For over 100 years, the Muskoka chair, also known as the Adirondack chair, has been a signature piece of furniture on the many patios and docks of cottages and resorts in Ontario – including the ones at the Loughborough Inn. So where did these popular chairs come from, and why are they so popular?
The Muskoka chair is the chair’s Canadian name. It was actually thought to be invented by American Thomas Lee in 1903. While on vacation in the Adirondack Mountains, Lee was inspired to create a comfortable chair for his summer home. He began work. His main objectives were to design a patio chair that would be functional and comfortable. In the end, he made the first Adirondack chair with 11 pieces of wood cut from one board. The seat and the back were put at an angle. He designed the chair this way so the chair would sit leveled on the mountain inclines. Another trait of this unique chair is its wide arms.
The chair was not initially called the Adirondack chair, but the Westport plank chair – named for a town located in the Adirondack Mountains.
While Lee designed the Muskoka chair, he does not actually hold the patent. Harry Bunnell, a friend of Lee’s, seized the chance to patent it after Lee offered the chair to Bunnell. Bunnell was a carpenter by trade and recognized that the chair would be ideal to sell to Westport’s affluent summer residents. For the next 20 years he made the Adirondack chairs out of hemlock.
While wood was the material of choice during the chair’s early existence, efforts to live ‘green’ have lead to an influx of chairs being made of 100% recycled plastic. Much like other inventions, their design has also been altered. While the signature recline and wide arms remains the same, Adirondack chairs can now come equipped with cup holders, cushions, foot rests, magazine racks and side tables. They are also made in children’s and youth sizes.
The comfort and practicality of this chair have contributed to it’s universal appeal. Cottagers and resorts in Ontario quickly adopted the design, and the chair became widely known in Canada as the ‘Muskoka chair’ – named for Ontario’s popular Muskoka cottage country.
The Muskoka chair has become synonyomous with rest and relaxation. It is perhaps for this reason that you won’t only find them gracing the docks and patios of resorts in Ontario and cottages, but also of downtown patios and balconies.