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APPEAL OF ROCKING CHAIR ISN'T SWAYED BY STYLE

Rocking chairs are the comfort food of furniture, as nurturing as Mom's chicken soup. Today, some designers and manufacturers keep those warm memories in motion with rockers that add a sense of home and history.

If you're lucky enough to have an heirloom rocking chair, Decorating magazine says, chances are it tells a heartwarming story of times past like the chair in Robert Currey's living room.An Ohio River flood washed Currey's heirloom rocker 30 miles downstream, but because his great-aunt carved her name and address on it, it was returned unscathed. "It's survived its fifth generation," says Currey, of Garden Source Furnishings in Atlanta. "The romance of the rocking chair is the level of comfort that you achieve. Rocking chairs are among the earliest experiences humans have, so it's almost a subliminal satisfaction you get."

Whether or not it comes with a rhythmic squeak, it's the motion and movement of the rocker that soothes and conjures a sense of "just being protected and safe and right with the world," says Robert Timberlake, artist and designer of the Timberlake Collection for Lexington Furniture Industries in Lexington, N.C. "That's what our line is, hopefully - more of a feeling than anything else. The rocking chair is an integral part of that feeling."

Timberlake delights in the lore and creativity the chairs seem to inspire. He's seen some interesting sights: chairs with underseat room for brandy kegs (rocking mellowed the brew); and cat baskets incorporated into woven split-oak designs.

Maybe the rocker's time-honored appeal, even in today's renditions, turns on its original function.

"I can't imagine singing any kind of a nursery rhyme to a little baby without rocking them," says Timberlake. "I've got six grandchildren under 6, and we've got all kinds of rocking chairs."