Turns out, the rocking chair is as American as apple pie, dating back to the 1700s and designed for nursing. (Though not everyone was an immediate fan: Just take it from Harriet Martineau, the first female sociologist and a noted rocking chair hater, who reported on the chairs during a visit from England in 1830: “How this lazy and ungraceful indulgence ever became general, I cannot imagine.”)
Fortunately, easygoing, relaxing rocking chairs are still around—though they’re no longer just for baby soothing (hello, lazy porch hangs!), and the instantly recognizable form has given designers a starting point for creative exploration and modern takes. Whether you’re looking for a functional nursery rocker that satisfies adult sensibilities or a comfortable way to kick back on the deck, here are the best rocking chairs for inside and out.
- Best iconic design: Eames Rocking Shell Chair
- Best supersleek silhouette: Industry West Melt Rocking Chair
- Best nursery: NurseryWorks Compass Rocker
- Best outdoor wood: Safavieh Outdoor Collection Vernon Rocking Chair
- Best outdoor wicker: Serena & Lily Catalina Rocker
- Best outdoor color: Houe Click Outdoor Rocking Chair
- Best value: Gubbön Rocking Chair
- Best modern Scandinavian: Burke Decor Studio Jack Leather Rocker
- Best contemporary: Tom Frencken Rocking Chair
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Material and color: If you’re in search of an upholstered rocker, consider care as well as feel. “Most performance fabrics these days are quite soft to the touch,” says Erin Gates, designer and author of Elements of Family Style: Elegant Spaces for Everyday Life. The last thing you want is to have to constantly scrub out stains (especially if this is a nursery rocker and it’s the middle of the night), so look for water- and stain-resistant fabrics. Think about color, too: “Darker colors will show milk and formula stains the most,” says Gates. “Pale linen tones will show dark stains easily.” She recommends going with a midtone fabric. Nonupholstered rockers are available, too, in wood, wicker, and durable plastics that are good for outdoor use. Used outside, rocking chairs with some breathability, like those made of wicker, will help make a hot day more bearable.
Style and comfort: With so many styles available, the best rocking chair can work in any setting; it’s just about figuring out what purpose you want it to serve. A vintage or antique rocking chair can add a bit of soul to a more contemporary interior. For a more subtle contrast, consider introducing a chair with a point of similarity to something else in the space, whether a color, material, or time period.
An everyday reading rocker needs to be more comfortable than a chair that’s only pulled out for entertaining, and a high back means optimal relaxation. Wider arms or even padded arms will further up the comfort level. In the living room a rocking chair is an appealing seating option that doesn’t take up too much room. After all, who doesn’t immediately gravitate toward a rocking chair?
If your rocker is going in a baby’s room, rest assured that you don’t need to sacrifice personal style, says Lora Appleton, founder of Kinder Modern, a design gallery and studio with a focus on design for children. “It’s all about balance,” she says. A beautifully designed chair in a performance fabric satisfies both adult aesthetics and babies’ proclivity toward mess. Contemporary nursery rockers range in style from minimalist to mid-century to more traditional. Gates is a fan of wingback rocking chairs because they offer a supportive place to lean your head while you rock.
Our Top Picks
Best Iconic Design: Eames Rocking Shell Chair
Designed for Herman Miller by Charles and Ray Eames, this classic rocking chair started a sweet tradition at the company that began in 1955 and continues to this day: Each employee welcoming a new baby is given a choice between a Shell chair and a savings bond. Unsurprisingly, Herman Miller hasn’t handed out too many of the latter. But the chair is not just for a nursery. It’s lightweight for easy movement between rooms, doesn’t take up too much space, and offers curved comfort. The Shell chair comes in many upholstered options, including a check pattern that’s very on trend, plus five nonupholstered ones for easy cleanup.
Best Supersleek Silhouette: Industry West Melt Rocking Chair
The gleaming, gold-finished metal frame of this design makes for a rocking chair that’s a little more glam and a little less grandpa. The sling-style seat is visually lighter than an upholstered chair but still comfortable, which means this rocker is particularly well suited for a small space. It’s available in both black and ivory, and the 100 percent natural leather will get better with age, developing a nice patina.
Best Nursery: NurseryWorks Compass Rocker
Gates says that when she first started working as a designer, nursery rockers were “puffy behemoths,” but in the years since, brands such as NurseryWorks have introduced more modern styles. Hand-upholstered, the Compass design features a tall back for neck support during feedings and late nights, rose gold–plated legs, and stain-resistant fabric for easy cleaning. This rocker also has a number of eco-certifications, including Greenguard Gold.
Best Outdoor Wood: Safavieh Outdoor Collection Vernon Rocking Chair
Teak is superdurable, long-lasting, and low-maintenance, but all of that comes with a price tag that puts it out of reach for a lot of shoppers. Eucalyptus wood, which makes up this rocking chair, is a more affordable alternative that works well outdoors. The oils within it have water- and insect-resistant properties, offering protection from the wear and tear of life in the garden or on a deck. With its strong lines and simple design, this chair is good-looking and made to last many, many outdoor seasons.
Best Outdoor Wicker: Serena & Lily Catalina Rocker
Serena & Lily’s Catalina a traditional rocker and gives it a sculptural reworking, balancing a minimal look with a textured wicker weave. Made from all-weather resin on a powder-coated aluminum frame, it’s great poolside and can easily be cleaned with a quick hose-down. To prolong its life span, the company recommends storing it indoors when not in use.
Best Outdoor Color: Houe Click Outdoor Rocking Chair
If you don’t have killer views or a sprawling yard, make your outdoor furniture the focal point. With 13 color options, including two multicolored styles, this chair will turn any porch, patio, or lawn into something special. It’s made of bamboo and powder-coated metal, and has fun plastic slats like the patio furniture of decades past.
Best Value: Gubbön Rocking Chair
This chair works just as well in a living room as it does on a patio, and the plastic rattan holds up indoors and out. One shopper called it her “white whale” after tracking down the last one in stock in the U.S. She said it was easy to assemble, “rocks well,” and looks great on her front porch. Her only complaint? “Can I get another one made PUH-LEASE!!” With its playful shape and nice price point, it’s not hard to see why it sold out. No doubt this customer will be happy to hear it’s back in stock.
Best Modern Scandinavian: Burke Decor Studio Jack Leather Rocker
Slim but sturdy, this rocker wouldn’t be out of place at a design-forward glamping retreat. The warmth of the buffalo-leather sling seat contrasts nicely with the black-finished framing. Bleached ash arms add in a third texture and increase the comfort of the armrests.
Best Contemporary: Tom Frencken Rocking Chair
Kinder Modern carries this design-forward and playful take on a rocking chair from contemporary Dutch designer Tom Frencken. “It’s as if he injected a bit of fantasy into classic lifetime furniture,” says Appleton. The chair is handmade of painted birch plywood with oak rockers, and Kvadrat upholstery matches the frame color, “adding longevity and comfort, which is so important for a classic piece like a rocking chair,” adds Appleton. Custom paint colors are available at no extra cost.
Pro Tips for Buying
- Inside, one rocker looks great tucked in the corner of a bedroom or incorporated into a living room setup. But on a porch or patio, if a rocking chair isn’t a part of a larger seating area, it can appear a bit lonesome. Try to get at least a pair if you can.
- With a nursery chair, Appleton recommends trying before you buy. The achiness and fatigue that often accompany pregnancy actually make for ideal chair-sampling conditions. “You’re not 100 percent comfortable, and that’s a good time to judge,” she says.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews to know that they pass the test IRL.
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