The Ultimate Rocking Chair Buying Guide

The Ultimate Rocking Chair Buying Guide

Are you considering a new rocking chair, either for your use, for the use of your guests or family, friends and loved ones? Buying a rocking chair might, initially, seem to be a straightforward choice, but it’s more complicated than it looks.

Rocking chairs have an in-depth history that’s all their own. There is an endless variety of styles available, and some are more comfortable and useful than others. There are also quite a few sub-categories of rocking chairs, such as glider chairs, which can confuse the issue even further.

That’s why we’ve put together this in-depth guide to help you navigate the world of rocking chairs.

For whom are you buying the chair?

This is the very first thing you’ll have to look at when you start shopping for rocking chairs. Who will be using the chair the most?

If the chair is for you, then you’ll probably have less to think about. You can simply select the rocking chair that appeals to you the most. That doesn’t mean that you won’t want to think a bit about why you want one because certain individual chairs are better for certain tasks.

If the chair is intended to be a gift, then you’ll need to think a bit about the recipient. Are they likely to want to use the chair indoors, to sit by the fire, or outdoors to sit in the warm sun? Will the recipient use the chair to relax at the end of a long, hard day, or will it be used to help a new parent care for a baby? Is the recipient male or female, a child or an adult?

If you manage a property or do a lot of entertaining, then your rocking chair purchase might be a bit more general. You’ll want chairs that appeal to a wide variety of people to make the space as comfortable as possible.

Where will the chair be used?

If you’re going to use the chair indoors, you’ll probably want bright, classy hardwoods. Teak, North American ash, and cedar are all nice choices. All three finishes look just fine by the fire, whether the chair is painted, stained or finished with a beautiful clear lacquer to preserve the natural color.

If you want to use the chair outdoors, then you need to start thinking about durability. Cedar and teak weather well, but they do weather and need extensive annual maintenance to avoid losing their rich color profiles.

Polywood and synthetic resin wicker don’t look as classy indoors, but they are both virtually indestructible and indeed look like they belong outdoors. They don’t require any maintenance whatsoever, save for the occasional cleaning with a soft cloth, soap, and water.

The style of the chair can also have an impact on whether or not it’s appropriate for indoor or outdoor use. Gliders, for example, are often quite heavy and thick, which makes them fine for the back porch but less elegant for indoors. Spindle or slat back chairs do fine indoors, whereas Adirondacks are traditionally associated with outdoor living. Rustic rockers are fine in either location but tend to do better indoors in homes that have opted to pursue a full rustic theme.

How will the chair be used?

Most people use rocking chairs in one of the three very specific ways.

Child Care

Rocking chairs are ideal for child care. The image of a mother rocking her baby to sleep is iconic because it’s so effective. In addition, pairing a good rocking chair with a good nursing stool supports Mom while she feeds the baby, helping both mother and child relax as they bond with one another. If you’re shopping for Mom, you’ll want a chair with good back support and some cushions.

Later, children enjoy having child-sized rocking chairs of their very own. They even rock their own dolls and stuffed animals, just as they were rocked when they were babies. This kind of play is very important to a child’s development. It’s also very entertaining for the child, giving Mom and Dad the occasional opportunity to take a break.

Pain and Stress Relief

A study by the University of Rochester shows that spending time in a rocking chair helps to release endorphins. These endorphins help to relieve and manage pain while improving one’s mood. While the original study was focused on dementia patients, the results are still useful for anyone else who deals with chronic pain on a regular basis, including people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and depression.

Those same endorphins help when you’re stressed as well, which means you or a loved one can benefit even if you’re not dealing with chronic pain or fatigue. The 21st century lifestyle is busy, hectic and complex. There’s a lot to juggle. There’s a lot to remember. Work is more demanding than ever. There are dozens of things competing for our attention. As a result, real, proven stress relievers are a good investment for nearly anyone.

You can get these benefits from just about any rocking chair, but you should be sure to prioritize comfort if pain and stress relief are your goals. Make sure to add comfortable, fitted cushions to achieve the maximum benefit.


