A rocking chair is a staple of modern home life, often treasured for generations. Adding one to your home can be a much larger improvement to comfort than you might think.
Where did rocking chairs come from? There’s a story that the coking chair was invented by Benjamin Franklin, but the truth is that they’re bit older than that. The first rocking chair was made in 1710 by tying a pair of ice skates to a chair. It wasn’t until 1787 that the name ‘rocking chair’ became a common term.
The original rocking chairs were meant to be used by two or more people because of their palliative properties. Normally this pair would be a mother and a child or an elderly person and a nurse.
They saw a lot of use in mental institutions and the homes of the sickly, since the rocking motion encourages calm and drowsiness. They were very successful in helping people who were unwell, which is part of why—in the 19th century – they began to make an appearance in normal homes.
Image source:Inspired By…Designs
Rocking chairs became more of a leisure item in private homes and became quite popular with the rising middle class of the period. Since this time, rocking chairs have seen a lot of changes. They’ve become a distinct part of American culture and have spread throughout the world.
There are a lot of different kinds of rocking chairs now, including some with an additional ottoman and some with included rocking hair cushions. You can find a rocking chair in a number of colors, from a simple white rocking chair to a neon rocking chair.
You can fit them into a variety of environments, from cozy living rooms to Mediterranean-styled patios. You can find some rocking hairs with massage features built in. You can even find rocking chairs specifically designed for gardens.
So how do you find the best rocking chair for you? How can you tell it has the kind of quality you want? With so many options available, you should take the time to do some research to make a truly informed buy. It might seem easy to simply go out and buy a nice rocking chair, but finding one of the right quality and design will take a lot more effort.
Image source: OSR Interiors & Building Design
You want a chair that will be comfortable and last a long time in whatever environment it will be in. Use our guide to help you choose the best rocking chair for your home. We will cover all the basics you will need to help you shop for a rocking chair that works for you.
Types of Rocking Chairs
Kids Rocking Chair
Many people think of rocking chairs as being perfect for kids. They offer a great place for them to sit and read, allowing them to enjoy the rocking motion. If you have little ones who are learning how to read, its great place for the practice since it gives them a chance to get their wiggles out while they sit. You can find a toddler rocking chair in a lot of fun styles.
There are a variety of children’s rocking chairs in all sorts of fun colors and a number of sizes. You can even find them featuring characters. A rocking chair cushion is a smart idea (for an adult – sized rocking chairs, too) so that the chair is comfortable to sit in for a long time.
If you’re choosing a rocking chair for a child, something to bear in mind is that it will probably be a feature of their space for a long time to come. A child will gladly sit in a chair larger than themselves for a while. It will need to be short enough that their feet can still touch the ground so they can rock the chair, but giving a quality chair a longer period of use is a smart idea.
If possible, let the kid pick out his or her rocking chair at the store. It will be fun trip, because they get to rock all the chairs they find until they find the right one. This will make the rocking chair extra special to them, a memento of a fun time as well as a nice place to sit.
Be mindful of safety when choosing a rocking chair for a child. Little fingers can get easily caught under heavy rockers. You can find children’s rocking chairs designed for safety and should keep that consideration in mind when shopping.
Outdoor Rocking Chair
Many people think of a rocking chair as an indoor item, but they are really great outdoor furniture, too. Just find the right one and sit it on your porch or patio. They’re a great way to relax, especially if you have a nice view or a pretty garden. The simple addition of a rocking chair to an outdoor area can change it from wasted space to a charming spot to sit.
There are a number of restaurants that feature outdoor rocking chairs in their waiting areas and it is much appreciated by their customers, offering a pleasant place to sit and watch the world while waiting to be seated.
Materials are really important when you’re thinking about adding an outdoor rocking chair. You want to make sure that the chair looks good and is comfortable while holding up under the elements outside. Hardwood and steel are good options, though you will want to add some rocking chair pads to a metal rocking chair for comfort.
Image source: Hansen Interiors
A wicker rocking chair is a good choice for less harsh climates or more sheltered areas. If you want to lengthen the lifetime of outdoor rocking chairs, consider buying rocking hair covers to shelter them from the weather.
You can also bring a rocking chair out camping or on other expeditions! A folding rocking chair works like other nice camping chairs. You can easily fold it flat and transport it in the back of your car wherever you need to go. This way, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the great outdoors in comfort.
If you want to buy this kind of chair, make sure you check for quality. The folding and unfolding of the chair will take its toll on the joints and the fabric seams, as will harsh weather. Try out these chairs when you can and be sure to read reviews from people who have used them for a long time in a variety of conditions.
