What is an Armchair?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An armchair is a chair with side wings which are designed to support the arms of the sitter. Armchairs come in a variety of flavors to cater to various needs, and they are generally associated with comfort. Because armchairs have a reputation for being quite comfortable, the word “armchair” is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, in reference to someone who criticizes something from the comfort of an armchair, as in the case of “armchair generals.” Many furniture stores sell armchairs, and it is also possible to build them yourself or order custom versions to meet specific needs.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

The defining feature of an armchair is the armrests. Beyond that, armchairs can take a number of forms. Some, for example, are hard, made from wood, steel, plastic, or similar materials. Others are upholstered, sometimes quite luxuriously, making them extremely comfortable to sit in. Some armchairs come with matching footrests, for people who take their relaxing seriously, and others cross the line and become recliners, with parts that move to allow the chair to swing back so that the sitter can lounge or even lie down.

Classically, armchairs take up more room than chairs without armrests, and they tend to be heavier and more unwieldy because of the added bulk created by the armrests. This is especially true of upholstered armchairs. These chairs are often included in mixed seating arrangements, allowing people to choose between armchairs and couches. They are especially common in living rooms, where people often like to relax and lounge.

When selecting an armchair, you may want to think about the décor of the room that it will be used in, to ensure that it will mesh well. You should also thoroughly test drive it to ensure that the chair meets your longing needs; if you want to be able to curl up and read in your armchair, for example, try a variety of positions to make sure that you will be comfortable. If you find a style you like but can't find the right color or upholstery, ask the staff at the furniture store, as they may have more models available, or they may be willing to special order a particular chair for you.

If you install your armchair in a room with hard flooring like wood, tile, slate, concrete, or linoleum, you may want to consider adding felt pads to the feet. This will help to keep the feet from damaging the floor, and it will reduce the risk of ear-grinding screeches if the chair is dragged across the floor.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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