May 30, 2004

Eames Rocker: The Modern Solution


Few things turn a design-conscious parent-to-be's stomach more than the idea of having to get some fugly rocking chair. Still, you've heard it before, but let me say it again from this side of parenthood: you want a rocking chair. You'll want one so bad, it almost won't matter if it looks like you bought it off a trailer porch in some Appalachian holler.

One classic modern solution--the Eames shell rocker, formally known as the Eames RAR Rocker--has a historical connection to new babies. The original manufacturer, Herman Miller, used to give one to employees on the birth of their child.

Here's a quick look at the options for buying one:

To collectors, an original fiberglass armchair, with its original wireframe/wood rocker base is the most desirable--and most expensive option. They can run from $700 on Ebay to $1200-1500 in a vintage furniture store, depending on the condition, color, year, and the presence of original stamps and labels or repairs. If you're a design purist, this is probably your best bet, even if it's not the most practical option.

modernlove_eames_detail.jpgA more user-friendly and slightly cheaper route is to buy a vintage shell with a new, reproduction rocker base. The trick here is getting a well-made base, as close to original specs as possible. There are definitely some cheap-ass, thin-gauge wire bases out there, and you don't want them.

The third option is the modern manufactured rocker. A few years ago, the LA-based Modernica bought the original Eames shell molds from Herman Miller. But since they didn't buy the rights to the name, their Arm Shell Rockers are technically "Eames-style." That detail aside, the Modernica rockers come in a broader array of colors and are a pretty reasonable $349 or so. They're also available at Modern Seed.

modernlove_base.jpgIf you buy vintage, get smart on the variations, and value factors. Talk to a serious vintage dealer or two, and familiarize yourself by seeing as many chairs in person as you can.
You'll be tempted by Ebay's near-wholesale prices, but don't get snookered; a lot of chairs at auction are from random flea market pickers who don't know what they don't know about repairs, vintage, or proper value.

After several months of tracking, searching, and researching, we opted for the vintage shell/new base combination, and we love it. Along the way, I found a couple of really solid Eames experts who sell on and off Ebay at fair prices, and who had a consistently good eye and supply of chairs:

Modernlove is a hipster Canadian with exclusively crafted rocker bases and who loves finding pristine shells in rare colors.

And Modern50 is a hard-core Eames dealer near Washington DC (and online) with an impressive stock that always includes rockers. When we found a shell we liked, he happily swapped bases for us. Now it rocks.


How is this working for you? Does feeding/nursing work out ok? I wonder if it isn't a little too narrow to hold the baby comfortably to one side?

im looking for a eames rocker base i have a original chair but would love to turn into a rocker is there any chance to buy the right parts so i can convert my chair into a rocker
thanks tom

if you go to they sell rocker bases for $125

Your post parallels my own thoughts about purchasing this chair. I would love to know how it is working for you.

I have purchased the eames rocker from Modernica precisely to feed my yet unborn baby. The rocker looks great. I was also at a large baby store a few weekends ago and sat on an extremely ugly glider. It may have been ugly but it was oh-so-comfortable. There is no way I could have spent the money on such an ugly item though, so I'll put up with my much less comfortable eames rocker. It looks great and hopefully it'll do the job adequately. A few pillows may help with teh comfort factor.


Curious to know if anyone can share their eames rocker experiences in actual use?

Come on. There is a time for chairs with form over funtion and a baby rocker is not one of them. As the dad of a four month old I can tell you - you will spend hours, no, days feeding and rocking your baby to sleep in this chair. You will thank me for suggesting the modern (yes I said modern) conveniences of a proper padded rocker/glider and put the comfort of your ass (let alone your baby) above your dated design sense for once.

[different strokes, dubby; we've used an Eames rocker for the entire duration, only stopping our bedtime rocking chair ritual a couple of months ago when we moved it to the kid's bigger bed. The Eames is very comfortable, the armrests are well placed; the back's low, so no shoulder support, but it's definitely not one of the useless art chairs. Plus, it's small and light, so it worked well in the kid's small nursery. Finally, a vintage one'll hold its value, in case we ever get out of the need-a-rocker phase. But your larger point about how much you'll be using it is a good one; and it's important to choose a rocker you can live with and use. A LOT. -ed.]

Another really cool site that has vintage modern furniture is Home Anthology ( I just purchased a rocker from them. They are in Baltimore and they always have great new finds.

You haven't found a resource for replacement shockmounts have you? I'm having a little troubled tracking one down.

If you want a truly authentic new rocker, Herman Miller has recently reintroduced the Eames Plastic Chair (also on the rocker base) in recyclable polypropylene.

[because they got rid of all their original fiberglass manufacturing equipment, which Modernica rescued in order to keep producing the original design/material. It's really a question of what category of authenticity you prefer. -ed.]

How can I recognize the original Rocker chair from Miller? What does the stamp look like?

They are fiberglass -- not smooth looking, but feel smooth - have the fiberglass threads very visible. I love it - have a gray one. (Not a first run with the rope edge, but an early one) in great condition. Was super comfy for rocking. No need anymore, so thinking about selling it and went out on the web to see pricing.
(Did you see the $3200 price on That must be a first year piece, or I can't imagine that! Purists!! Glad I'm not one! But, I'd buy vintage over a new one in plastic $399 plus tax. Vintage is always better as an investment and for resale when you're ready to move on.

[we have the same, vintage grey shell. I'd much rather go with a Modernica fiberglass reproduction than an "authorized" HM plastic shell, too. But different strokes, perhaps. -ed.]

I use the armchair without the rocker base. After trying several rocking chairs and gliders, I found that this one is by far the most comfortable for nursing. i bought two white vintage ones for $150 each with a view to repurposing them to my dining room afterwards. Had I found a rocker, I would have snapped it up!

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