Get To Know: The All-American Adirondack Chair

AdirondackChair1No outdoor lounge chair is more classic or familiar than the one that hails from upstate New York—the Adirondack chair. Sturdy and straightforward with generous proportions, the Adirondack chair is a favorite for lakeside lounging. With wide-enough-to-rest-your-drink-on arms and a deeply sloping seat, the Adirondack chair is all about taking it easy.

The chair gets its name from Westport, New York, a town overlooking Lake Champlain in the Adirondack Mountains, where a couple of buddies tinkered around and repurposed 11 boards to create the prototype for the now-iconic lounge chair. One of the men, a carpenter by trade, patented the design in 1904 as the “Westport Plank Chair” and the rest, as they say, is history.

The classic, clean-lined look of the Adirondack chair works well in almost any setting. Whether your look is contemporary or rustic, these chairs are a terrific accent for a porch, yard or dock. Adirondack chairs are made for lounging: the steep recline of the chair back is fixed, making them an awkward choice for sit-up-straight activities like dining and working. So, go with it and set your Adirondack chair in a place suited for lakeside conversation and relaxation—and consider getting two (or more!). To keep friends and family from eyeing your perch: set up a grouping of Adirondack chairs and invite them to join you.


A traditional Adirondack chair is made of stained or painted wood (traditionally, dark green or dark brown) though they now come in a rainbow of colors and in modern, manufactured materials, too. Chairs made from wood and manmade materials both have the potential to last for years. Deciding which one is right for you is a matter of personal preference, and will depend on the level of maintenance you’re up for and the look you wish to achieve.

AdirondackChair5Wooden Adirondack chairs can be found unfinished, stained or painted. If left unfinished, most woods eventually acquire a weathered silvery-gray appearance—a coastal/nautical look that some people cultivate deliberately. Exposure to the sun and the elements will change the surface color of unfinished Adirondack chairs, but probably won’t weaken the structural integrity of the timber for quite some time. However, keep in mind that leaving the wood unfinished could eventually shorten your chair’s lifespan. Whether or not you decide to keep a “like-new” appearance or let it gray, it is important to clean outdoor Adirondack chairs at least once a season (or after any sticky spill) with a mild soap-and-water solution and a little elbow grease. To extend the life of your chair, consider applying a protective coating (perhaps tung oil or linseed oil) to protect it from rain, the sun’s harsh rays and wood-munching bugs. A wood-care expert at your local hardware store can steer you to the right product for your chair.

AdirondackChair4Resin (plastic) Adirondack chairs are a great low-maintenance option for homeowners who want their outdoor furnishings to maintain their good looks year after year. Plastics are more weatherproof than wood and tend to resist sun fading. You can find resin or plastic Adirondack chairs in any color imaginable or in finishes that mimic real wood-grain patterns and stains. Resin furniture comes in a variety of weights and price points. They can be as heavy and substantial as solid wood furniture, or lightweight enough to be easily stacked for storage. All it usually takes to get your resin-based furniture ready for the season is a mild soap and water bath. But, don’t use harsh abrasives—you don’t want to scratch or pit the surface of the chair.

It’s best to store your Adirondack chairs in the garage or shed for the winter, whether they are made of plastic or wood. But, if they are too heavy to easily move or you don’t have a place to store them, you can purchase reinforced vinyl furniture covers that are sized to fit most standard Adirondack chairs. Designed to snugly fit over and around the chairs to protect them from sap, dirt and the elements, some even have inset mesh panels to allow a little airflow, which prevents them from developing mold or mildew while under cover.

Adirondack Add-Ons

AdirondackChair2Adirondack chairs have the same overall look, perhaps with slight variations in the height or curve of the seat back or the spacing of the slats. But, there are a few extra features that can individualize and enhance your lounging experience. The most common add-on is a footrest. It’s best to purchase a matched chair-and-footrest set for the most level of comfort, because the footrests slope down and away from the chair at their seat height. Side tables matching the slatted Adirondack style are another attractive addition and can even be useful when paired with other furnishings, inside and out, thanks to their timeless appeal.

Outdoor cushions will add a plush layer of comfort to an Adirondack chair. You can commission custom-fit cushions specifically for your chairs, or you can take the measurements and search for ready-made cushions. A decorative lumbar pillow covered in an outdoor-friendly fabric can add just the right amount of lower back support for even the longest afternoon nap.

Whether you’ve arranged your Adirondack chairs out on the lawn encircling a firepit or lined them up side-by-side on the dock to admire the lake, the classic and timeless Adirondack chair is always the best seat in the house!