A few years back, when I was shopping for rocking chairs for my son’s nursery, it seemed to me that the vast majority of rockers and gliders were either simply ugly — hard and wooden and forbidding-looking — or just a bit ubiquitous, in a pastel, overstuffed, Pottery Barn sort of way. I always suspected that there was something really special out there, some beautiful, special chair around which I would build a room, a chair I would keep forever, but I never really found it. Until now, that is, with the discovery of Philly-based Rocker Refined, which makes the most gorgeous rockers (and wingbacks, and ottomans, and cribs) that I’ve ever seen.
The brains and talent behind the brand is Carla James, a Philly-born Mt. Airy resident who spent the bulk of her adult life bopping around the globe (living for long stretches in Italy, in Ecuador, and in Manhattan) before settling back home again. A former school teacher with a background in fine arts, James — who also spent some time working as a model — decided to go full-time with Rocker Refined a few years back, after the birth of her second son. Her business started slowly, with James remaking a wingback into a rocker for a nursery in her own home, then grew to include a professional upholsterer and woodworker (still working in her home). Nowadays, she is still doing some chair transformations at home, but also relies on a manufacturer out in North Carolina who handcrafts new models of her designs.
Every Rocker Refined chair is made from sustainable materials, and also made to order. As a client, you can choose from one of the already existing models; you can co-design a custom chair by tweaking colors/fabrics; or you can have James re-imagine an old chair you already own. (Her background in both the arts and the fashion industry give her an eye for special textiles.) In all cases, James maintains that her main goal is to create something that “will bring [the client] a little joy whenever she sees the piece.” Bonus: She’s also pledging a portion of her proceeds to “causes that resonate with communities in need”, such as public school programs, or RAINN, the national abuse network.