Furniture that's less than La-Z for busy women

March 10, 2002|By Pamela Sherrod | Pamela Sherrod,Special to the Sun

Recliner: Trend-spotter Faith Popcorn launches a line of 'cocooning chairs.'

Faith Popcorn has a knack for spotting a trend. Popcorn became a household name in 1981 when she coined the term "cocooning" for the trend in which people retreat from the vicissitudes of life to the comfort of home. Her New York marketing consulting firm, BrainReserve, keeps track of trends for Fortune 500 clients such as McDonald's, IBM and Cigna.

We caught up with her to discuss her new collection of cocooning chairs for women and children for La-Z-Boy.

Q. Before you teamed up with La-Z-Boy to design the cocooning chairs, what image did you have of the recliner chair?

A. Just what every woman thought. We asked 7,000 women. 'Oh, that's for guys. They are big football chairs. You look like a football. You act like a football in them. You sit in them when you watch games.' That's what the women told us.

Q. What did women tell you they wanted in a recliner?

A. They said they wanted them to be smaller, but not too small, because the average weight for women is 156 pounds. They are (clothes) size 12 to 14. They said they wanted it to have enough room so they could pull their kids up on their laps. It would be a place where they could run things, unlike men who sock themselves in and don't get up. They wanted to be able to get up and down easily when the baby cries and to check on things in the house.

Q. How do you feel being so closely identified with cocooning after almost 20 years? Has that run its course for you or has cocooning gotten deeper in everyone's psyche?

A. I don't mind at all being associated with it. People are home for good, and after 9 / 11, they are home even more, home to stay, working at home. We always say that when a trauma crosses with a trend, change ensues. That can mean big change in a person's life. Big changes like 'I want to get closer to my significant other, or I'll get married, or I'll get divorced.' Big changes like 'I want to have a baby. I want to play more. I want to pray more.' Big changes that people had been thinking about before but didn't take action on. Now they see how important it is to take action in their lives.

Q. That doesn't seem to relate to designing furniture, such as a reclining chair for women, or does it?

A. We started work on this (chair) almost two years ago, long before the September tragedy. It relates. Cocooning is about making your home safe, feeling safe in your home and being at home. It's about connecting to what and who is important to you.

We've designed the chair so that a woman can do paperwork or use her laptop. There's a place for her to lean on -- an optional side table that swings over the chair -- and a pocket for storage. She can do what has to be done and be connected to the ones she wants to be connected to most.

Q. What about the recliner chairs for children in the collection?

A. It's definitely furniture for children, probably between the ages 2 to 8. It's not a toy or something to play with for the kids, but they'll have a good time knowing they have a chair like mommy's.

Pamela Sherrod is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune.

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