Adirondack Chairs: A Brief History

Adirondack Chairs are the #1 most popular style of outdoor deck or patio furniture. When you imagine yourself sitting on the beach under an umbrella the chair you will envision will more than likely be an Adirondack Chair. It is a staple of American furniture design that people will continue to benefit from for years to come. It represents relaxation, tranquility, and comfort as you gaze at beautiful surroundings. How does a simple design become such a beachside, poolside, deck-side, staple? Where did this design come from and how long has it been around? Why should you invest in a classic Adirondack Chair?

We often take for granted the advancements of design in seemingly mundane things like chairs. What is amazing is that there are designers out there, tweaking these things we use every day to be more efficient, comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, transportable, etc. The Bauhaus movement of art for example, was dedicated to designing furniture that was functional, simple, and modern. Their designs influenced us so much so that their chairs (like the Wassily or Cantilever) are often the quintessential office chair.

Before the Bauhaus movement was the Craftsman period, a period of furniture design that shifted people away from the ornate and useless furniture styles of the Victorian era into styles in which functionality, form, and comfort took precedence. More simple designs emerged for benches, tables, chairs, and beds that utilized quality woods and simple lines. The Adirondack chair emerged from this movement, and has since been one of the most popular chairs for over 100 years.

Thomas Lee designed the first wood Adirondack chair in 1903. Thomas Lee and his family owned a summer home in Westport, New York on Lake Champlain. He wanted to make the perfect outdoor furniture for their garden that would be comfortable and easy. Lee experimented with wood, testing some chair compositions on his family but eventually settled on a deeply angled, low-seated design featuring large armrests (a trademark of Adirondack chairs). This design was constructed of 11 pieces that were cut from 1 single piece of board. At the time the chair was called the “Westport plank chair”. Furniture makers still pay homage to the original chair in style and name.

Lee passed the idea to Harry Bunnell, a friend and carpenter who loved the idea so much he made a series of chairs based off of Lee’s designs for his local shop. After realizing the popularity of the chair, Bunnell patented the chair design in 1905 without Lee’s permission. These chairs became so popular, that if you were to find an original today it would be worth thousands of dollars. Many furniture makers began to make this style of low seated, slat backed lounge chairs that became “Adirondack Chairs” a reference to Adirondack Mountains, close to Westport. Various styles of furniture emerged with Adirondack features like Adirondack rockers, Adirondack tete-a-tetes, Adirondack dining chairs, etc.

These days, you see Adirondacks and Adirondack Patio Furniture everywhere. They are popular at resorts, on beaches, by lakes, snow cabins, and so on. You can get wood Adirondack chairs in any type imaginable; cedar, oak, teak, mahogany, etc. A lot of Adirondack chair makers now offer painted Adirondacks in funky finishes like hot pink, red or blue as well as the more classic colors. Designers have now incorporated 100% recycled plastic lumber in Adirondack construction as an option for the earth friendly consumer. These recycled Adirondack chairs out last the classic wood version in many ways. They require little to no maintenance because they do not rot, splinter, or mold. They will never need re-staining or refinishing and hold up against the harshest of weather conditions. There are even folding Adirondack chairs, a design liberty that offers additional mobility.

Source: Wikipedia: Adirondack Chairs

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