The Adirondack chair, now synonymous with lazy summer days on a deck, began life as ‘the Westport chair’, named after a town on the edge of Lake Champlain.
Known in Canada as ‘the Muskoka chair’, the chair first came about as a project around 1900. A man named Thomas Lee challenged himself to design a truly comfortable outdoor chair one summer at his home in the Adirondack Mountains. Family members acted as guinea pigs, testing Lee’s prototypes and selecting their favourites.
Lee never meant for his chair with a sloping back and wide armrests to become a national sensation. He only wanted a few comfortable lawn chairs at his summer home. But when Harry Bunnell, a carpenter friend in Westport, needed a source of winter income, Lee offered him the design. Bunnell began building the chairs and selling them to local residents and a legend was born.
Since then, furniture designers have reinterpreted the form again and again.
The Double Section chair, made from plywood, was designed by Guatemala-based Piegatto studio.
The Pender chair by Propellor, based in Vancouver, reinterprets the archetypal Muskoka chair from a west coast perspective. Made from British Columbian red alder, the chair is finished with linseed oil and beeswax.
“I love the Adirondack chair,” says furniture designer and former Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor Christopher Weiland. “It’s the most American chair ever.” Weiland used the chair as the topic of a semester-long applied learning project. Students were instructed to conduct historical research and then render their interpretation of the chair. Selections of their work were then included as part of an exhibition held at the University Museum.
Matt Nauman‘s chair, made of maple and milk paint, was included in the 2008 exhibition.
Andy Scott created his interpretation from sycamore and steel.
Another work included in the exhibition was Neil Donovan’s chair, made of cherry, ash and leather.
These one-of-a-kind chairs from Etsy-seller Watts Cove Furniture are made of American Oak bourbon barrels.
“We make outdoor furniture for the modern lollygagger,” says Greg Benson, the founder of Loll furniture. Their modern interpretation of an Adirondack chair is constructed from 100% recycled and recyclable plastic, mostly from reclaimed post-consumer milk jugs.
The Rise Lounge Chair by Edwin Blue is hand-crafted with a wide, low stance that speaks to the original Adirondack design.
In this modern take on the Adirondack chair made from scrap lumber, the design is stripped down to a simple wooden wedge with an angled back and cantilevered arms.