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If you’re looking to outfit your backyard space or get cozy around a fire pit, there may be no piece of furniture more sought after than the Adirondack chair. Though first imagined by Thomas Lee in 1903 as the perfect place to take in the view of Lake Champlain from his cottage in Westport, New York, the same low-profile, high-back frame can be spotted on porches, beachfronts, and campgrounds across the U.S. today, not just in its namesake mountain region.
“The original design, which consisted of eleven pieces of wood, was made of Hemlock plank with generous armrests and a sloping seat that positioned the sitter for optimal lounging,” explains Mac Plumstead, designer director at Loll Designs. “Lee recruited a local carpenter, Harry Bunnell, to produce the chairs for east coast vacationers. The chairs took off; Bunnell patented the design and continued to sell them for 30 years.”
And by 1938, it received the update we’re most familiar with when thinking of the best Adirondack chairs by Irving Wolpin, adds Plumstead. Below, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites, ranging from traditional to contemporary, and offering a variety of price points.
Material: Recycled HDPE plastic | Dimensions: 33-by-33.25-by-32.5-inches | Warranty: 5 years
What we like:
- No visible screws
- Waterproof, fade-resistant material
- Hidden bottle opener underneath the right arm
- Nine classic, neutral, and fun colors to choose from
- Pricey (but should last for years, especially if you add a cover)
Why we chose it: Modern-day twist on the classic that still promises to endure the elements without you ever having to sand, paint, or stain.
While there’s nothing wrong with the original version of the Adirondack chair—a defined, slatted back that curves at the top of a low-profile, sloped seat—there’s something more streamlined about Loll Designs’ version that catches our eye (and that of numerous designers, including Kevin Dumais, enough so to place it on the front porch of his own Connecticut home). “We implemented our discrete fastening system, for a cleaner, more modern look, free of visible screws and fasteners,” shares Plumstead. “Our chairs are fabricated from recycled plastic, which helps the very environment we are encouraging people to enjoy.”
If you’re looking to add an air of sophistication to your backyard setup, but still offer casual comfort that invites guests to stay for a while, this is the lounger we recommend. It still offers a sloped recline, but not too far back to feel off balance, and the armrests will support you when getting in and out of the low seat, as well as to prop up an elbow or hold a drink. We love the way charcoal or black could add striking contrast amongst greenery, though the bright colors Loll Design offers are all tempting choices. Its strong, recycled plastic is mainly sourced from milk jugs.
If the price is making you think twice, especially for plastic, we first spotted this chair by Highland Dunes in Caroline Mckay’s backyard and think it’s a pretty great budget-friendly alternative for the same modern flair (it’ll cost you roughly $700 less).
More Adirondack Chairs We Love
There are plenty of other iterations of Adirondack chairs that we’ve come to adore as much as the Westport chair, though there’s nothing quite like one hand-crafted by a furniture maker (it’s worth checking out Jack Greco’s custom furniture showrooms and the Wood Carte in upstate New York).
If you don’t like to stray too far from tradition, check out Polywood. Made from proprietary heavy-duty polyethylene lumber and a mix of salvaged landfill- and ocean-bound plastics held together by marine-grade hardware, it’s made to last. One content customer even wrote, “I’ve had Polywood chairs for years and they held up well,” and that’s after leaving them out 365 days a year. The brand also makes a foldable version for easier storage.
To gather around the firepit in their paver-covered Los Angeles backyard, Working Holiday Studio founders Whitney Brown and Carlos Naude tapped these solid, FSC-certified teak chairs from Crate and Barrel. Two big slats adjoin together at the back and seat for an extra-wide profile and the slope style is held up with even bigger back legs.
While it’s not as durable as the others listed here, it’s definitely our go-to budget-friendly buy. Most Adirondack chairs are an investment, but if you’re not ready to splurge hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, on one (or a few), then this lightweight option may be your best bet. It comes with fun details like a built-in cup and phone holders that make it ideal for casual backyard hangs.
To elevate the lounge experience, add the ottoman onto Neighbor’s take on the Adirondack (it checks the essential boxes: sloped silhouette, low height, curved back, and sturdy arm rests). Both are sustainably made with rot-resistant teak sourced from FSC-certified forests.
For a chair that looks as if it’s been naturally weathered away by the ocean, this coastal version of the Adirondack chair is simplistic in construction but gorgeous to look at. Its recline is deeper than the others, but the whole thing is still sturdy and made from cabbage bark wood.
For a wood feel without the maintenance, Keter’s Lakeside collection includes a waterproof, UV-protected chair with a modern, straight-edged back, comfortably contoured seat, and less recline. Made in the U.S., this lounge chair has a 400-pound weight capacity and features a design the brand promises won’t topple over.
Our Shopping Checklist
Material and Durability
“Not all Adirondack chairs are created equal. Shoppers should look for what it’s made out of, sizing, style, and color options to fit their lifestyle and aesthetic,” advises Brian King, Loll Designs’s brand and marketing director. “Traditionally, these chairs were made from wood, which looks nice but requires lots of maintenance year over year.”
Of all the wood options, teak is a top choice over other painted woods as it naturally patinas and resists water; it will eventually need to be sanded down and resealed. Plastic actually might be the most popular, though you’ll still want something tough enough to not wear overtime compared to a typical lawn chair. Look for HDPE—a fancy way to refer to high quality plastic—for something sturdy. One thing to note: the material often has a direct correlation to weight, though all adirondack chairs are generally on the heavier side compared to other outdoor furniture options.
Adirondack chairs are traditionally low, hovering just a few inches above the ground, and sloping back into what many describe as the “perfect recline.” Defining features include a tall, usually curved back, slatted construction (there are compatible cushions out there if this isn’t your cup of tea), and large, wide arms that hug the sides for extra support. This chair is the antithesis of compact, and usually takes up a solid amount of room. It’s yet another reason why they’re typically so comfy.
Silhouettes aside, the Adirondack chair is popularly sold in a range of colors, aside from the classic natural finish. That’s part of the beauty of going with a durable plastic, as it allows for a greater range of color, notes King, since “color is a deeply personal choice.” At Loll Designs, charcoal gray remains a bestseller, though “nothing says Adirondack more than a beautiful apple red chair on the end of the dock at the lake.” Who can argue with that?
The Last Word
The best Adirondack chairs are pretty versatile. This is the type of seat that feels right at home, no matter where you live or whether it’s on the porch or in the backyard around a fire pit. Our favorites won’t fade easily in the sun or wear in the snow; are sturdy; and offer a place to kick back and relax season after season.