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Is it really summer without an Adirondack chair? It seems like these warm weather staples have been gracing outdoor spaces forever. In reality, the chair was invented in the early 1900s and comes with a possibly checkered past.

The First Adirondack Chair

We know you don’t have all day so we’ll give you the short version. According to the first Adirondack chair wasn’t called an Adirondack at all. It was invented as the Westport chair by wealthy business magnate Thomas Lee, who spent summers at his family home in Westport, New York. Lee aimed to make a chair that could stand up to the varied terrain in the area, from sandy beaches to rugged hillsides.

After working on his design for a few years the Westport chair was born. Using a single piece of wood for the seat and back, it sported wide armrests, a slanted seat, and high back.

A replica of the Westport Chair courtesy of HGTV

Adirondack Chair Controversy

The story goes that Lee wasn’t interested in manufacturing the chairs, but he’d shared the design with his buddy, Henry Bunnell, a local carpenter who was looking for a way to make money during the winter months. Bunnell applied for a patent and the rest as they say, is history.

Lee’s descendants claimed Bunnell had no right to steal the chair from Lee. But an HGTV article pointed out that Lee’s great-great-grandson told a reporter that while the Lee family may have been unhappy to miss out on all the cash generated by the popular chair, Lee himself never mentioned any displeasure. His generosity in sharing that design helped his friend Bunnell craft a legacy.

The Modern Adirondack

The classic Adirondack (Westport) chair is pricey these days. Over a thousand dollars! But there are more affordable, modern versions available for those of us who love the look for less. Here are our top picks:


Making Adirondack chairs cool again. Pick black for a laid-back, yet sophisticated vibe.

Cool, black Adirondacks from DWR


Sustainable, gorgeous, and budget-friendly. Polywood offers Adirondacks in tons of styles and colors.

Orange Adirondack from Polywood’s South Beach Collection


Solid mahogany wood and the gorgeous red color have us going gaga for these affordable Adirondack chairs.

Alston Adirondack chair from Target

West Elm

Rustic yet refined, the Portside Adirondack hits all the right notes.

Portside Adirondack from West Elm

And there you have it. A brief history of the Adirondack chair along with some of our faves. There are tons of options out there in all colors, styles, and price ranges. So what do you say? Ready to sit a spell in summer’s iconic Adirondack?

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