the U.S. Leather is their specialty, but they also have a selection of high quality fabrics.
From a strictly quality standpoint H&M may deserve the top ranking. I have put them at #2 primarily because reclining furniture is not a major portion of their business and they do not have the extensive collections and options that can be found at many of the other manufacturers included on this list.
Hancock & Moore uses Leggett & Platt power mechanisms. Manual reclining mechanisms are not available.
L&P is the largest manufacturer of mechanisms in the world. H&M claims that their mechanisms are all U.S. made, but L&P makes the same mechanisms to identical specifications worldwide, so it can be difficult to verify.
Although H&M is known for heirloom quality hand-crafted furniture, it is important to note that their reclining furniture cannot be expected to have the same durability and quality level as their stationary seating.
For example 8 way hand tied coil foundations cannot be used in reclining furniture. The mechanisms occupy the space where the coils would be in a non-motion sofa.
The design and positioning of the mechanisms and the movable components can also weaken other parts of the construction over time.
Mechanisms can have a far more limited lifespan than the rest of the piece. The moving parts create stress and abrasion on other parts of the furniture that can cause them to wear out sooner.
The additional weight of the mechanisms makes the furniture more susceptible to damage when being transported or even moved in the home.
3) American Leather, Dallas Texas
American Leather was founded in 1990 on a completely different principle and philosophy than the other manufacturers in the Top 5.
The company’s production is highly automated for mass customization of high end seating through state of the art technology.
The company is constantly developing new designs and technology, including its own power mechanisms that are produced exclusively for their own use.
Fabrics, leathers and frames are all cut on automated computerized machinery, including video cameras and lasers, to minimize waste and maximize efficiency.
The goal is to produce top quality seating in 30 days or less.
As indicated by the name of the company, American Leather specializes in leather furniture, but also has an extensive fabric offering as well.
A very wide range of leathers is available to furniture makers. American Leather claims to use only the top 10% of hides available worldwide.
There can be a substantial price difference between top and bottom quality genuine leathers.
For example, a cheap Chinese corrected leather may be purchased by a manufacturer for as little as $2 per square foot while a top quality European natural leather can cost 4 times as much.
Assuming an average sofa requires 200 sq. ft. of leather, the difference in cost (to the manufacturer before any profit markups) can be more than $1000.
For lower cost seating from American Leather, there is a wide variety of fabrics ranging from microfibers to high performance Crypton and Sunbrella fabrics. These fabrics have great durability and a high stain resistance but cost substantially less than high quality leathers.
Cushions are described as "high density" and " multi-dimensional” foam combined with down and feathers. That is a very general description, but this is a company that places a priority on superior comfort and durability.
American Leather is one of the founding members of the Sustainable Furniture Council, which emphasizes environmentally friendly and sustainable "green" materials and production practices.
4) Bradington Young, Hickory, NC
Bradington Young offers an extensive collection of well-built traditional and classically styled reclining sofas and sectionals. The company specializes in top grain leathers but also offers fabric options.
Details and finish are not quite up to the standards of MotionCraft or Hancock & Moore, but prices are lower, and the overall quality is still excellent.
Bradington Young is a division of Hooker Furniture. Hooker also offers a similarly styled line of reclining sofas and sectionals manufactured in China.
Hooker’s prices (and quality) for their Chinese made products are significantly below BY.
5) Smith Brothers, Berne, IN
This 90 year old furniture manufacturer is located in the heart of Indiana’s Amish community and prides itself on building furniture the old fashioned way, one piece at a time. Everything the company makes is custom-built.
Frames are solid maple, reinforced with double dowels, screws glue, corner blocks and metal brackets. The company builds its own frames.
The company designs its own exclusive arm support system to reduce the arm wobble that is commonly found in reclining furniture.
Seat cushions are removable and reversible with coil spring construction. No-sag springs are used to support the back.
Smith Brothers uses a modular bracketing system for their sofas. Armless sides have exposed connector brackets, so all configurations must have an arm at both the left and right ends.
