Like other areas of the home, patio furniture trends come and go. But not timeless wood Adirondack chairs. This low-to-the-ground lounge chair is instantly recognizable with its long, flat slatted back, wide armrests, and upwards slanted seat that combines with the rear legs. It’s also been an outdoor staple throughout the 2000s and 1900s, unflinching while trends like folding chairs, white plastic sets, and wicker seating vanished as quickly as they arrived. Just what is it that has helped the Adirondack chair transcend decades of style changes? The answer lies within its history.
The Adirondack Chair Is Over A Century Old
There is a bit of mystery surrounding the exact launch of the Adirondack chair into widespread popularity. What is generally agreed upon, however, is that a man named Thomas Lee came up with the first design all the way back in the summer of 1903. As the story goes, Lee was on vacation with his family in the small upstate New York town of Westport, situated on the shore of Lake Champlain. As one might guess, this area just so happens to be in the Adirondack Mountains. After growing increasingly dissatisfied with the standard Victorian-era furniture that came with his family’s vacation cottage, Lee came up with his idea for a more ergonomic chair made from knot-free wood (sourced from the local evergreen chairs near the cottage). His final design was stunningly simple for the time: just eleven smooth pieces of wood cut from a single wood plank, put together in the form of a straight, slanted back, flat wide armrests and a slanted, deeply pitched seat that nearly reached back to the ground. It was low and comfortable, which Lee supposedly confirmed repeatedly by having his family members lounge in it for long periods of time.
But while Lee was inventive, he had a great many other interests and did not actively pursue marketing his wood Adirondack chairs to others outside of his close circle. While the details are a bit hazy, one of Lee’s friends eventually got hold of the design and patented it. After some time being peddled to furniture and home goods companies as a bungalow-style chair, the Adirondack chair took off into the mainstream, and the rest is history.
On an interesting note, the same design in Canada is not referred to as an Adirondack chair but a “Muskoka chair.” This is simply because the most recognized maker of the chair is a company in Muskoka, Canada. While some say that there are slight differences between the Adirondack chair and the Muskoka chairs’ height and seat depth, the designs are, in essence, the same.
How The Adirondack Chair Design Has Changed
Unlike most other furniture staples, the Adirondack chair has seen relatively little change over its many decades of popularity. In fact, modern Adirondack chairs have only seen slight modifications to earlier designs, simply adding more rounded seat support and sometimes an inwardly curved back. Some modern designs also include fewer slats, compensating with wider existing pieces. Additionally, although many of the chairs in modern times are crafted from other sturdy materials (like injection molding), the truth is that the original wood Adirondack chairs remain a much sought-after design style. In fact, many plastic and metal renditions are crafted to mimic wood Adirondack chairs and retain their classic, familiar appearance.
If anything, the fact that the Adirondack chair has seen relatively few changes in its core design over the years is the very reason behind its longstanding popularity. At the time of their invention, wood Adirondack chairs were viewed as a cross between contemporary and classic, embracing both the simple wood outdoor chairs that had been around for years as well as the more angled, daring designs of the new industrial age. The chairs transcended time periods from the very beginning, and thanks to the fact that their design has stayed relatively the same, they continue to do so.
Adirondack Chairs Fit Into A Wide Range Of Outdoor Settings
Another reason for the continued popularity of Adirondack chairs is their ability to fit seamlessly into a wide range of settings and design schemes. From casual backyard patios to outdoor fire pits to classy event space decks and everything in between, these chairs look right at home in just about any outdoor area. They also work well throughout the seasons, making for ideal summer lounging as well as cozying up next to a winter fire. Wood Adirondack chairs have popped up as a staple of some well-known locations, like Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the Swarthmore College campus.
Adirondack Chairs Are Expected To Remain Popular
If time has told us anything, it’s that Adirondack chairs can be expected to remain popular for the foreseeable future. Even more diverse modern renditions like the Adirondack chair swing or bench retain the same desirable design with the recognizable slants. So, after over a century of very few design changes, it is unlikely more drastic ones will ever overshadow the classic style. Long live the Adirondack chair!