A folding rocking chair can be a good choice if you want the benefits of a rocking chair but don’t want to spend a lot of money or take up a lot of space. They are easy to put away when you need them out of the way and even easier to move. While they will not last for a very long time, they can be a great temporary option if you really want a rocking chair.
Image source: Jeni Lee
Traditional Rocking Chair
When you think of a rocking chair, you no doubt think of the traditional rocking chair. These chairs have a simple design that looks great while moving quite smoothly. These kinds of chairs are typically quite affordable. A traditional rocking chair is normally a wooden rocking chair, though the design can be made out of other materials.
They also tend to have a very high level of craftsmanship and a very durable, as many people intend to use them as heirloom items. What began as a nursery rocking chair can stay with a family for generations. An antique rocking chair almost always has a very traditional design because it simply lasts a long time, with no moving parts. They’re not very flexible and take up quite a bit of room, so they’re not the perfect piece of furniture, but they are otherwise an excellent buy.
You can find traditional rocking chairs with all sorts of little personal touches. You can get them with monograms or names carved into their backs. Some versions have medallions with military, university, or sports teams set in the back. These can make traditional rocking chairs into very special items and are an excellent choice for a special gift.
For more modern looks that still have the traditional structure, look for an IKEA rocking chair or similar styles. These rocking chairs still have the comfort of a traditional rocking chair, but they have a simplistic Scandinavian look that fits into the modern home design.
Image source: Alykhan Velji Design
Gliding Rocking Chair
These rocking chairs are a very modern and very recent design. Instead of the traditionally curved legs, these chairs use a series of swivels and levels that create a rocking motion along a flat plane.
This motion requires much less space than the traditional arc of a normal rocking chair. These gliding rocking chairs also tend to be much more comfortable, as more ergonomic considerations have been applied to their design.
They do, however, cost more because of the formidable mechanism that enables the gliding motion. It makes them quite heavy and they are not easy to move. Once you place a gliding rocking chair, moving it will be a serious project.
This mechanism is also prone to damage from wear and tear, as it is fairly complex. If you loved tech, however, or have fallen in love with gliding motion of one of these rocking chairs, it is well worth the investment.
Spring Rocking Chair
Spring rockers, while a more recent development, move much like traditional rocking chairs. It uses a spring instead of curved feet to achieve this. These springs are enclosed in a box to protect fingers and pets from getting caught in them, which is their particular advantage.
This is a very simple mechanism compared to the equally safe gliding rocking chairs, which makes them much cheaper and less prone to damage. They’re normally very heavily upholstered and padded, which still keeps them fairly costly. They also have a less classical look compared to traditional rocking chairs and their aesthetic is harder to integrate into space.
Swivel Rocking Chair
These rocking chairs are rarely standalone pieces. The swivel is often added to spring rocking chairs or gliding rocking chairs to add extra motion. It is the same mechanism as you see on swivel office chairs. The addition of the swivel mechanism makes a rocking chair more prone to breaking. The additional mobility and comfort can be well worth it, however.
Reclining Rocking Chair
The reclining mechanism is another addition found on more high tech modern rocking chairs. All you need to do to use it is to release the catch. Many of these chairs can recline into more than one comfortable positions.
There is typically a built-in safety mechanism in the catch that prevents the chair from leaning back too far and overbalancing. Chairs with this feature have a higher price tag and have many of the same issues with wear and tear as every chair with complex mechanisms. However, the additional motion can be a really nice addition.
Image source: MacCracken Architects
Rocking Chairs with Ottomans
Chairs with ottomans are great. Putting your feet up can improve circulation and give you a lot of different positions you can sit in, a bonus if you might be sitting for a long time while watching television or reading. However, it’s hard to pair a rocking chair with an ottoman because the rocking chair moves while the ottoman won’t, right?
Not necessarily. These days you can find rocking chairs and ottomans that are designed to work together. Like the chair, the ottomans will rock when you move them. This essentially is a furniture set and is therefore more expensive, but it is a really great choice if you can afford it.
There are a lot of different styles you can choose from rocking chairs with ottomans. You can find some very cozy, armchair like designs but also some very modern contemporary styles. There is a Danish modern design that has a simple and streamlined look.
There are also sets that resemble traditional rocking chairs. There is a very wide range of designs and mechanisms. Try out different ones and see if you can find one you like. They are a very nice thing to set up as a reading chair or your favorite movie watching chair.
Considerations When Choosing a Rocking Chair
Where will it be used?