There’s an iconic American image that most of us have in the backs of our mind. The image of a bunch of old men or old ladies sitting out on the front porch, chatting with each other and the neighbors as they pass the time in an outdoor rocking chair. There’s something about the soothing, relaxing motions of these chairs that helps people return to an earlier era, one where people spoke face-to-face instead of through computer screens or on cell phones.

And you don’t have to be old to enjoy a long talk as you rock the hours away. In fact, there are a variety of rocking chairs built specifically to facilitate socializing. Double rockers and double gliders are good for close friends and loved ones, for example. However, two rockers and a side table work just as well for facilitating this kind of in-depth communication.

If you own a property, such as a vacation cabin, a handful of porch rockers dedicated to this purpose can actually serve as one of the cabin’s amenities!

Types of rocking chairs

There are several different ways that you can classify rocking chairs. Many popular rocking chair styles have names, such as the Lincoln rocker, the Jefferson rocker, the Lexington rocker and the Kennedy rocker. Each of these styles have different seat styles, armrest styles, and back styles.

However, shoppers often find it a bit more useful to divide rocking chairs up into a series of broader categories. From there, they can dive in and take a visual look at the chairs that they like the best, instead of attempting to become an expert on classic rocking chair styles. Here are six rocking chair categories to help you narrow down your search.

Classic Rocking Chairs

Classic rocking chairs would be at home in any parlor or porch from the previous century.

You’ll find wicker rockers in this category, since wicker rockers are some of the oldest rocking chair styles in existence. Granted, very few manufacturers use natural wicker any more, since synthetic wicker is so much more sustainable. It also lasts a lot longer since, as mentioned previously, it’s really hard to destroy. It’s waterproof, and it doesn’t tear or splinter.

You’ll also find slat backs and spindle backs that are just as at home in front of the fire as they are on the front porch. Many of these classic rockers make great nursing rockers, too.


Gliders move like rocking chairs, but they run on a smooth ball bearing system and sit on a stable foundation. They’re a great choice for people who have toddlers or small pets since they don’t have runners where little fingers or tails can get caught. However, they do look quite a bit heavier than your average rocking chair, which means that many people do prefer to keep glider chairs outdoors instead of indoors.

Rustic Rocking Chairs

Rustic rocking chairs are typically made out of hard woods. Many of them feature the chunkier “log-cabin” style and have lower seating though you’ll also find oversized wicker chairs in this category. Many rustic chairs look quite masculine so that they may be more appealing to the men in your life.

Adirondack Rocking Chairs

Here is where you are really looking at the quintessential, classic outdoor chair. First, you have to think about what makes an Adirondack an Adirondack. This type of chair has a contoured, slightly angled seat and a slightly reclining back. You cannot sit in this chair without just sort of sprawling and lounging comfortably inside of it. Adirondack rockers put this classic style on runners. Don’t worry, nobody will ever blame you if you fall asleep inside of one of these chairs.

Polywood Rocking Chairs

Polywood is a synthetic lumber made out of recycled HDPE plastic. That makes it intensely environmentally friendly. In some colors, and at a distance, it looks just like painted wood. Sometimes, a darker polywood chair can pass muster indoors. However, for the most part, polywood looks like plastic when you’re right on top of it. High quality plastic to be sure, but plastic all the same—which means that most people don’t purchase polywood unless they’re going to use the chairs outdoors.

That’s not to say that polywood can’t be classy and beautiful. This rocking chair material carries one huge advantage in particular: it holds its color forever. You hardly notice scratches because the color runs throughout the material, and it is UV treated, so it just doesn’t fade. You can get some bright, fun combinations going on in your backyard, and you get a lot of room to just play around. Like synthetic resin wicker, it’s also waterproof, insect-proof and virtually maintenance free, making it a perfect rocking chair style for busy people who are on the go.


Obviously, craftsmanship makes a big difference. It’s hard to love a chair whose craftsmanship is obviously shoddy.