Other high quality manufacturers use similar connection systems for their sectionals, but only Smith Brothers uses it for their reclining sofas and loveseats as well.
6) Omnia Leather, Chino CA.
This is a company that straddles the line of better and lesser quality reclining furniture.
At the lower end Omnia tries to offer its custom-built furniture at prices that are competitive with the larger mass produced leather furniture manufacturers.
The basic Omnia leather reclining sofa or sectional uses cheap Chinese leathers and lower quality cushions.
However the company also offers a wide selection of better quality European top and full grain leathers and upgraded "contract grade" foam or spring down cushions.
These upgraded materials, along with the solid kiln-dried hardwood frames and removable seat cushion designs, offer a better quality product.
These quality upgrades can add $1000 or more to the cost of the basic Omnia leather reclining sofa or sectional, but it boosts the product into a different quality level.
All Omnia furniture is made to order in the style and upholstery options that you select. Reclining seating is typically shipped in 8-10 weeks.
Omnia has an unusually strong warranty for this category of furniture.
This includes a lifetime warranty on the hardwood frames. There is a five year warranty on leather against transfer of color, peeling, tearing or that it will become hard. Cushions have a three year warranty. Recliner motors have a two year warranty.
The six American manufacturers listed above are the best of the best. There are significant differences in overall quality between these companies and the remaining manufacturers on this list.
There may also be a substantial price difference.
This price differential between the top manufacturers and the large mass producers results from a combination of quality, design and economic factors:
● Traditional and classical designs were originally created at a time when furniture builders liked to show off their skill and expertise. Cost was a secondary consideration.
● Today’s mass produced reclining furniture designs prioritize cost over everything else. Cost reduction measures include:
o Reduction of production costs by making large quantities of identical items. A single model may have sales of over 100,000 units.
o Mass production requires designs that are simple to make by low cost workers with minimal skills.
o Fabric covers are pre-sewn to reduce the time and skill needed to upholster the furniture.
o Material costs are minimized. Fabric is one of the biggest costs. The use of tight (non-removable/non-replaceable) seat and back cushions can save 50% of the fabric cost. With leather this can amount to several hundred dollars.
o The cost reduction factors listed above combine to restrict design options for popularly priced reclining furniture. The result can be very similar looking generic designs produced by multiple manufacturers.
The Rest of the American Reclining Manufacturers
The remaining listings are large American manufacturers who make and sell mid-priced mass produced reclining furniture.
There are several types of problems commonly found in lower and mid-price reclining sofas and sectionals:
Reclining sofas are very heavy. The frames are not as solid and sturdy as the top 5 companies listed above.
Transportation from the factory to the store, from the store to the home or even just moving the furniture around in a room, is more likely to result in mechanism or frame problems.
Seat cushion foam can lose its resilience after only a few years. “Tight” seat and back cushions, used in most mid-priced reclining furniture, cannot be removed or replaced, and are prohibitively expensive to fix.
Cushions (both loose and tight) will not be covered under your warranty.
Although there may be a big bold statement at the top of your warranty reading that your cushions are protected by a 5 year warranty, there will also be exceptions hidden in the fine print near the bottom stating that “normal wear” which includes sagging and foam compression, is not covered.
These manufacturers are heavy users of bonded leather-type fabrics that have a high chance of peeling or becoming discolored after a short time period.
Warranties - All manufacturers and retailers offer warranties on their furniture. These warranties are primarily designed for the protection of the manufacturers and retailers - not the consumer.
The bold warranty periods listed in large print at the top of the document are always modified, weakened or eliminated by multiple exclusions or exceptions listed in fine print further down.
For example, as a general rule, fabric and cushions are not covered, no matter what the large print terms may state.
In addition there are warranties from both the manufacturer and retailer. This does not strengthen your protection. It gives the manufacturer and retailer an opportunity to shift responsibility to the other party, making it more difficult for the consumer to receive service under the warranty’s protection.
