Southern Motion_Elevate

Southern Motion’s Elevate Your Style collection, which has full-on motion function with a stationary look, is a reflection of how motion features are blending with more traditionally styled upholstery.

HIGH POINT — With motion furniture continuing to offer consumers new technology and function designed to increase comfort, it’s creating a consumer appetite that has spread motion’s influence throughout the upholstery category.

Motion players already are making strides in stepping up the style game for recliners and sofas with lighter, off-the-floor looks and scales associated with stationary goods. All this has spawned development of what some upholstery manufacturers call “hybrids,” essentially stationary goods that incorporate function such as adjustable headrests and depths, storage, and other features seen in mainstream motion furniture.

Manufacturers approach this emerging category in a number of ways, whether through programs with options for customization or stand-alone products that blend motion function with stationary style appeal. They also differ in what they call it.
See related story: Motion’s long reach

Looking for a definition

While a number of vendors are happy with the term “hybrid,” Flexsteel thinks that’s too vague.

“We coined it as ‘stationary furniture with function’ as opposed to calling it a ‘hybrid.’ We wanted a term consumers can identify with,” said Jenni Jungers, director of product. “If you say ‘stationary with function,’ they know what it is. It’s any stationary furniture with similar features and function that’s offered in typical motion furniture.”

For Flexsteel, those similarities include features such as dual-power recline, adjustable depth and pitch, hidden storage, drop-down consoles, and power stations and USB ports.

Hooker Furniture’s upholstery division recently created its own category, Casual Living, around this hybrid concept.

“For Hooker Furniture, ‘hybrid’ stationary upholstery includes pieces that offer the refined styles often associated with stationary upholstery with the addition of features such as sleepers, power footrests and storage options,” said Joelle Kuhlman, vice president of Hooker Upholstery.

“Our Casual Living category was designed to bridge the gap between stationary and motion to help our retailers capture sales from customers who may not be in the market for full motion upholstery silhouettes but want some kind of integrated technology that provides additional functionality in their purchase, whether that be a sleeper, power footrest or unique storage option.”

Palliser developed its Motion Elements program based on retailer feedback seeking complete customization in function, configuration and sizing.

“Motion Elements offers every piece in motion or stationary as well as two different seat widths so we can satisfy even a small urban footprint,” said Motion Product Manager Fran Steward. “We have incorporated unique function into this program where every piece ‘does’ something, from arm storage, to a power recline back in a square corner, to a swivel bumper SKU. Seat storage is found on all stationary SKUs, and wireless charging comes standard on most pieces.”

Palliser wanted a blend of functional motion with a contemporary and sleek stationary look, on 4-inch decorative legs vs. metal-to-floor or 2-inch legs, in a variety of finish options.

“Getting a fully reclining piece on a 4-inch leg certainly changes the perception of motion to stationary with function,” Stewart said.

Bradington-Young defines hybrids as the look of a stationary style, with the benefit of reclining functionality, and has a number of products addressing that.

“Our luxury tilt-back chairs with coordinating ottomans fit this category as they offer back-tilt functionality, yet were designed to be used with a stationary ottoman instead of an incorporated leg rest, providing a look that is more often associated with the design of a stationary chair,” said Cheryl Sigmon, vice president of merchandising by way of example.

Hybrid furniture or stationary with function, whatever you call it, this blended category is “explosive” at American Leather, according to Creative Director Spencer Bass. He pointed to American Leather’s “Re-Invented” recliner, which has a new version with higher seat back and a power option coming in April, as a perfect example of the trend.

“It’s a beautiful chair, but it has a full, smooth recline,” he said. “It doesn’t look at all like a recliner. Ours is like a jewelry piece you could put beside a luxury sofa.”

American Leather’s Comfort Air chair was an early example of blending motion into high-end, elegant furniture.

“It took four and a half years of development to get the right mechanism that would fit out of sight under the chair,” Bass said. “It swivels, it rocks, it glides and reclines; so it moves with your body. It has an independent seat and back that creates a smooth transition to whatever position you find most comfortable.”

‘Hybrid’ difference

So how does so-called “hybrid” upholstery differ from standard motion furniture?

At Craftmaster, hybrid upholstery is a stationary sofa or sectional with the function of motion, which makes that function far more appealing to female consumers making decorating decisions.

Company President and CEO Roy Calcagne shared how he distinguishes it from regular motion.

“For Craftmaster it is different in that the frame styling is much nicer looking in the eyes of many consumers,” he said. “The groups have a deeper seat depth, reversible cushions and a choice of more than 1,000 fabrics within our line. These fabrics are designed more for stationary upholstery than motion as well.

“We do not limit the grade of fabrics either. A consumer may choose a $15 or $20 per yard tapestry if they like, and we will build it to her specifications. Most typical motion companies do not buy fabrics that are higher styled or in that price range,” he said. “We also have 50 leather choices available within the program that are all top grain and ship in 30 days.”

Craftmaster’s F9 Design Options program, for example, which allows a consumer to build her own living room group, includes a power motion option in.

“She can choose her arm, back and seam style then add the power motion recliner to her sofa or sectional pieces,” Calcagne said.

Palliser’s Stewart said hybrid goods fit the need of the consumer who is looking for a lighter look than typical motion furniture.

“With the advent of power headrests, we are able to achieve a low profile stationary look,” she said. “As mechanism technology becomes more innovative, the market will see a trend towards full motion function, on 4- to 5-inch legs.

“Power has taken over the industry, so there is opportunity to add power to almost any function,” she said. “Styling options can become much more broad as we can now achieve a 35- to 36-inch back height with headrests for the recline position.”

Hybrid silhouettes are more refined than typical motion, said Jungers at Flexsteel.

“They maintain the look of a stationary sofa with features like hard-sided frames, possibly a frame within a frame, clean backs for floating in a room and lower back profiles,” she said. “They’ll typically have a box seat cushion, so it doesn’t look like a motion product. They have off-the-floor design so they’re lighter and airier.

“They’re often displayed with throw pillows as accents to make them more of a jewelry piece,” she added. “They’re often paired with accent chairs and accent pieces for a ‘front room’ feel vs. a conventional family room environment.”

At Bradington-Young, Sigmon pointed out that typical motion is larger in scale and with breaks in the back and footrests to allow for movement. Again, she pointed to the company’s tilt-back chairs to illustrate hybrid’s difference.

“Our luxury tilt-back chairs were designed to break like the top end of a recliner but have no footrest, which allows consumers to find their ‘perfect pitch’ because they can stop the back wherever they want,” Sigmon said.

“This type of chair and ottoman combination is perfect for someone who struggles with a recliner ‘fitting’ them perfectly because the ottoman position can be adjusted to allow for maximum comfort,” she added. “Most consumers love furniture that moves; they just don’t always love the way it looks.”