Remodelista’s recent story about the iconic Adirondack chair got us thinking about how many hours we’ve sat dreamily relaxing in various Adirondack chairs in the great outdoors. With their broad flat arms, they are like chair and table in one: an inspired design, useful indoors and out. Their roots are pure Improvised Life:

In 1903, Thomas Lee, who had a summer house in Westport, New York in the… Adirondacks, wanted a comfortable perch that, when positioned on the side of a mountain, would keep the body somewhat upright…would allow him to enjoy the view while balancing a drink or a book on the armrest. After some trial and error, he came up with a design made from 11 planks of hemlock…a sloping back, an upward tilting seat, and enormously wide armrests. Anticipating Bauhaus in its simplicity, the Adirondack chair went on to be modified over the years…

We are struck by the many similarities between the Adirondack chair and the crate chair Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld designed in the 1930’s when Europe was in an economic crisis.

Seeing shipping crates as a fine recyclable material, Rietveld produced furniture made of “straight-cut” crate boards. With its simple lines and angled back and seat, we can’t help wondering if Rietveld’s chair had been secretly inspired by the Adirondack chair, or if his design was “dictated” by the materials he was working with.

Although you can buy officially-licenced versions of Rietveld crate chair here, you can also construct one yourself using plans you’ll find in the Dutch/English Edition of  How to Construct Rietveld Furniture as photographer Hans Jan Dürr did below. What a beauty!

Hans Jan Durr/Flickr
Hans Jan Durr/Flickr

You’ll also find plans for building your own slat-back Adirondack chair here…and plans for Thomas Lee’s original Westport Chair here. It crossed our mind to take the Rietveld plans and add a wide armrest, to make a sort of modernist hybrid with the Adirondack chair. Having the essential know how could lead to interesting possibilities.

As for buying an Adirondack chair, we have our eye on the the good-looking reclining and folding  (yes!) pine adirondak chair on Amazon. The classic Westport chair (top photo) modeled after Lee’s original design, is available from The Spruce Point Inn for about $500.

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2 replies on “Adirondack + Rietveld Chairs, for Outside or In, to DIY or Buy

  1. Can’t resist pitching in my own 2 cents here. There’s a great book by Aime Fraser called “Woodworking 101” that includes plans and step-by-step instructions for something she calls an “outdoors chair.” In an earlier version of the book, called “Getting Started in Woodworking”, she talks about basing the design on the Rietveld “red and blue” chair. I haven’t seen this new edition, so don’t know what she says about the design. Her design is very simple to build, and in her book she covers how to build it with very simple tools, I think just a drill/driver and crosscutting saw. I have built several copies of this chair out of old pallets and can attest that it is QUITE comfortable, includes nice wide arms for a drink and book or notepad, and looks good. The book is here on Amazon: and they have most of the book available to peek at. The chair chapter starts on page 148. Enjoy!

  2. Jim, I ALWAYS value your 2 cents. You’ve been a font of knowledge over the years. I’m going to look at Woodworking 101 asap. LOVE the idea of Rietveld’s red and blue chair made out of pallets. Thanks a million, again!

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