Competitive Pressures - Over the past 20 years the number of furniture retailers has been drastically reduced.
According to Furniture Today the Top 100 furniture retailers accounted for 82% of total furniture retail sales on 2017.
The Top 10 furniture retailers account for nearly 50% of total sales.
There is tremendous pressure for the large manufacturers to sell their products to this limited number of major retailers. Cost is the #1 factor and has forced the large furniture manufacturers to shave costs on anything internal that does not improve
A recent survey of consumers planning to buy sofas has indicated that most people now expect their sofas to last only 3-5 years.
This is about half the life expectancy indicated in a similar survey conducted 15 years previously.
7) La-Z-Boy, Monroe, MI
La-Z-Boy’s founders introduced the first modern reclining chair in 1929. Since that time the company has grown into a 1.5 billion business with over 11,000 employees and 5 regional manufacturing plants located around the U.S.
La-Z-Boy offers over 200 different reclining designs, available in over 1000 fabrics and leathers, with a wide variety of mechanical and power mechanisms. Styles range from modern to traditional.
Many of the parts used in this furniture, including the frames, are manufactured domestically, however a significant number of components and fabrics are purchased overseas.
In addition to manufacturing this furniture, La-Z-Boy has an extensive network of La-Z-Boy Home Furnishings and Décor stores.
The company also has hundreds of La-Z-Boy galleries in larger furniture stores. Most of these offer in-home design assistance.
Most of La-Z-Boy’s reclining furniture is made with “tight” seat and back cushions that are not removable or reversible.
If the tight seats begin to “sag” and become uncomfortable, replacement or repair is very expensive. The warranty will not apply since this is considered “normal” wear.
Avoid La-Z-Boy’s Renew faux leather fabric. Although the company does not call this fabric a “bonded leather,” it is partially made with recycled leather particles and is subject to peeling after a few years – just like other bonded leathers.
8) Southern Motion, Pontotoc, MS.
Southern Motion™ specializes exclusively in reclining furniture. It has nearly 1500 employees in 5 Mississippi facilities.
The company offers a wide assortment of chairs, sofas and sectionals, available with a dozen different mechanisms and a wide variety of options, including power headrests and electronic accessories.
Southern Motion was founded in 1996 and has grown into a leading supplier to the national furniture retailers, offering a line that includes all categories of motion furniture.
The company is trying to become a major supplier for all categories of motion furniture.
Recently Southern Comfort launched SoCozi, a line of heated massaging reclining chairs and sofas. This is a fast growing category for reclining furniture manufacturers.
//From a quality and durability view, Southern Comfort faces the same challenges as the other mid-priced competitors. Price is the #1 criteria followed by looks, comfort and special features and options.//
9) Flexsteel, Dubuque, IA
Flexsteel is an American manufacturer that has been producing quality mid-priced upholstered seating for more than 100 years.
The company also manufactures a lower priced Latitudes line that is made in China.
With the recent trade war and tariffs Flexsteel has begun manufacturing some of its upholstered furniture in Vietnam, but so far none of their recliners.
Retail salespeople do not always do a good job of distinguishing between domestically made Flexsteel furniture and the imported models.
If you read through the thousands of available customer reviews about Flexsteel furniture, a substantial percentage of negative reviews originate with customers who have purchased the Latitudes imported line.
Flexsteel has a long tradition of paying more attention than most comparably priced furniture manufacturers to the internal quality of its furniture. That tradition is being eroded.
The blue steel spring foundation that gave the company its name more than 100 years ago and is still ubiquitous in Flexsteel seating is probably the strongest, longest lasting spring foundation ever made.
So far Flexsteel has resisted the temptation to reduce costs by retiring the blue steel spring, which is substantially more expensive than other types of foundations used by other manufacturers.
All of Flexsteel’s reclining furniture is made with “tight” seat and back cushions that are not removable or reversible. Repair or replacement is very expensive and will probably not be covered under warranty.
Genuine and faux leathers are a substantial percentage of Flexsteel’s overall sales.
