The Best Reading Chairs for Every Genre of Home
Start on that summer book list in style.
Published Jul 19, 2021 3:49 AM
A good reading chair has a way of letting you step out of the chaos and sink into your own little world, even for a few minutes. While the sofa is an innately social piece of furniture (so you have to consider the preferences of cohabitants in picking one out), a chair can be just for you. Play with shape, color, and pattern and let the seat you choose express your personal style, whether you opt for a bold statement or a serene retreat. And since you’ll probably spend hours in this spot, you don’t want to skimp on quality and comfort. That’s why we’ve consulted experts, reviewers, and our own accent chair–obsessed team to bring you the best options on the market, so you can cozy up in your personal reading nook with that novel everyone’s been talking about. Or just stream the Reese Witherspoon TV adaptation. We won’t judge.
- Best tub: Crate & Barrel Nora Tub Chair
- Best iconic: Knoll Womb Chair
- Best swivel: Serena & Lily Parkwood Swivel Chair
- Best high-back: Hem Hai Lounge Chair + Ottoman
- Best value: Lohoms Upholstered Armchair
- Best armless: Blu Dot Field Lounge Chair
- Best recliner: Macedonia Mid-Century Modern Tufted Back Fabric Recliner
- Best leather: Crate & Barrel Diderot Wood and Leather Chair
- Best club: Maiden Home The Perry Chair
- Best traditional: Pottery Barn Carlisle Upholstered Tightback Armchair
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Fabric: When deciding between the many upholstery options out there, Catherine Dash, Domino’s market editor, recommends a clear-eyed approach that’s focused on function in addition to looks. “Truly consider your home circumstances” to ensure that the piece will last for years to come, she advises. If you have kids or pets, for example, Dash says to avoid more fussier fabrics like silk, shearling, and mohair and look instead for a performance upholstery that’s resistant to stains and wear. Most fabrics will include a blend of natural fibers (like cotton or wool) and synthetic fibers to increase the durability and cleanability. If you want to take durability to the next level, look for an indoor-outdoor fabric such as Sunbrella, or pretreat the fabric with a stain protector like Scotchguard.
Base material: With a chair, a solid foundation is essential. Dash recommends looking for frames and legs that are made from either solid wood, metal, or a combination of the two. These materials set the standard for long-term stability and beat out lower-cost options like manufactured wood (also known as MDF). “Since you’ll be curling up with a book in this chair, you want something that feels sturdy and solid,” she says.
Design: When it comes to style, it seems as if there are as many types of reading chairs as there are genres of books—from more traditional styles like wing-backs and club chairs, to the sleek lines and iconic shapes of mid-century modern designs, to brand-new silhouettes that remix the past or leave it behind altogether. As with choosing a book, you’ll need to find a chair that fits your particular style and mood. That said, comfort should always be built into the design. Look for arms that are cushioned (instead of bare wood or metal), a back that’s high enough for you to lean into (go for a back height of around 30 inches or above), and extra support from springs or webbing to really let you sink in.
Our Top Picks
Best Tub: Crate & Barrel Nora Tub Chair
The tub chair is believed to have originated in Europe more than 250 years ago, taking its name from Americans who thought the sloping, semicircular design of its continuous arms and back resembled a bathtub. This version has all the rounded elegance of the traditional design but with oversize, marshmallow-like proportions. The ultra-cozy shape is contrasted by dark solid wood legs that hint at the sturdy hardwood frame underneath.
Best Iconic: Knoll Womb Chair
Eero Saarinen’s classic Womb chair was the Finnish designer’s take on the ultimate place to curl up. As the name suggests, the mid-century organic design is meant to soothingly envelop the sitter no matter which way they’re lounging. The sturdy fiberglass frame is cushioned with high-quality foam and finished in a wide array of upholstery options, from bouclé to velvet to leather. As relevant today as it was in 1946, this is an iconic piece that will never go out of style.
Best Swivel: Serena & Lily Parkwood Swivel Chair
If you want a change of scenery without standing up or need your chair to double as a spot for socializing, a swivel adds versatility and a dash of fun. Crafted from high-end, sustainable materials, this piece offers luxe comfort thanks to generous cushions made with a soy-based foam core, recycled fiber batting, and hand-tied coil springs. Choose from dozens of patterns and colors to customize the elegantly curved design.
Best High-Back: Hem Hai Lounge Chair + Ottoman
This lounge chair takes the high-back support of a traditional wing-back and thoroughly updates it for the modern home. The industrial metal frame is paired with a swooping upholstered silhouette that’s somewhere between mid-century and futuristic in style. With wide, sloping arms; a back that’s high enough to fully rest your head; and a cushioned ottoman to put your feet up on, this embodies relaxation in its sleekest form.
Best Value: Lohoms Upholstered Armchair
With a durable solid-wood frame and linen upholstery in a warm mustard hue, this piece checks all the boxes for quality and versatile style—which you might not expect given its accessible price point. More than 600 shoppers give this armchair top marks for its ease of assembly, sturdiness, and support. If you’re looking for a charming chair that takes its cues from high design for under $200, this is your best bet.
Best Armless: Blu Dot Field Lounge Chair
While an armless reading chair might not sound sufficiently cozy, this design offers an organic shell shape that’s padded all over for an inviting cocoon-like experience.The striking powder-coated steel base makes the seat look like it’s floating and holds it at the perfect reclined angle for extended lounging. The result is a sculptural piece that catches the eye while still being practical, with removable back and seat cushions for easy vacuuming and an additional lumbar pillow for targeted back support, too.
Best Recliner: Macedonia Mid-Century Modern Tufted Back Fabric Recliner
Gone are the days of your dad’s bulky basement recliner. With a slim profile and tufted upholstery, this chair barely registers as a recliner at first glance. There’s no unsightly external handle; when you want to lounge, just lean back and the chair reclines with you. More than 2,000 reviewers praise this chair for its quick and painless assembly and great value for the price point.
Best Leather: Crate & Barrel Diderot Wood and Leather Chair
While some leather chairs can get swallowed up by too much material, our pick for best leather design masters the balance between sumptuous and clean-lined. The handsomely tailored seat and back are set into a visible solid oak frame, and the blanket-style arms add unique visual interest and extra comfort. The top-grain leather is available in an inviting cognac brown as well as moodier stone and charcoal shades.
Best Club: Maiden Home The Perry Chair
A joy to look at and sit in, this piece takes the classic club chair and remixes it into a charming new silhouette that would be at home anywhere from a traditional cottage to an ultramodern loft. Each custom chair is handcrafted in the U.S., with a choice of four wood finishes for the chunky, rounded legs and more than 60 upholstery options. You can order free swatches to help make up your mind, but we recommend the ivory shearling for a luxuriously comforting finish.
Best Traditional: Pottery Barn Carlisle Upholstered Tightback Armchair
Not only does this chair incorporate some of our favorite timeless details—trimly tailored upholstery, rolled English arms, turned wood legs—it’s built to last, so it’s sure to become an heirloom piece. Handcrafted in the U.S. with traditional furniture-making techniques, the design is upgraded with modern amenities, like steel springs for continuous support and adjustable levelers for uneven surfaces. Customize your comfort even further by choosing between polyester-wrapped cushions for a firmer feel or a down-blend wrap for a softer feel.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews from both our creative community and third-party websites to know that they pass the test IRL.
The products in this story are independently selected by (obsessive) editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.