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Love those Adirondack chairs

Written By venus on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 | 11:42 PM

I love Adirondack chairs. Like baseball, fireworks and trips to the shore, Adirondack chairs are classic symbols of a leisurely summer. Alas, I don't have one of my own. But I jump on every vacant chair I can find. 

The Adirondack chair was, of course, invented in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. History credits Thomas Lee as the inventor. In 1903 Lee owned a beautiful summer home in Westport, right on Lake Champlain. He also had a problem: no outdoor furniture. He concluded, rightly so, that the only good way to view a summer sunset is while seated comfortably on a chair with a cocktail at hand. After trying out several designs, Lee developed a wooden chair with a low-slung seat, a high back and extra-wide armrests. 

One day, Lee's hunting buddy Harry Bunnell stopped by. Bunnell, a carpenter by trade, suggested he could make a few extra dollars by making Lee's design at his workshop during the off-season. Bunnell's chairs were gobbled up by Westport residents that next summer. Realizing he had a good product, Bunnell (without asking Lee's permission) filed a patent, naming it the Westport Plank Chair. For the next 20 years Bunnell made his chairs, putting his signature on each one. Over the years, artists, carpenters and do-it-yourselfers continued making their interpretations of the original chairs, which became known as Adirondack chairs (except in Canada, where they are known as Muskoka chairs, from the Ontario district of that name). 

Today's Adirondack chair often features a rounded back and contoured seat. Chairs are made of a variety of materials, each reflecting choice of the durability. 

Pine is the least expensive, but it is prone to mildew and quick rotting. Pine can last longer if it has a primer and a top coat with high UV protection. I wouldn't use pressure-treated pine because the chemicals in the pressure-treating may be harmful to your health (especially with full-body contact). 

Cedar lasts longer, is less resistant to rot and, thanks to its natural oils, deters insects. The most durable variety is Western red cedar. If left unfinished, cedar will eventually turn to a warm silverly gray. 

Teak is a heavy imported hardwood. It can last for decades. Its high density creates a heavy wood that is impervious to rot and termites. However a teak chair is expensive--three times the cost of cedar and six times the cost of pine. And it doesn't take stain well. 

Another option has no wood at all: it's a composite material similar to those used in outdoor decks. Sold under brand names such as Trex, the material will last for decades and will never warp, splinter or crack. It doesn't take paint well, but does come in several natural colors, such as silver gray, redwood and hunter green. I give high marks to this material (which is definitely not the cheap, tick-tacky all-plastic stuff sold in bargain stores). My local ice cream emporium has seen fit to place two of these composite Adirondacks in his shop, and at each visit I can't wait until one of the chairs becomes vacant so I can relax with my sundae. 

And now for some naked men relaxing in Adirondack chairs. Enjoy.

Lukas Rodrigues, photo by Didio


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