An Adirondack chair or Muskoka chair is a type of chair favored in rural, outdoor settings. The precursor to today's Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee in 1903. He was on vacation in Westport, New York, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, and needed outdoor chairs for his summer home. He tested the first designs on his family. The name Muskoka was adopted from the municipality of Muskoka, Ontario, a cottage country area north of Toronto.
The original Adirondack chair was made with eleven pieces of wood, cut from a single board, with a straight back and seat. It also featured wide armrests, which became a hallmark of the Adirondack chair.
After arriving at a final design for the "Westport plank chair," Lee offered it to Harry Bunnell, a carpenter friend in Westport, who was in need of a winter income. Bunnell quickly realized the chair was the perfect item to sell to Westport's summer residents, and apparently without asking Lee's permission, Bunnell filed for and received patent 794,777 in 1905. Bunnell manufactured his plank chairs for the next twenty years. His "Westport chairs" were all signed and made of hemlock in green or medium dark brown. The modern name refers to the Adirondack Mountains, which Westport is near.
Fourteen years after the invention of the "Westport Plank Chair", Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld crafted the Red and Blue Chair, now a famous icon for the de Stijl design movement. De Stijl – translated "The Style" emphasizes straight lines, right angles and bright colors. This tradition has carried on today in colorful engineered wood chairs. While Bummel may not have been interested in pushing the limits of design, Rietveld was quite familiar with the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his single plank angled-back chair, the Robie Chair (1904).
Later, Italian Gino Levi-Montalcini created a design of teak more similar to the Westport chair than the more simplified Dutch chair. Thomas Lee, the original Adirondack Chair inventor, spent time in Italy four years prior to the 1927 Italian chair.
Today's Adirondack chairs usually feature a rounded back and contoured seat. The style has also been translated to other pieces of furniture, from gliders to love seats. Some modern Adirondack chairs are made out of plastic lumber or engineered wood instead of wood.
Adirondack chairs are becoming popular as outdoor seating at cafés because the flat armrests are suitable for setting food and beverages on, making it possible to provide individual seating without tables.
They are commonly made as school projects around the world.