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Adirondack Chairs Spur an Entire Industry

Mar 3, 2008
The Adirondack chair is one of those simple ideas that spawned entire industry based around outdoor living. The outdoor and casual furniture industry has exploded over the past two decades and is now a five billion dollar industry. The simple need for comfortable outdoor seating was the genesis for what has become a standard in many American households.

Whether you know this distinctive style of chair as an Adirondack, cottage, or Muskoka, the comfort and popularity is unmistakable. There are many stories about the Adirondack chair came to be and the name has become part of the popular vernacular. What has become known as the Adirondack chair can be found under a myriad of different names. In addition to chairs, an entire genre of outdoor furniture has sprung up from this single design.

Many folks believe that the original Adirondack design was created at the turn of the twentieth century. The name plank chair was used to describe the original design. The basic design of the Adirondack chair consists of wood planks arranged to form a chair back, seat, and the wide arms that are characteristic of the genre. The legend around the development of the plank chair is said to begin in Westport, New York. Thomas Lee is said to have designed the chair from a single plank of wood.

Lee than took the chair to a local carpenter and commissioned more chairs for his summer home. The carpenter, one Harry Bunnell, reportedly took the design as his own and patented the design himself. This was unfortunate for Lee, since Brunnell did not bother to include Lee in his newfound success. Brunnell marketed the design as the Westport chair and, as the patent application stated, the object of this invention is a chair of the bungalow type adapted for use on porches, lawns and at camps and also adapted to be converted into an invalid's chair.

Made from hemlock, Brunnell sold his Westport chairs for twenty years or so. The original, patented design called for using eleven pieces of wood. The depth of the seating surface, combined with the wide arms has remained standard features of most cottage chairs built since the original. Since then, the Adirondack chair has become reflective of sitting comfort and outdoor relaxation.

The Muskoka chair is thought to be a replication of the original Adirondack chair since no one has come forward to take credit. Muskoka is a region of Ontario, Canada known for its lakes and relaxing environment. Geographically close to upstate New York, it is likely that the design for the Adirondack chair found its way north to Canada.

Since the creation of the original design, the cottage chair has undergone many changes. Woodworkers and carpenters the world over have taken the basic design as their own. The original eleven pieces of wood has grown depending on the complexity of the individual design. The central feature of the cottage chair is the angle at which one sits. The back of the chair is usually high and the seating area is long and deep. The short legs keep one close to the ground.

Any enhancements beyond this basic configuration are up to the maker. A popular accessory to the basic Adirondack chair is a wood ottoman. As a functional extension of the chair, the ottoman allows you to stretch out in a position that is quite comfortable. An interesting design improvement can be seen at the front edge of the seat. Many builders have created a waterfall roll, replacing the sharp edge of many older designs.

Like other popular pieces of wood furniture, the relative simplicity of the Adirondack chair makes it a perfect project for do it yourself woodworker. For those folks who like to work with wood, there are dozens, possibly hundreds of plans that can be purchased.
About the Author
Mitch Endick is a staff writer for the quality online store FineWebStores.com.
Shop for Adirondack chairs, patio furniture and outdoor furniture for your home. Please visit FineWebStores.com today.
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