Master furniture craftsman Hal Taylor is a father of three. But after welcoming his third child, Rose, Hal discovered he had a problem; this father loved to read, but three children wouldn’t fit in his lap for bedtime stories in the family’s beloved rocking chair.
However, it didn’t take long for Hal to dream up an ingenious solution; he set his sights on a brand-new chair built for four.
Months later, he had completed the task he set for himself. Hal built a beautiful bespoke rocking chair that could fit himself and all of his kids in its cleverly arranged seats.
The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based craftsman, himself an avid reader since childhood, calls his extraordinary design the “StoryTime Rocking Chair.”
“As I did not have a lap large enough for three, I had to come up with something,” Hal explains on his website. “This is the ‘something’ I came up with for reading to my three children.”
“When I had children I began reading to them very early, before they were born, actually,” the craftsman continues. “This continued until their reading ability eclipsed my own. When Rose was born, she proved herself to be the ‘communicator’ in the family very quickly, speaking in complete sentences with perfect diction.”
“Well, she was not going to be left out of the reading crowd!” Hal jokes. “This presented a problem for me because this meant Rachael, the oldest, had to stand by the chair at story time.”
Hal didn’t think this arrangement was at all fair, and that’s when the thought struck him: “Well, I make rocking chairs, I can figure this thing out,” Hal muses.
And so he did. “Now, all three children could have a comfortable seat when reading,” he explains.
Hal shared a photo of the original chair in use by himself and his three children, Aaron, Rosie, and Rachael, on Facebook. The raised seats on either side of the main seat allowed for Hal’s older children to huddle close and see over their father’s shoulders as he read to them, while the youngest child sat in his lap.
In the throwback photo, Dad and his three children all have beaming smiles on their faces.
Hal has been making rocking chairs since 1992. “I am not a person that keeps track of time very well,” Hal says. “It is not dementia; I was born that way. I have heard from many sources that ‘time is an illusion,’ and it is easy for me to believe!”
The chair maker has dedicated his life to perfecting the beauty and comfort of his rocking chairs. After years of honing his craft, Hal now specializes in flexible back braces, curved headrests, the perfect “rocking radius,” and custom-crafted rockers to suit each and every one of his customers’ needs.
Since Hal’s unique StoryTime chair garnered so much attention online, the craftsman has made an additional 35 replicas, including five for the royal family of Abu Dhabi, he says.
Numerous fans of Hal’s work have shared their thoughts on Facebook. “Love that it’s a rocker!” wrote one. “Great memories of both my daughters in my grandma’s handed-down rocker.”
“A beautiful heirloom to pass on in the family,” reflected another, while one person complimented Hal’s handicraft, saying: “Wonderful idea and beautiful work.”
“Great idea, with a hefty price tag,” one person ventured, adding: “It would be good to make this more affordable for families of triplets, many of whom may already be financially strapped.”
The StoryTime Rocking Chair currently retails for US$7,500.
Hal explains that the price tag may be high but it is justified; each chair really is a labor of love. Every piece of wood that goes into the chair is sourced to match with the rest. The seat is “bilaterally symmetrical,” the craftsman continues, and its six complex joints are hand-planed.
Additionally, it takes over 200 precisely cut and shaped pieces of wood to complete the chair’s 19 back braces. All in all, each StoryTime chair requires a lot of high quality materials, a specialist skillset, and months of hard work.
In fact, keen to encourage others in the fine art of furniture-making, Hal has even penned a book called Rocking Chair University. The book includes full, useable templates for a number of his expertly fine-tuned designs.
Hal’s workshop remains busy to this day, and the craftsman is still active on social media. Sharing a picture of himself hard at work in his workshop in December of 2018, Hal captioned jokingly: “I cannot over-stress how important it is to keep a clean shop!”
That same workshop has seen myriad clever, beautiful designs over the decades—almost 400 in total—but the StoryTime Rocking Chair is arguably Hal’s magnum opus. It all started with a little girl and a bedtime story.
“I have heard it said that children change your life more than you change theirs,” Hal reflects. “I believe that to be true.”