The Penguin Rocking Chair

I think it’s pretty fair to say that Andrew is obsessed with chairs and chair design; it’s what he most likes to make. But ask most people to think of a chair and they’ll imagine one of a set that sits around a kitchen or dining room table. Or else maybe an armchair, fully upholstered and matching a sofa. It’s rare that a single, individual chair, something interesting it its own right, will spring to mind.

But everyone gets the rocking chair. Even though it’s a quintessentially American piece of furniture that will stereotypically grace a verandah and contain a nosy neighbour watching the world go by, we can easily imagine ourselves using such a thing to sit in comfortably and read, chat, relax, nurse a child or soothe a worried mind.

The rocking chair was probably invented in the early 18th century in America, but no one knows for sure. The earliest versions were ordinary chairs to which rockers (in one account I read, the blades of ice skates) were attached. The first designs were meant for more than one person: a mother and child, a patient and nurse, and some early American prints show rockers with cradles attached, so that a mother could rock her child to sleep and keep her hands free. They rapidly became popular in early 20th century asylums, thanks to the beneficial effect rocking had upon the troubled soul.

sam maloof chair

The best-known classic modern design belongs to Sam Maloof, who began designing and crafting furniture in the 1950s. He is celebrated for the fluid, sculptural quality of his chairs and the modern touch he brought to a rocker that was once a ron arad chairbit ornate, upright and bulky. The rocking chair has appealed to a number of cutting edge designers including Ron Arad and Peter Opsvik, who in 1990 and 1999 respectively, created the single volume rocking chair from steel, and the ‘gravity balance’ chair that was supremely attentive to ergonomics, arguably at the cost of beauty.

opsvik rocking chair

When Andrew came to design his own rocking chair, he had a number of desirable attributes in mind. He wanted to combine the classic elegance of Sam Maloof with a more compact, curved shape; and he wanted to do this whilst being attentive to the ergonomic qualities of a good bespoke chair.

 

The result was this beautiful chair (my personal favourite) with curved and shaped back splats, a neat overall shape and muscular front legs. There’s an upholstered seat for added comfort. I couldn’t help but notice that, from the front, its pear-shaped back and flat, rounded armrests gave it the air of a penguin. And so the Penguin Rocker it became.

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