Where a chair will be sitting will be the primary determining factor for what material it should be made out of. Bright and classy hardwoods work very well for indoor rocking chairs. Some good choices are North American ash, teak, and cedar.
Image source: McInturff Architects
You can choose any kind of finish that works for your décor. Paint, stain, and clear lacquer finish all look good on a wooden rocking chair. What you choose will depend on the space you’re placing the rocking chair in. A rocking chair for nursery, for instance, should fit with the rest of the room’s design.
Outdoor rocking chairs should be more durable than the indoor ones. Cedar and teak weather well, but you will need to carefully maintain them to keep them looking good. Synthetic resin wicker and polywood rocking chairs hold up better, even if they don’t look as nice.
They fit very well outdoors, however, and are incredibly tough. You won’t need to do more than clean them to maintain them well.
The style of chair you choose will also depend on where you want to use it. Heavy gliding rocking chairs work very well outside, but they look awkward and inelegant inside. Slat back and spindle chairs are great inside. A rustic rocking chair is a great addition to either indoor or outdoor rustic theme décor.
How will it be used?
A nursery rocking chair is a very common find in many homes. Parents use these rocking chairs to rock their baby to sleep. The image of this has become iconic because it is a very effective tactic (getting them to stay that way after the rocking, however…).
Image source: Heather Scott Home & Design
If you decide to put a rocking hair in your nursery, consider getting a nursing stool as well. This will help support the mother while she feeds the baby and help both of them relax. Make sure the chair is comfortable for both parents. Rocking chair pads and cushions are a wise addition.
As they grow, children enjoy having their own rocking chairs. They’ll often rock toys like stuffed animals and dolls in the same way their parents once rocked them. This is an important part of child development and is very entertaining for kids. It’s a great way to give a child a break from the screen time that has become such a major feature of childhood entertainment, as well.
Pain and stress relief
It’s been found that rocking chairs help with pain and stress. A study from the University of Rochester showed that sitting in a rocking chair helped to release endorphins. Endorphins are a very important thing, helping to relieve and manage pain, as well as helping to improve mood.
The original study focused on dementia patients, but it has still be found useful for anyone who has to deal with chronic pain on a frequent basis. People with depression, arthritis, and fibromyalgia have all found using rocking chairs to be very helpful.
Endorphins also help with stress. Out busy modern lifestyles generate a lot of stress and any chance to slow down and feel more at ease is welcome. Anything that can help us do so, like a rocking chair, is a good investment.
Image source: Kropat Interior Design
If you want to buy a rocking chair to help with pain and stress relief, you should focus on comfort above anything else. Comfy, fitted rocking chair cushions are a must. A rocking chair ottoman would also be a big help, so you can take weight off your feet and encourage good circulation while maintaining a pleasant rocking motion.
A lot of people think of rocking chairs when they think of a porch gathering. There’s something to the mental image of a group of older people in rocking chairs just sitting, rocking, and chatting. The relaxing motions of the chairs are very conducive to pleasant conversation and relaxing socializing for people of any age.
You can find double rocking chairs and double gliders for some pleasant porch seating, which are both great for spending time with friends and loved ones. Placing two rocking chairs side by side (maybe with an end table in between for drinks or snacks) works equally well for creating a nice social space.
If you have a vacation cabin or cottage with an outdoor porch or patio, a set up like this will be a great addition to help everyone relax and enjoy their time away from the hectic pace of life.
Buying In-store versus Buying Online
As common as rocking chairs may seem and as much as they are a staple of Americana worldwide, it can be quite difficult to find them in modern furniture stores. If you ask a sales rep about it, they usually just brought you over to the recliner section. While recliners can be very nice, they are not the same thing as rocking chairs.
When a furniture store does have rocking chairs, you’ll find that the selection is generally very small. These rocking chairs will also not generally be the most comfortable ones, as they’re mostly thought of as accent pieces or décor.
Image source: WhiteSpace Architects
You’ll most likely have more luck in used furniture stores or antique stores. They will still probably have a pretty small selection, but you might find some unique hidden gems. These rocking chairs might be a bit more worn or even a bit more expensive than you might be willing to go with.
Online, however, you can easily find the kind of rocking chair you want. You need to make sure you stick with rocking chair experts, however. People who know about rocking chairs can select the right chairs for their comfort, craftsmanship, and quality. Chairs purchased online normally ship in pieces and will need to be assembled at their destination.
