Advancements in rail and automobile transportation in the mid to late 19th century led the wealthy from New York City, Newport, Boston, and other east coast cities to spend their summers at mountain resorts, where the air was cooler and healthier, and the lifestyle less hectic. They flocked to pristine wilderness areas, such as New York State's Adirondack Mountains. The natural, rustic beauty of these mountains inspired these summer residents, with such notable names as Vanderbilt, Post, and Rockefeller, to build "camps" - rustic style estates - luxurious, yet relaxed in feel. With these "camps", Adirondack style was born.
Using rough-hewn logs, bark-covered beams, and uncut stone, Adirondack architects created main buildings with majestic vaulted ceilings and huge, stone fireplaces so big you could stand in them. These lodges were accompanied by individual guest cabins. These were not, however, your typical "log" cabins. The Adirondack camps were every bit as luxurious as the residents' mansions back home. Days may have been spent in leisurely pursuits, but come evening, guests dressed in black tie finery and great feasts were served on the best china and silver. President Calvin Coolidge, too, fell in love with the region and brought the Adirondacks to national attention when, in the summer of 1926, he moved the "summer White House" to Pine Camp, one of the luxury estates in the region.
The Adirondack's log-style "camp" mansions needed a similar style of furniture with which to fill them. Native artisans used the materials of the region -stones, logs, twigs, and roots - to create simple, rustic designs for chairs and gliders. Teak, birch, cedar, hickory, and oak-the woods indigenous to New York -- were frequently used, often in combination to create a multi-hued design. Although many pieces looked basic, they were actually quite intricate. Ingenious inlaid designs and natural accents made each piece a work of art in itself. Many such pieces have survived and are highly collectible.
The best-known Adirondack piece of furniture is the classic wooden, sloped-back, deep-seated Adirondack chair. Often accompanied by a matching footrest, these chairs were ideal for the sweeping lawns and expansive porches of the Adirondack "camps". Rocking chairs and large porch swings, constructed from branches, hickory sticks, and roots, were popular and useful for lounging on the porch with a good book during the heat of the day.
Folding Adirondack Chair.
Modern furniture makers have added a touch of playfulness and whimsy to the classic Adirondack chair. Painted chairs, in bright colors and in soft pastels, abound often coming at cheap prices from discount stores. Hand-painted chairs, with birds or flower designs, add interest to any yard. Modern technology has led to all weather plastic Adirondack chairs, especially suited to northern climates.
Adirondack accessories are practical and functional as well as decorative. Woven, rich-hued blankets add color and warmth to the expansive living areas. Intricate woven pack baskets can be useful as well as lovely grouped together for a country look. Outdoor activities were the daytime focus in the golden age of the Adirondack camps and sports gear, such as boat paddles, fishing tackle, and tennis rackets adorn many a camp wall, then and now. Winter sports paraphernalia, such as snowshoes and sleds also make stylish wall ornaments. Framed family photos add to the homey feel of this style and are often prominently displayed, both in groups and singly. Oversized mirrors, with rough-hewn frames were featured in the guest cabins, and are a popular modern Adirondack accessory.
Red Adirondack Christmas Throw.
American folk art was a natural accompaniment to the Adirondack camps. Patriotic, red, white, and blue, designs as well as primitive farm scenes reflect the feigned simplicity of this style. Realistic oil paintings of the surrounding wilderness, sometimes created by the owners or their guests, helped to bring the beauty of nature inside. Photography was just becoming popular and widely available in the early 20th century and framed nature photographs, too, fit the Adirondack style.
The Adirondack color palette reflects the New York mountain wilderness. Shades of beige and brown, deep greens, and rust are commonly associated with Adirondack design. Bright accents, on such items as pillows, throws, and artwork, enlivened the rooms. Subtle prints, borrowed from nature, such as duck, leaf, and water motifs lend subtle interest to seat cushions, drapes, and tablecloths.
Modern Adirondack Chair.
Adirondack style is a reflection of America's majestic natural beauty and native craftsmanship and inventiveness. Adirondack furniture and accent pieces are sturdy, well designed, and beautiful. Putting together an Adirondack room requires close attention to detail. A single piece, combined with traditional furniture, can often be enough to add interest to a room without overwhelming it. A handcrafted Adirondack piece of furniture is sure to be a conversation starter. It's also a good way to add a little American history and style to your home.