The Adirondack chair consistently ranks as one of the most popular types of outdoor chairs. Also known as a Muskoka chair in Canada, it offers the perfect blend of style and comfort, with an emphasis on the latter. But what exactly is an Adirondack chair, and what should you look for when buying one?
The History of the Adirondack Chair
The Adirondack chair receives its namesake from the Adirondack Mountains. Located in northeast New York with a peak elevation of 5,344 feet, the Adirondack Mountains have been a popular tourist destination for over a century. Within the mountain’s ecosystem are swamps, marshes, bogs and rolling hills of glacier-carved rocks. Statistics show that roughly 60% of the Adirondack Mountains are covered with hardwood forest, making it a prime habitat for birds like the great blue heron, gray jays, boreal chickadees, crossbills and more.
Some people assume the Adirondack chair is a relatively new invention, but this isn’t the case. The Adirondack chair has origins dating back to 1903, during which amateur American inventor and amateur woodworker Thomas Lee created the first prototype. According to various reports, Lee was vacationing with his family in the Adirondack Mountains in 1903 when he encountered a problem: a lack of seating. With some family members being forced to stand, Lee sought to find a solution, which led him to designing his own chair.
Lee soon discovered, however, that traditional chairs didn’t fare well on the mountainous terrain of the Adirondacks. Because the land was sloped instead of flat and even, chairs were either tilted forwards or tilted backwards, resulting in discomfort and poor balance. Until now, there wasn’t a solution for the uneven terrain. So, Lee began to design his own chair with a focus on making it comfortable and balanced when placed on uneven terrain.
After countless hours of hard work, Lee developed a chair with an angled seat and angled back (see image above). Both the seat and back sloped back to accommodate the uneven terrain of the Adirondack mountains. With a 25 to 35-degree back slope, the chair could be placed on an uneven terrain to create a more balanced and stable seating area. This later became known as the Adirondack chair.
You might be surprised to learn, however, that Lee didn’t receive full credit for his work. After creating the first prototype, Lee took the chair to a carpenter in upstate New York named Harry Bunnell. Lee asked Bunnell to recreated the chair for him. But Bunnell went behind Lee’s back to file a patent for the chair, calling it the Westport Chair. Bunnell even received a patent for the Westport Chair, which Lee didn’t contest. But while Bunnell ultimately won a patent for the chair’s design, most people today recognize the mountainous chair as being the Adirondack chair.
Adirondack Chair Benefits
With its unique design, the Adirondack chair offers several noteworthy benefits. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that the Adirondack chair was specifically made for uneven terrain. So, if you’re looking to invest in new seating for an outdoor living space on a sloped hill, there’s no better choice than the Adirondack chair. With its sloped seat and back, it offers a superior level of comfort and stability.
Regardless of whether it’s placed on a flat or sloped surface, however, the Adirondack chair is arguably one of the most comfortable outdoor seating options on the market. Today, most Adirondack chairs feature an adjustable back, and some even have adjustable armrests. Therefore, you can easily adjust the Adirondack chair for optimal comfort on a flat surface as well.
Another benefit of the Adirondack chair is its ability to minimize stress on the back. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) reports that nearly eight in 10 Americans will experience back pain at some point during their life. With its angled design, however, the Adirondack chair eases pressure on the spine while subsequently reducing the risk of pain back and other related problems.
When choosing an Adirondack chair for your patio or outdoor living space, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, check to see what material it is made of. Lee’s original design was made of natural hardwood sources from the surrounding Adirondack Mountains. Today, however, you can find Adirondack chairs made of a variety of materials, including beech, ash, oak, maple, teak and plastic. Hardwood materials typically offer the highest level of quality, though they also come at a premium price.
You should also consider the color of the Adirondack chair and whether or not it matches the outdoor decor where it will be used. Ideally, the color should match or otherwise flow cohesively with the rest of your decor.
Of course, the Adirondack chair is just one of many seating options to consider. But with its unique angled design, it’s the perfect choice for sloped landscapes.
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