Ultimately, the rocking chair is an American invention. It’s part of our history. The first thing you’re generally going to want to look for are “made in the USA” products. Now, the wood isn’t always going to come from the USA. If you’re buying teak, the only teak you can generally source in a responsible way is Indonesian teak from controlled plantations. But the chair itself should be made right here by people who really love the great American rocking chair tradition. These shops will have higher craftsmanship standards.

You also want to look at the reputation and longevity of the rocking chair company. For example, the Bob Timberlake Rocking Chair Company has been in business for over 70 years. They hand craft their chairs so that you know you’re getting something truly special.


You’ll typically spend anywhere from $119 to $599 to get a high-quality rocking chair. Cheaper chairs do exist, but they’re usually not very comfortable, and often, they aren’t true rocking chairs at all. Most chairs will fall within the $119 to $350 range, which makes rocking chairs far less expensive than your average furniture.

As gifts go, rocking chairs are also far less expensive than other options you might pursue, such as fancy electronics or even some jewelry. A really good rocking chair will bring the added benefit of longevity, which means it can serve as an heirloom piece in the future.

Buying online vs. buying in-store

It’s actually harder than you might think to find a wide selection of rocking chairs in a modern furniture store. Usually, the sales rep will bring you over to the recliners if you walk into a modern furniture store and ask for the rocking chairs. Recliners are nice, but they aren’t the same thing.

Some used furniture stores and antique stores may also have rocking chairs, though you’re not necessarily going to get a very big selection. Still, there’s no denying that you might find some hidden gems if you’re the type of person who likes to engage in a treasure hunt.

Buying online, however, is perfectly safe so long as you work with rocking chair experts. Rocking chair experts will pre-select chairs for their comfort, quality and craftsmanship. Generally, these chairs will ship out in pieces and will require some light assembly. Fortunately, assembly is so easy a child can do it.

You’ll also get a wider selection if you shop with rocking chair specialists—even doesn’t have that many rocking chairs in its inventory, and many of their rockers are ersatz rockers that don’t provide much utility or comfort.

Of course, you get the same convenience you’d get shopping for anything else online, since you can just jump on your computer, browse the selection, make the purchase and receive your purchase at your front doorstep without facing traffic, crowds or lines.

Finishing touches

Sometimes, you might need some extra accessories to get the true value out of your rocking chair, depending upon how you plan to use it.

Nursing mothers benefit from nursing stools, for example. A nursing stool prevents moms from holding their knees in a more awkward position, making it easier for her to relax in the chair longer as she feeds her child.

If you’re trying to facilitate socializing, it’s a good idea to look at rocking chair sets. These sets typically come with two chairs and a single side table. The side table offers space for a centerpiece, or space where people can put down a beer or a glass of lemonade. This can help to make the space more inviting.

Finally, it’s important to think about rocking chair cushions. While cushions aren’t required, they do help to make your rocker much more comfortable, which means you get more benefit from it. They also help from a decorator’s standpoint, as they make the chairs look “finished.” Besides, it’s a lot of fun to personalize a rocking chair with a fun complimentary fabric. Our company offers a selection of over 90 fabrics, for example, so it’s easy to find something that really will make the chair look great.

You want good, plush cushions that fit the chair. This may mean you have to measure the chair, and many rockers will require custom cushions in order to get a good fit. If you’re going to use the chair outdoors, you’ll need a good outdoor fabric such as those made by the Sunbrella fabric company, because those fabrics will resist mildew and will repel UV damage.

Either way, it’s a good idea to get fabric swatches before you commit, since it’s hard to make decisions about how the fabric will look in your light and with the rest of your home décor when you’re looking at it on a computer screen.

Rocking chairs are a solid choice.

Ultimately, many of the choices that you’ll be making as you shop for a new rocking chair are all a matter of utility and personal taste. Once you start shopping, you may find yourself developing a lifelong love for these lovely, unique chairs. Fortunately, the many styles and choices make them versatile enough to work in several different places in your home while offering dozens of gift opportunities for nearly everyone in your life.




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