Recline in Comfort with New RV Theater Seating

Left- and right-hand Thomas Payne recliners installed in RV
Left- and right-hand recliners were chosen to replace the original seating. Although the seats are compact, they provide superior comfort in the upright and reclining positions.

The Thomas Payne Seismic Theater Seating Collection will have you sawing logs in a hurry

Original recliner replaced during upgrade project
Original theater seating relied on a mechanical linkage for reclining, and though it was comfortable, the material was well worn from years of full-time service. Available space in this fifth-wheel was limited to an area that’s 62 inches wide.

Getting comfortable in an RV living room has become an important aspect of the lifestyle, especially when large-screen TVs and electric fireplaces are added to the equation. Sitting on furniture that creates squirming because of hard surfaces and a lack of ergonomics is no longer acceptable; even movie theaters have made snuggling up to watch a feature-length film a better experience. So it makes perfect sense that the RV industry would look to theater seating to become a quintessential element in living-room design and function.

Theater seating is all the rage these days, and Lippert’s Thomas Payne Collection of furniture has become a staple in the industry. Fortunately, if your RV is not already fitted with theater seating, the aftermarket is at your beck and call. The RV furniture choices from Thomas Payne have expanded dramatically in the past few years, and the company produces specialized components that conform to reduced dimensions and can be moved in and out through 26-inch RV entry doors.

Retrofitting is easily possible. To confirm suitability and establish installation ramifications, new theater seating was installed in a fifth-wheel that was originally fitted with similar seats four years ago, but they had a stubborn mechanical linkage to recline the seats and the upholstery had become ragged with full-time usage.

Photo sequence showing installation of recliner upgrade
The seat back is easily removed (left) to make it possible for the furniture to fit through a 26-inch RV entry door. It slips into the brackets with little effort. Left and right recliners (center) are connected via special brackets that lock the two modular pieces securely. Once the seats are plugged in to 120-volt AC service (right) and placed in their final position, the frame is fastened to the floor with self-tapping screws. PHOTOS: SHAWN SPENCE AND BOB LIVINGSTON

Kudos to Thomas Payne for figuring out how to design and build compact-size furniture that still provides superior comfort. Case in point: the Seismic Theater Seating Collection furniture installed in the test fifth-wheel. Limited space makes it darn near impossible to turn to the generic furniture sector for replacement, and it’s amazing how Thomas Payne theater seating, with tighter dimensions necessary to be practical in an RV, can offer so much comfort and features that make lounging a plush experience, and, quite frankly, comparable to much higher priced residential furniture.


See Related Story: Flip Your Furniture: Thomas Payne Collection from Lippert Components

Loaded into these seats upholstered in a leatherlike PolyHyde material are lighted pressure-sensitive buttons that control the reclining mechanism, lights, heat and massage features. The buttons in the armrests surround a portion of the large cupholders and are within perfect reach. The cupholders will handle tumblers but are not quite large enough to fit the foot of a wine-glass stem — or at least those on my wine glasses. Choices of upholstery include fabric or the aforementioned leather look. Majestic Chocolate color was chosen to match the fifth-wheel’s decor.

A light touch of the Open button sends the seat back and footrest into the reclining position, with just about infinite adjustments. The motor is strong and fast with no whimpering, giving the impression the mechanism will last for a long time. Touch the Heat button, and the bottom cushion warms up enough to take the chill out of your tush. Touch the Massage button, and the seat provides soothing vibrations and pulsations from what feels like virtual hands that run up and down the back, sending the occupant into a state of nirvana during each cycle. Don’t expect to stay awake too long and, unfortunately, there are no controls to squelch snoring.

Four photos showing installation of recliner upgrade
Space was limited in the test fifth-wheel (top left), making it impossible to use the center console that offers storage and cupholders. The original low-profile center armrest, which is no longer available, fit in perfectly, adding separation and a shared armrest between the two seats. Touch-sensitive buttons are built into the left and right recliners (top right), partially surrounding each large cupholder. Buttons control power reclining, lights for the cupholder and the area below the footrest, massage feature and heat. A raised button locks out all the controls. The cupholder will hold a big tumbler (above left) but not wine glasses with large-diameter feet below the stem. Theater seats power recline in infinite positions (above right) and lay almost flat. Seats have a wall-hugging design requiring only 4 inches of space from the wall.

When the Light button is touched, the cupholder and lower portion of the seat are bathed in a warm blue glow of LEDs. Since it’s easy to inadvertently brush hands or arms across the controls, the entire system can be locked out by pushing the raised Light button. This prevents unexpected vibrations, heat and seat movement.

Thomas Payne recliner info graphicASSEMBLY AND INSTALLATION

Four pieces of furniture make up the Seismic Theater Seating Collection, and being modular makes it easy to configure the setup for any living area. For this project, space constraints required the use of left- and right-hand recliners, which fit snugly in the allocated space. The original recliners were separated by a narrow armrest, which is no longer available, so it was retained for the new seating. Color match was almost perfect.

For those who have more space, the preferred setup would include the center console, which provides storage and twin cupholders. If even more space is available, then an armless recliner can be added into the configuration. It has a fold-down tray, cupholders and 120-volt AC/USB outlets.

Assembling the pieces takes only a few minutes. The seat back is detached
from the bottom portion and connects using specially designed brackets. Before final positioning, the seats are plugged into 120-volt AC power, which requires a little study since there are extra leads for the center console that are not used in this installation. Screws were driven through the frame into the floor, and the seating was ready to plop down into.

The wall-hugging design needs only 4 inches of clearance, and the reclining depth is 65½ inches, which makes fitting into a slideout room possible. Overall chair size is 30 by
38 by 40 inches.

There’s little doubt the Seismic theater seats will be your favorite place to stretch out in the living room. Cost for such pleasure is $785.95 for each of the recliners and $208.95 for the center console; the armless recliner (not shown) is $689.95. If you want to stay awake, add in the price of a good coffee maker.

Thomas Payne Seismic Series Modular Theater Seating

bob-livingston-headshotAn RV/MH Hall of Fame inductee and publisher emeritus of Trailer Life and MotorHomeBob Livingston has written countless RV technical and lifestyle articles and books, and created and appeared on the weekly television show RVtoday. A lifelong RV enthusiast, Bob now travels and lives full time with his wife, Lynne, in their fifth-wheel trailer. He continues to be a regular contributor to Trailer Life.


  1. Why is it that virtually all RV furniture is made out of leather (faux leather, anyway)? Why is there no cloth furniture? Our cats have covered our leather reclining loveseat with holes (not intentionally — just by walking on it) to the point where it looks like ostrich, but the cloth recliner from La-Z-Boy looks just fine. Plus the leather feels cold in cool weather.

  2. Anyone know where can i find a replacement part for the Thomas Payne seismic majestic chocolate?! My dog dug a hole in my uncles brand new couch and i just need the right piece and i cannot find it anywhere.

  3. Our polyhyde Thomas Payne furniture lasted 2 seasons before peeling. And that is with no pets or children. Thomas Payne sells fabric furniture that matches the original polyhyde style. Costly but I could not stand the shedding all over. They should not be selling that stuff! Anyway we are very happy with the fabric version. They offer 2 colors.


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