Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on August 7, 2008. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Adirondack chairs promise relaxation
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
I was told once that outdoor furniture should entice a person to sit and relax for an extended period of time. Today the choice of outdoor furniture is staggering and almost as complicated as picking out the plants to use nearby.
Just as there are old-time favorite plants that have reached heirloom status, such as the fragrant gardenia, there are furniture styles that have stood the test of time.
One style that is as prominent today as it ever was is the Adirondack chair. This is one you can sit in with your favorite beverage and a copy of the newspaper and enjoy passing the time. Whether at the beach, a bed and breakfast, or a resort tucked away in the mountains, almost everyone has experienced the Adirondack chair.
Oddly enough, its existence is not as old as one might think. Thomas Lee is credited with coming up with the design in 1903 while looking for the perfect furniture for his summer home in Westport, N.Y. His friend Harry Bunnell was a carpenter. Bunnell got a patent in 1904 and started manufacturing the chairs, then called Westport chairs.
Originally the chairs were made of 11 pieces of hemlock and were painted green or brown. They have evolved, and today they may be made of 11 pieces or more of various types of woods, including mahogany, cypress, teak, cedar or manmade resin. The style is available in chairs, love seats, rockers, gliders and chaise lounges.
The chairs may be painted any number of colors. The ones you sat in at the beach were probably white. I recently got my first pair, and they are a bright and cheerful yellow.
My friend Barbara Harvey in Kosciusko uses her Adirondack furniture in some of the best outdoor designs I have seen.
The first I'll mention is as pretty as a painting. The Adirondack chairs are a brilliant hot pink and separated by a matching table. The sitting area is flanked by tall crape myrtles of a similar pink color. On the table is a containerized geranium in a tropical, flamingo-like pink.
In a shadier location, Barbara clusters her Adirondack furniture in front of an outdoor fireplace next to an outdoor workroom that is similar to her turn-of-the-century, cottage-style home.
In this outdoor room, she uses an Adirondack-style love seat with a matching coffee table, end table and set of chairs. Green is the predominant color in this secluded retreat, which is soothing and inviting. Trees and shrubs surround the area, and containers growing the succulent paddle plant, the fine-leafed asparagus fern and pink begonias provide additional texture.
Mr. Lee could neither have imagined all the color and design possibilities now found in Adirondack chairs, nor that his design would be popular from coast to coast, beach to the mountains and everything in-between. Lucky for us, he and Bunnell forever put their stamp on outdoor living.
If you don't have at least one set of Adirondack chairs, put them on your shopping list. Once you get them, I promise you will relax outdoors.