Nobody Has the Guts to Say Adirondack Chairs Are Bad. I Do

published Jul 22, 2021
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Picture the platonic ideal of a summer’s day. What comes to mind? Hot dogs sizzling on the grill. A sparkly blue pool to splash in. Maybe some sidewalk chalk to draw with. And definitely an Adirondack chair or two to sit in, painted white and positioned perfectly on a grassy expanse.

Adirondack chairs have come to symbolize a laid-back, carefree lifestyle. You see them in backyards, in front yards, on postcards, in seascape paintings, on stationery. They’re a piece of furniture that purports to quiet the mind like no other, promising tranquility, bliss, and a place to take a load off with an icy glass of lemonade in hand.

These chairs seem to exist in a world where the weather is always perfect, the grass is always green, and the breeze is always gentle. They’re a signifier of the good life. Of rest. Of relaxation. 

And I think they’re bad. Not just mildly unpleasant or even my second choice in seating, but across-the-board bad. I don’t know if anyone on this Adirondack-chair-dotted earth agrees with me, because nobody has the guts to actually say they’re bad. I do.

First, the idea that these iconic chairs are relaxing is laughable. They’re hard to sit back in! Something about the angle of the seat forces you to crouch down and scoot your butt backward in a very unnatural way. Once you’re there, you have no choice but to lean back. To me, it almost feels like when one of those reclining computer chairs dips back too much, forcing you to snap forward to correct it. Except in the wooden contraption known as an Adirondack, there’s no snapping forward — you just have to exist in the weird limbo of sitting back at a strange angle.

They’re also tough to get up from. You really need to hurl yourself forward (after a few uphill butt scoots) to stand up properly. “The fact that you’re not supposed to get out of it is a feature, not a bug,” my editor said to me while I spouted off my reasons for disliking Adirondacks. To Apartment Therapy Lifestyle Director Taryn Williford: I hear where you’re coming from, but I prefer not to be made aware of my lack of core strength after a day of sunbathing.

These chairs are seen as the height of backyard luxury, through they’re often associated with beachy environments, too. This is puzzling for many reasons, the most obvious being that an Adirondack chair strikes me as the worst choice for a beach chair. Aside from its awkward angles, painted wood doesn’t feel great on bare skin. Imagine going for a dip in the ocean and then moseying back up to your Adirondack chair, plunking down on that hard seat in a wet bathing suit. Oof.

I should put all of my bellyaching aside for a moment to say that Adirondack chairs are iconic for a reason. They were invented in 1903 by a man named Thomas Lee. While vacationing in Westport, New York, he decided to build some furniture that would allow him and his family to relax in the ruggedness of the great outdoors. Eventually, he settled on a design with 11 planks of wood, wide armrests, and a sloping back — quite similar to the Adirondack chair we know today — and dubbed it the Westport, after the town in the Adirondack mountains he was staying in. Some patent kerfuffles and newer design iterations changed the look of the chair over the years, but the modern Adirondack is inspired by Lee’s initial look. It’s been a symbol of outdoor relaxation ever since.

I hope not to rain on your summer-loving parade with my complaints, but to open your eyes to some glaring faults that nobody seems to be discussing. If you happen to love Adirondack chairs, I sincerely wish you enjoy them to the fullest this season. I, for one, will be sipping a Miller High Life in a fold-up woven lawn chair, which is the best kind of outdoor chair, if you ask me.