Lynda Hal­li­nan shows how to re­vi­talise a rock­ing chair

Sooth­ing and ther­a­peu­tic, a rock­ing chair is more than just a place to sit, says Lynda Hal­li­nan, who has up­cy­cled three bar­gain buys into de­sir­able pieces.


What do terry tow­elling dress­ing gowns, po­lar fleece throws, Birken­stocks and rub­ber Crocs have in com­mon? They’re em­blem­atic of that eter­nal de­sign con­flict be­tween func­tion and form, and com­fort and style.

As a cash-strapped stu­dent, I once bought the big­gest, ugli­est couch I’ve ever owned. It took an en­tire aca­demic year to pay off on lay-by and by the time it was truly mine, I’d suc­cumbed to buyer’s re­morse – and not just be­cause it re­quired an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree (when, sadly, I was study­ing jour­nal­ism) to work out how to fit it through our flat’s front door.

My first couch wasn’t just big, it was mor­bidly obese. It was fit to burst with over­stuffed arms, cor­pu­lent cush­ions, squat oak can­kles and a padded back stud­ded with over­sized but­tons. Its only saving grace, aside from its in­of­fen­sive navy uphol­stery, was the fact that it was the most com­fort­able couch I’d ever sat on.

The same is true of my second ugli­est fur­ni­ture pur­chase, five years ago: the large black La-Z-Boy re­cliner I bought on the way home from hospi­tal fol­low­ing the birth of my el­dest son, Lu­cas.

Was I off my rocker? No, but I ur­gently needed a com­fort­able nurs­ing chair.

Our house is com­pact and the classic La-Z-Boy re­cliner is not. But de­spite its bulk­i­ness, I quickly be­friended it, spend­ing many a frac­tious night qui­etly rock­ing my new­born son – and my­self – to sleep be­tween its milk-stained arm­rests.

When Lu­cas learned to talk, his first word was “dig­ger”. His second and third? “Mummy” and “Daddy”. And his fourth, fifth and sixth: “The

Big Chair”. He con­sid­ered it his personal throne and when his baby brother, Lach­lan, was born he’d throw a tantrum when­ever I dared un­seat him from it.

When The Big Chair was ul­ti­mately re­tired to my hus­band’s of­fice, I was sur­prised to re­alise how much I missed it. I didn’t miss the way it hogged half our lounge, scuffed the wall­pa­per be­hind it or karate-chopped our shins when its footrest was up. I also didn’t miss the con­flict it caused as we – me, my hus­band, both sons and all four cats – fought to claim the prime po­si­tion in

front of the telly, but I did miss that com­fort­ing sen­sa­tion of gen­tly rock­ing in it.

Why does sway­ing back­wards and for­wards soothe our stresses? Some say it re­minds us of be­ing in the womb – which rings true to any­one who has ever cra­dled a crotch­ety baby – while oth­ers reckon the rock­ing mo­tion re­leases a calm­ing hit of hap­pi­ness hormones or en­dor­phins.

Med­i­cal stud­ies sug­gest that rock­ing has many ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits: a study by the Uni­ver­sity of Carolina found that rock­ing chairs can al­le­vi­ate chronic pain con­di­tions such as fibromyalgia, while some sur­geons rec­om­mend rock­ing chairs to re­duce re­cov­ery times after ma­jor oper­a­tions.

US Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy’s doc­tor fa­mously pre­scribed him a rock­ing chair to relieve back pain. He was so fond of his steam­bent Ap­palachian oak rocker that he or­dered one for the Oval Of­fice, an­other for Camp David, and a third for Air Force One. He also gave them to vis­it­ing heads of state (com­pare that to the sou­venir Hob­bit sword Barack Obama gave John Key when he vis­ited the

White House in 2011).

In the late 1990s, a study by the Uni­ver­sity of Rochester’s School of Nurs­ing found de­men­tia pa­tients who sat in rock­ing chairs for at least an hour a day could lit­er­ally rock their wor­ries away. Daily rock­ing re­duced anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion symp­toms by as much as a third, saw a re­duc­tion in med­i­ca­tion re­quested for aches and pains, and im­proved bal­ance, re­sult­ing in fewer de­bil­i­tat­ing falls.

Though rock­ing chairs are gen­er­ally as­so­ci­ated with grannies parked on porches, they come in con­tem­po­rary styles too, from Ital­ian de­signer Lorenza Boz­zoli’s Fe­dro floor rocker – a leg­less punk rocker that looks like a shoe­horn got it on with a wo­ven plas­tic shop­ping bas­ket – to Bri­tish de­signer Katie Walker’s stun­ning Rib­bon rocker. A sin­gle con­tin­u­ous band of lam­i­nated ash with a leather sad­dle seat, it was dubbed an in­stant classic by Grand

De­signs host Kevin McCloud and the Manch­ester Art Gallery im­me­di­ately nabbed one for its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

De­signer rock­ing chairs such as David Trubridge’s oiled beech Don­dola – it’s Ital­ian for rocker – will set you back a pretty penny, but sec­ond­hand rock­ing chairs go for a song in op shops and on on­line auc­tion sites (Bob Dy­lan’s Rock Me Mama, per­haps?). I re­cently bought three on Trade Me – one big, one medium, one just right – and still had change from $100. That’s what I call a cheap, chic, com­fort­ing so­lu­tion to all our seat­ing ar­gu­ments.

Left: Lynda picked up this old pink rock­ing chair for $20 on Trade Me. It was in such good nick that all it needed was a lick of paint. Above left: In a read­ing nook, con­trast a classic rocker with con­tem­po­rary wall­pa­per, such as this Cedar pat­tern by Scion Le­vande. Above right: Lynda’s son Lach­lan, three, in his pine rocker. The Huia print is by Hawke’s Bay artist Rakai Karaitiana.

Above left: Lynda smartened up a wooden rocker for her son Lach­lan’s room by giv­ing it painted high­lights us­ing Re­sene ‘Aqua’. The re­sult is fresh and mod­ern. Above right: The orig­i­nal plan for this Trade Me bar­gain was to re­uphol­ster it, but the chair was in such good con­di­tion Lynda de­cided that wasn’t nec­es­sary. After paint­ing its wood­work with Re­sene ‘Pink Pan­ther’ she added a bright, sassy, flamin­go­print cush­ion – and the chair was ready to rock on once more.

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