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It's hard to imagine by looking at some of our modern additions that the first rocking chair was actually crafted by an ingenious, anonymous American fastening two ice skates to the bottom of a chair.
While legendary US inventor Benjamin Franklin is often credited with creating these timeless pieces, it was actually first produced in 1710 – shortly after Franklin was born in 1706. Three centuries later, they’re enjoying a renaissance – inspired partly by the return of curves in today’s design agenda.
Influenced by mid-century Modernism, interiors are now being reshaped: angular lines are overshadowed by elegant ellipses, and armchairs and sofas are being executed in fluid, oval silhouettes.
The rocking chair is innately curvaceous, with a seat set on two arched runners that generate its unique, repetitive movement. However, designers are also seizing on the potential of this durable classic and incorporating it into the current curve comeback.
Living Interiors’ sleek Klara by Moroso is a perfect example of how the rocking chair is being reimagined. Featuring sleek curves complemented by contemporary fabrics, touchable textures and a neutral palette – it’s a long way from 1710!
How it’s stayed popular and relevant
While the rocking chair is being refreshed, it never actually went out of use. The popularity of this seat is a tribute to its unique functionality. Well before there were even massage chairs, electric beds, and even rocking beds, the rocking chair was always a universal favourite.
Mothers soothing babies to sleep, families relaxing during a still afternoon on a verandah, grandmas knitting and chatting – this staple has long been a crowd-favourite. Why? Because of its focus on invoking a sense of calm, soothing and serene.
The soothing power of rhythm
Initially, the rocking chair was used in hospitals, as well as for individuals with back conditions and other illnesses (including, famously, President John F. Kennedy).
Over the years, doctors and researchers have found that rocking chairs actually have genuine health and wellbeing benefits, too. Rocking releases endorphins and is mildly physically active, which is why it has been used to assist people with back injuries.
Beyond this, it isn’t just an urban myth that these iconic pieces of furniture put you to sleep. Researchers have found that the rhythmic motion created by rocking has sedative effects – including alleviating anxiety and symptoms of stress.
So how does this work? It has been considered that this is all due to the rocking motion that occurs in utero. As the first sensory experience we have as babies, this kind of theory captures the cocoon-like feeling of being in pieces of furniture like this.
Beyond that, research is finding that this movement can also help boost sleep quality and memory, relieve symptoms of arthritis, and fight dementia. It’s no wonder that interior design specialists have embraced the potential of this chair – be it for physical, mental or stylistic benefits.
Back to the future
The modern rocking chair is ideal for the minimalist, yet mindful, lifestyle so many of us crave. In our overscheduled lives, it’s a time-out in a time-capsule – a nod to the past that can be used in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Like any piece of great design, this type of furniture continues to inspire. Currently riding the curve comeback, it has been rebooted by designers over the years in astonishingly creative ways that Benjamin Franklin himself would be proud of.
So what's our suggestion? Pull up a rocking chair, put on a podcast and prepare to be pulled away from your daily cares.
Rocking chairs: timeless tranquillity, contemporary charm
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