If they are made well, the assembly will be incredibly easy. Even children can do it. Rocking chair experts have the best and biggest inventory of rocking chairs you can find. Even Amazon does not carry as many or as many different kinds of rocking chairs. They also won’t have the same kind of quality in their stocks.
Shopping online offers the chance to skip lines, traffic, or crowds. ‘Buyer beware’ is a very important principle of all online shopping, and as long as you keep it in mind, you might find exactly the perfect rocking chair by searching the web.
Image source: Amity Worrel & Co.
Tips and guidelines
If you are looking for a rocking chair for a new mother or to place on a new porch, it’s smart to start looking early. It can take weeks for most chairs to arrive and customized rocking chairs can take months. If you order online, you’ll also have to put the chair together. You’ll want to have the rocking chair ready to go when the baby is born or when your project is finished.
Know Your Options
Don’t just snatch up a chair without knowing what all are your options. You might find things you like even better if you keep looking. Do some research and decide on what you want and need before you really start shopping. You’ll understand better what options you can actually have and what certain terms mean. As annoying as this extra effort may seem, this will make your shopping experience much smoother.
Look at the Tech
With new technology have come new customization options for rocking chairs. You can now find chairs with the latest massager technology and heated upholstery. See what’s out there.
Different brands offer rocking chairs with different features. Take the time to see if they have a track record among customers, either good or bad. Customer reviews are a very good resource that can tell you a lot about the product, the way it ships, and how it holds up under use. Look at different review sites to get a more well-rounded view.
Image source: Hammer Architects
Plan around Your Current Décor
Select a rocking chair based on the room’s current design. Think about whether you’re using the chair for a nursery, general use, therapy, or as a social space. There are a lot of designs available for these uses that will fit your décor.
If you find that the most comfortable design does not fit, think about getting a custom rocking chair based on it or simply adding rocking chair padding that fits the space. You should also make sure the rocking chair will fit into your intended space. Check the measurements of doorways, too, since you want to be able to get the rocking chair into the room.
Think about Adding a Footrest
While a rocking chair with an ottoman or footrest will cost extra, consider how much more comfortable it will make the chair. A footrest elevates the legs and ensures both comfort and better circulation. The rocking mechanism built into these ottomans means that they fit perfectly with rocking chairs.
You don’t have to give up the full range of motion in a rocking chair in order to be able to put your feet up. There are a lot of different styles available, especially online. Rocking chair ottomans ship much like rocking chairs do, so expect you’ll have to do some light assembly.
Using a Rocking Chair in Your Décor
Whether you have a Mediterranean exterior or a rustic porch, a rocking chair is an excellent addition. Use a rocking to add a touch of color. Select one painted the same color as your home’s exterior trim. You should treat any painted wooden rocking chairs with a clear outdoor seal to make sure they weather well, no matter where you live.
If you want to add a gliding rocking chair but still want a classical look, think about getting a wrought iron gliding rocking chair with patterned cushions. These look very nice in garden areas and many of them come with canopies for shade. Make sure you choose outdoor fabrics that won’t start growing mildew after rain.
You should also check the status of the gliding mechanism on a regular basis, especially after rain and snow storms. Water and ice can cause issues and eventually stop it from working altogether.
For another form of garden seating, create a sitting area by surrounding a major garden feature like a fountain, fire pit, or outdoor kitchen with rocking chairs and small tables. This creates a pleasant spot to admire the garden, talk with friends, or enjoy your morning coffee.
A rocking chair makes for the perfect reading spot. Tuck it into a pleasantly lit corner, preferably one with lots of natural light. Add some comfy cushions and a soft blanket. You will probably want to include a side table that’s just the right height for sitting drinks, snacks, and of course books.
Include a reading lamp. You’ll definitely want this reading nook to be placed next to an outlet, both for the lamp and the charging of any digital reading devices. A bookshelf full of favorites completes the cozy look. You’ll have the perfect refuge.
Image source: Amity Worrel & Co.
Baby Rocking Chair
For an excellent place to rock your little one to sleep, make sure your rocking chair is soft and well-cushioned next to their crib. Later, that crib will become a bed, but the rocking chair will likely stay. It will start out as a place to nurse and try and coax a baby to sleep, but it will become a comforting space for bedtime stories, lullabies, and even a place for a weary parent to rest after getting a fussy baby to sleep.
White rocking chairs fit into most nursery rooms and offer a lot of versatility later. They’re also very easy to repaint later, if you decide you want a different color.
Ending thoughts on having a rocking chair
The comfort of a rocking chair is hard to beat. If you want to create a calming, relaxing space, consider adding one to make your house into even more of a home.