Avoid Flexsteel’s Nuvo faux leather fabric. Although the company does not call this fabric a “bonded leather,” it is partially made with recycled leather particles and is subject to peeling after a few years – just like other bonded leathers.
10) Best Home Furnishings, Ferdinand, IN
This is a family owned and operated business, more than 50 years old with over 1 million square ft. and nearly 1000 employees. The company has been making recliners since 1989.
The specialty of this company is fast special orders – shipped within one week after purchase with a selection of more than 1000 different fabrics.
This emphasis on special orders distinguishes the company from better known brand names who either discourage special orders or take 8 weeks or more.
Best makes nearly 200 different recliners and more than 60 different reclining sofas and sectionals.
The company uses solid hardwood frames that are doweled, corner blocked, glued and screwed. Most of the other manufacturers in this category use plywood frames.
Best makes nearly 200 different recliners and more than 60 different reclining sofas and sectionals.
11) Franklin, Houston, MS
Although not as well known as some of the other recliner brands, Franklin Furniture is one of the largest privately owned furniture manufacturers in the U.S.
Franklin has been making recliners in Mississippi for 40 years. The company employs over 1300 workers and its facilities total over 1 million square feet.
This is a company that specializes in reclining furniture, although it also makes a few stationary sofas. As a reclining specialist it offers a wide variety of custom options.
These options include heat and massage mechanisms, infinite reclining positions, and iPod docking station controlled from a touch pad command center. You can also find models with lifts, extra storage, hidden tables and cup holders.
Franklin is a vertically integrated manufacturer, making nearly all of its own parts, including manual and power mechanisms.
Genuine leather is not available as an option.
12) Jackson Catnapper, TN
Catnapper is the brand name for recliners made by Jackson Furniture Industries. The company has over 1500 employees and 1 million sq. ft. of manufacturing space in 6 different facilities, located in Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and Florida.
This company offers the usual variety of features and options. It also offers a “Comfort Coil cushion on most of its models.
In general I would consider a seat cushion with a coil spring to be an upgrade over the tight cushion seats and backs on most other reclining furniture in this price range, but there seem to be a substantial number of negative reviews specifically relating to the seat cushion.
In addition, Catnapper’s tailoring does not seem to be up to the standards of competitors like La-Z-Boy, Flexsteel and Southern Comfort.
13) Lane Furniture, Tupelo, MS
Lane is one of the best known brands in the furniture industry with a history that goes back over 100 years.
Unfortunately, the website for this company is very outdated. Ownership has changed. Links to the catalog don’t work.
As a result, it is very difficult to know much about what is actually happening with this line.
A check of Reviews and Complaints on Google averages 2 stars, which is consistent with most mid-price furniture companies.
There seems to be a large percentage of complaints about bonded leather, so if you avoid that you may be OK.
General Information about Recliner Construction
Recliners typically have a frame, metal activating mechanism (manual or power), padding (foam and/or fiber) and the upholstery fabric.
Frames are usually made from wood, preferably hardwood. This may be solid hardwood, plywood or fiberboard. The frames are then reinforced with metal bars (part of the reclining mechanism) and often with steel or wood corner supports as well.
Recliner frames can be expected to receive far more stress than the frames on stationary (non-motion) sofas and chairs.
The moving parts and extra weight of the reclining mechanisms can put tremendous stress on joints and connections that are not as vulnerable on stationary seating.
Construction quality is especially critical in motion furniture because of the moving parts and the potential for those parts to fail or rub.
Before purchasing reclining furniture sit in it and see if you feel any looseness or misalignment in the motion. Grasp the arms and see if you can detect any wobble, or if they feel as solid as a stationary piece.
More Leather Information
Genuine leather is made from animal hides and is available in a huge variety of textures, qualities and price ranges.
The difference in cost between a sofa made with an inexpensive “protected” leather and a top quality “natural” leather can be several thousand dollars.
Mid-range quality leathers cover all price points in-between.
