Why every garden should have an Adirondack chair

adirondack chairs
Design Icon: The Adirondack chairPhoto Italia LLC

The House Beautiful team pick a design classic we think you'll love forever – this time, the Adirondack garden lounge chair.

Who designed it?

Thomas Lee, an American businessman, who encouraged a friend of his, carpenter Harry Bunnell, to patent and manufacture it. Lee first created the chair at the turn of the 20th century, going through several stages of trial and error before settling on a design in 1903. It was originally crafted using whole, knot-free pieces of hemlock wood.

Why we love it?

The Adirondack chair is named in honour of the mountainous North American region where its designer Thomas Lee and his family used to holiday. He created it to be sturdy and appropriate for the area's rugged and varied terrain, but its popularity today extends far and wide. It instantly evokes a sense of 'the great outdoors', looking just as at home around a woodland campfire as on a coastal terrace or perched on a simple patio overlooking a garden.

Although the original design, first known as the Westport chair, was slightly different to those we see today (it was made from planks of wood, rather than narrower slats), the designer was open to tweaks and changes. Initially the chairs were made using a soft wood that was vulnerable to decay, but today's versions are a durable choice as they are created from much stronger timber such as teak, acacia and even eucalyptus.

The chair’s ergonomic credentials are no fluke. Designer Thomas Lee, so the story goes, had at least 20 members of his family – young and old – sit in different versions of the chair before creating his finished product.

Why you'll love it forever?

Sitting low to the ground with a tall back and a wide seat that is higher in front and slopes backwards, the Adirondack is much more comfortable than it might look at first glance. For extra cosiness, the proportions easily allow for the addition of an outdoor cushion or blanket. The generous armrests are perfect for lazy lounging too, as they make the ideal perch for a morning cup of coffee or sundown cocktail.

Decoratively, this is a surprisingly versatile piece – it can take on a relaxed quality in a rustic garden but look smart and preppy in a manicured one, while there's a range of paint finishes available, meaning there's one to complement any outdoor space.

What makes a design icon?

For a piece to truly be iconic to the HB editors, it needs to:

  • Have longevity and really stand the test of time.

  • Illustrate innovative design, whether from the high street or a showroom.

  • Be recognisable homeware that deserves the spotlight.

  • Serve as an object of desire – beautiful, yes, but useful, too.

  • Be a piece that is used every day by House Beautiful editors.

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