Iconic Adirondack chair inspires many rifts on its design
Say Adirondack chair and the image of a classic low-seat, high-back piece associated with lazy days immediately comes to mind. The slatted chair’s design is iconic, yet it has continued to be reinterpreted throughout its 110-year history.
Origin of Adirondack
Internet sources, including adirondackchairs.com, generally agree on the history of the Adirondack chair.
The original chair, as the story goes, was made in 1903 by a man named Thomas Lee, who needed outdoor chairs for his country cottage in West Port, N.Y., an Adirondack Mountain community that once was a resort town.
His hunting buddy, a carpenter named Harry Bunnell, needed off-season income and Lee encouraged him to make and sell the chairs to local residents.
Bunnell applied for a patent on the design and received it in 1905.
Traditionally associated with a small resort area in New York, the chairs are widely produced and a favorite across the country.
Since the Adirondack first was designed by Thomas Lee in 1903, variations on the chair, still easily identifiable, are far too numerous to count. Some wooden ones are painted, have carvings or both. Environmentally friendly ones are made of recycled plastic.
Locally, the chairs are available at a range of price points from $25 to $300 at discount stores; $20 and up at supermarkets; $49 to about $350 at big-box stores; and $150 to $400 or more from specialty stores or for those that are custom made.
They come in glider, rocker, swing and fold-up styles and can be had in various woods and plastics. Complementary pieces include bars, ottomans and tables with colors, including basic white, naturals and brights.
At some stores, Adirondacks must be ordered online for delivery or store pickup.
Jimmy Millar builds Adirondacks with his son, James Millar Jr., in his James Island backyard. Millar, who does cabinet trim work for a living, started making the chairs for others when the economy slowed and he needed to boost his income.
Millar, whose business is called Lowcountry Loungers, says he started out making chairs for personal use. Then he made an Adirondack for a Folly Beach woman who needed a funky chair. Word of mouth fueled demand.
“We carve palm trees, pelicans, lighthouses and fish into the back of them,” says Millar. “We also do a lot of plain chairs with color. People can pick any color they want. Mint green and blue are the most popular.”
Of course, the most important things for many purchasers are comfort and materials.
“My bottoms are curved and the backs are curved for comfort,” Millar says. “They are made of No. 1 pine-treated lumber and with stainless steel hardware.”
Like others who make Adirondack chairs, Millar’s are produced in various heights and styles, including gliders, rockers and swings. Basic lounge chairs start at $125 and carved ones at $150. Painting can raise the price up to about $300.
“Whatever (images) you can think, sports or wildlife, we can put on a chair,” Millar says. See http://lowcountryloungers.webs.com.
The chairs sold by The Fire House Casual Living Store in Mount Pleasant offer a weather-resistant riff on the classic.
Mary Sanders, the store’s owner, says the chairs are made of high-density polyethylene, recycled plastic. While the store does not stock wooden Adirondacks, they can order ones made of ipe, a Brazilian wood, for about $340.
“They really hold up well down here in our salty environment,” she says. “People were at first (reluctant to buy them) because wood is more traditional. These have a 20-year warranty on them. In my opinion, they are a greener product.”
The chairs are made by Seaside Casual, Sanders says. They come in 14 colors, but most people buy white because it’s the classic coastal look.
Whites are followed closely by tan and black. Still, many buyers choose one of the bright colors.
The model most popular with buyers has seven slats that form a curved-back, Sanders says. There also is a classic design with a flat back.
Lounge chairs start at $340; bar height chairs, $375; and love seats, $600. Complementary tables in a range of sizes also are available. Visit http://firehousesc.com.
Leeda Marting, owner of Charleston Gardens, says hers is a traditional company that tries to give people what they want today. Chairs and other pieces in the company’s Abbey collection are an example of a modern twist on the traditional Adirondack style.
“We try to put a spin on Adirondack furniture by doing designs you do not find on Amazon.com,” she says. The furniture is designed especially for Charleston Gardens by furniture designers in North Carolina.
The chairs are made of cypress, a Southern wood that is naturally decay-resistant, the company says. The wood is harvested from coastal plains in the Southeast.
And the pieces are assembled with stainless steel hardware.
“You have got to have a modern palette of colors today,” says Marting, whose company also offers the Abbey in white. “It’s done in really soft, beautiful pastel colors. That makes it more modern.”
The lounge chair from the Abbey collection is $645; garden rocker, $745; balcony chair, $775; and glider, $1,045. The company’s other Adirondack collections are Classic, Seaside and Victoria. See www.charlestongardens.com.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.