How the Adirondack Chair Became the Enduring Mainstay of Outdoor Living

While there are no written requirements as to what type of chair you should surround around a fire pit or place on a large lawn by a lake, it stands to reason that you will find an Adirondack chair in either of these scenarios. After all, it has been the unofficial summer chair for over a century.

“If you are sitting in any version of an Adirondack chair, the chances are good that you are in a beautiful place, perhaps surrounded by people you love and are definitely heading towards a state of. deep relaxation, ”said Jay Haws, owner of Dartbrook Rustic Goods, a furniture maker and home store in Keene that has been building his version of the original Adirondack chair ($ 345), known as the Westport chair, for decades. decades.

One of the main reasons the chair has become so synonymous with outdoor recreation is the history of the Adirondacks as a wilderness escape.

“It was one of the first areas of the country where people came to recreate themselves,” Haws said.


Wealthy New York residents began to visit the Adirondack Great Camps at the end of the 19th century, and by the early 1900s, they would have stretched out in the first Adirondack chairs. “The idea of ​​the Adirondack chair has spread far and wide,” says Haws, who took over the family business 12 years ago.

At that time, the company had three different manufacturers who did not change the original design so much as they improved it. “Everyone learns from the previous one, improving production methods and construction techniques, resulting in a better and better chair. “

It turns out the iteration is as much a part of the Adirondack chair’s heritage as its crisp, angular lines, wide paddle-shaped armrests, low profile, and high back. In fact, Thomas Lee, the inventor of the chair, came up with several versions of his recliner in 1903, which he was inspired to create while vacationing with his family in Westport, New York, near the Adirondacks, c This is how the chair became its name.

On this U.S. patent, which Lee’s friend Harry Bunnell, a local furniture maker, filed on July 18, 1905, Bunell wrote: “The object of this invention is a chair of the bungalow type suitable for use on porches, lawns, [and] in camps … Another object of the invention is to produce a strong and durable chair adapted to withstand heavy use and exposure to the elements.

Bunell goes on to describe in detail and in pictures the dimensions and specifications to build one, and these are largely the same instructions people use almost 118 years later to replicate this popular outdoor furniture – with one modification. notable.

In 1938, a New Jersey inventor named Irving Wolpin applied for and received his own patent for a version of the Adirondack chair produced with slats for the seat and back, rather than plain slabs or wood for each. It is now the most recognizable model in most parts of the country.

Today, you’ll find options with rounded rather than straight edges on the market, as well as options made from a myriad of materials (from real wood to composite to plastic) and at different price points. You can even find them with elongated seating for arrangement or rocking bottoms.

Currently, an original chair made by Bunnell himself in the 1910s is for sale on the antiques and antiques e-commerce site 1stDibs for $ 8,500, a hefty price for patio furniture, of course. New Adirondack chairs produced from natural materials, namely wood, as well as synthetics, start at around $ 20, depending on the material and the manufacturer.

Modern takes a classic

For Hudson Valley interior designer Ana Claudia Schultz, the versatility of the Adirondack chair is an important part of its enduring appeal. “Whether you have a contemporary home or a traditional home, the Adirondack chair doesn’t really clash with any form of architecture,” she says. She loves the F2 lounge, pictured here, made by local design company Fn Furniture. The insert is the traditional Adirondack chair most often associated with the name.

Ana Claudia Schultz

Among the crop of current designers producing new versions of the Adirondack chair is Ken Landauer, founder of sustainable design studio Fn Furniture in Stone Ridge, County Ulster, who has been working on ways to bring historic design in. into the 21st century without losing any of the details that have contributed to its longevity. It specializes in manufacturing modern furniture from materials such as weatherproof and marine grade HDPE, using zero waste techniques.

“I think it’s better, in some ways, as a symbol of leisure than as a functional chair,” Laundauer explains of the original design. “Adirondack chairs, in terms of posture, the backrest is tilted too far back, in general. So [with] mine, the backs are a little more vertical. They’re still relaxed, and they’re still quite low to the ground, but they’re more vertical, so you don’t feel the need to put your head back.

Its version, known as the F2 Lounge ($ 725), looks like a cooler cousin of Lee’s original design – a bit more casual and less rigid, but just as sculptural. It also looks less rustic or recreational than the pre-made slatted plastics you’ll see stacked outside your local housewares store or supermarket.

Landauer’s ability to strike that balance is something that caught the eye of Hudson Valley interior designer Ana Claudia Schultz, co-founder of The Beck, a design gallery in Rhinebeck that showcases the work of local manufacturers and designers, including Landauer’s version of the ADK chair.

For Schultz, the versatility of the Adirondack chair – in all of its iterations – is an important part of its enduring appeal.

“For a lot of homes, whether you have a contemporary home or a traditional home, the Adirondack chair doesn’t really conflict with any form of architecture,” says Schultz, who has four in his home in Rhinebeck, who is a mid-century style. “It just blends into the surroundings or the landscape. “

It’s something about the Adirondack chair that Landauer also enjoys: “As soon as you place the furniture in the landscape, it becomes a place as opposed to an open space – it’s almost inhabited,” he says. “The backrest and the seat are negative space for your body, so you can almost see a silhouette in it. As soon as they’re there, you can sort of, at least in your imagination, inhabit it. You can be there.

And it’s the transportability of an Adirondack chair that, according to Schultz, elevates a piece of furniture to a symbol of leisure itself.

“What it does is it creates more of an emotion than a statement,” she says. “It creates an emotion of relaxation. Which is right after the real thing.

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