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!
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.