Best Seats

Turn an ordinary Adirondack chair into a really neat seat with color, whimsical pattern, and even a long-legged bird or two.


Summer Seats

Outdoor workhorses, Adirondack chairs offer tried-and-true comfort and nostalgic forms. But, hey, admit it: They can be a bit boring. We upped the personality quotient of three unfinished Adirondack chairs with imaginative treatments, designed to play off favorite hobbies or decorating schemes.

Stars and Stripes

Enlarge Image This patriotic perch draws its flag-waving spirit from Old Glory.

Seemingly weathered by the spraying sea and the drifting sand, this chair is easy to create.

What You Need:

  • Unfinished Adirondack chair
  • White primer paint
  • Exterior latex paints in red, white, and blue
  • Paintbrush
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Polyurethane
  • Sheets of thin-gauge metal (available at crafts stores)
  • Small nails or brads
  • Hammer

Instructions:

Enlarge Image Step 5

1. Coat the chair with white oil-base primer and allow it to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

2. Paint the slats red, white, and blue, and the arms and base red. Let the paint dry.

3. With medium-grit sandpaper, sand the paint from the edges and other surfaces to give it a century-old patina look. Sand at spots that would have been naturally worn by the hands, arms, and legs of folks who might have sunned themselves there over the years.

4. Protect the finish with a coat of polyurethane. Let the polyurethane dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

5. Make the chair twinkle with three free-form stars cut from sheets of thin-gauge metal. The less perfect the better: Cut stars so some points are longer than others to match the chair's imperfect finish. Attach the stars to the arms and lower seat crosspiece with small nails or brads. Then randomly pound across the stars' surfaces with a hammer to create a rustic, punched-tin texture.

Enlarge Image Personalize your seat with your favorite flowers.

There's no digging required for this cheerful plot of spring's first blossoms. Like a container planted with annuals, the chair moves from sun to shade, brightening lawns and patios with vibrant hues.

We chose a crocus, daffodil, iris, tulip, and hyacinth for our chair design. Generate your own images by painting freehand, using stencils, or transferring images. If you choose to transfer images, look for simple, uncopyrighted botanical drawings or photos of single flowers (summer perennials with intact root systems substitute nicely for the bulbs); have them enlarged or reduced at a copy center to fit the chair-back slats.

What You Need:

  • Unfinished Adirondack chair
  • White primer paint
  • Exterior latex paint, pale blue
  • Paintbrush
  • Stencils or transfer images
  • Graphite paper
  • Acrylic paints to color the flowers
  • Artist's or stencil brushes
  • Polyurethane
  • Brush

Instructions:

1. Prime the chair with white oil-base primer and allow it to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

2. Paint the chair with the blue latex paint. Let the paint dry.

3. Arrange your flower images or stencils on the chair slats until you get a pleasing composition, varying the heights and colors for interest. Unless you're using a stencil or are painting freehand, you'll need to transfer the images onto the chair: Place a piece of graphite paper behind each image and secure both layers to the chair with masking tape. With a pencil, trace the lines of the image, transferring the images to the slats. Remove the images and the graphite paper. If you're using stencils, simply tape them to the slats. For hand-painted images, draw your pattern on the slats before painting.

Enlarge Image Step 5

4. Color in the images, using acrylic paints and artist's or stencil brushes. To create the shaded effect around each bloom, use a drier brush dipped in dark blue paint and pat the surface around the edge of each flower.

5. Pick up the color of your stems and accentuate the lines of the chair by painting mossy green stripes along its edges.

6. Protect the finish by sealing the chair with polyurethane. Check the finish each year and reseal as needed.

Enlarge Image You're never alone when you're sitting in this catbird's seat.

Equipped with twig-and-branch landing pads and a cup-holder nest, this chair supplies perches for a permanent papier-mache flock as well as room for you and a winged visitor or two. We painted our chair lavender to showcase the brilliant plumage of our fine-feathered friends.

What You Need:

  • Unfinished Adirondack chair
  • White primer paint
  • Exterior latex paint, lavender or color of your choice
  • Paintbrushes
  • Instant papier-mache (available at crafts stores)
  • Drill
  • 1/8-inch dowels
  • Hot glue or crafts glue
  • Acrylic paints to paint birds
  • Artist's brushes
  • Polyurethane
  • Branches and small twigs

Instructions:

1. Prime the chair with white oil-base primer and allow it to dry according to the manufacturer's directions.

2. Paint the chair with the exterior latex paint. Let the paint dry.

3. To create the birds, mix a batch of instant papier-mache according to manufacturer's instructions. Two cups of the mixture should make seven small birds. With your hands, mold the substance into bird shapes, and place the birds on a cookie sheet. Bake for 2 hours at 250 degrees F, or according to manufacturer's instructions. Let the birds cool.

4. Drill holes at the base of the bird for legs cut from 1/8-inch dowels. Coat ends of dowels with hot glue or crafts glue, and stick the ends in the holes. Let the glue dry.

5. Paint each bird with acrylic paints. Use black and white paint and a fine brush to paint the birds' eyes. Combine bold hues on the bodies with paint polka dots and stripes on the wooden legs. Let the painted birds dry.

6. Seal the paint on the birds with a coat of polyurethane.

Enlarge Image Step 7

7. Hot glue small twigs into a circle on the edge of one chair arm for a nestlike cup holder. Hot-glue (and nail as needed) branches and twigs to the chair as extra bird-girders. As you go, sit in the chair to check that branches or birds do not obstruct your comfort or views.

8. Determine bird placement, drilling holes in branches and the chair for bird legs. Place a drop of hot glue or wood glue into the hole. Push legs into holes, and let glue dry.

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