Counterintuitivly, the least expensive genuine leathers are generally the best protected against daily hazards such as stains, fading, scratches, etc.
The most expensive “natural” leathers are the least protected and require regular cleaning and maintenance.
Properly maintained, a high quality natural leather can last 50 years or more. If maintenance is ignored, that same leather may crack, fade or become discolored by dirt or stains after only a few years.
The least expensive genuine leathers often come from China. These lower grade hides are often marred by numerous visible flaws which may include insect bites, scratches, brands and other unsightly blemishes.
These low grade hides are heavily dyed to cover over the unsightly flaws. The hides are then engraved with a printed texture and pattern that simulates the look and feel of more expensive leathers.
The engraved finish then gets a protective coating that prevents most common household hazards from damaging the leather.
Mid-quality leathers have fewer flaws to begin with and are covered with a lighter protective coating that varies with the type and quality of the leather.
For example semi-aniline leathers generally (but not always) have heavier protective coatings than full-aniline leathers.
The highest quality leathers have no protective coating. For a more thorough education on leather I suggest that you check out myfurnitureforum.com.
This long running blog is moderated by a small Virginia retailer who has specialized in high end leather for several decades. The blog includes thousands of questions and answers relating to all types of leather (and non-leather) upholstered furniture.
Faux leather -- These are fabrics, usually polyurethane (PU) or poly-vinyl chloride (vinyls) that mimic the look and feel of leather.
Polyurethanes - This type of faux leather more closely resembles the soft, luxurious feel of high quality genuine leathers than the older vinyls. They are available in a huge assortment of colors and textures. They are extremely durable and stain-resistant.
Vinyls are becoming less popular for residential furniture, although they are still used extensively for heavy-duty commercial use.
The thinner lower cost vinyls are still used in some applications, but are being largely replaced by the thicker, softer polyurethanes for residential seating.
Leather match - This is a combination of genuine leather on the parts of the furniture where you sit and touch and a matching vinyl or polyurethane on the parts of the sofa, such as the outside arms and backs that are not generally touched.
In order to get the best possible match, this type of furniture generally uses the least expensive genuine leathers (which have been uniformly dyed to a consistent coloration and texture) and then matched to a vinyl that has been identically color and texture corrected.
By reducing the amount of genuine leather in the furniture manufacturers can usually use less than half as much leather than if the entire piece was genuine leather.
Even with the cheapest leathers this can save the manufacturer over $100 (and reduce the price by $200 or more at retail.)
The only real advantage to using leather match is reducing the cost. For an excellent article detailing the specific disadvantages of leather match please click on Fowfurniture blog/leather match.
“Bonded leathers” -- WARNING! AVOID ALL BONDED LEATHERS!
There are thousands of customer complaints about “leather” sofas that have “peeled” or become badly scratched over a short period of time. These are all “bonded leather” fabrics.
Although there are many different types of “bonded” or “bi-cast” leather products, I am generally lumping them all into a definition of any fabric which contains any amount of re-constituted leather scrap particles.
Generally these products are touted as containing 10% - 20% “real” leather. What is never mentioned in marketing materials is that this “real leather” consists of left-over hide scraps that have been chopped into tiny pieces, mixed with adhesives and other chemicals and then used as a backing to a thin layer of vinyl or polyurethane.
Processed leather scraps are a terrible backing material and because they are thicker than normal backings many companies use only a very thin vinyl or polyurethane face material.
The only reason for bonded leather-type fabrics is to fool uneducated consumers into thinking that they are buying “real” leather furniture at greatly discounted prices.
Some of the major brands have their own proprietary faux leathers which contain re-constituted leather particles, but which they claim are different from other “bonded leathers.”
Flexsteel’s Nuvo Leather and La-Z-Boy’s Re-new Leather are examples of this. Both of these products have received hundreds of complaints for the same type of problems as other bonded leathers.
Information about American reclining furniture manufacturers not currently included on this list is welcome.
This list will be updated as additional information becomes available. Please send information, corrections or updates to firstname.lastname@example.org.