Log Homes: Adirondack Style

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Adirondack Style refers to the architectural design associated with the Great Camps within the Adirondack Mountains area in New York. On lakes in the Adirondacks, such as Spitfire Lake and Rainbow Lake, in the late nineteenth century, landowners built large compounds designed in an opulent lodge style. Homebuilders used building materials from the land in the area and nestled their buildings within the wooded landscapes on the edges of lakes, making little attempt to tame their immediate surroundings.

These Camps for the wealthy were built to provide a primitive, rustic appearance while avoiding the headaches and added expense/time of shipping materials in-country. The Camps were originally conceived of as a retreat from the crowds and bustle of modern civilization. In time, however, this bucolic ideal was abandoned: some Great Camps eventually contained a bowling alley or movie theatre.

The Father of the Adirondack Great Camp, William West Durant, reached the pinnacle of Adirondack architecture with Great Camp Sagamore, one of three National Historic Landmark Camps Durant built in his incredible career.


Great emphasis was placed on using traditional methods and materials sourced from the home build site itself. Logs cut and treated in various time-honored artisan techniques were used to enhance the rustic appeal.

Whole logs, peeled logs, and coveted burl wood were materials of choice just as they are in today’s modern log homes.  Burls are a tree growth in which the grain has grown deformed, and are highly prized for their uniqueness. If you’ve ever observed a rounded growth jutting out on a tree, that’s burl wood.

Stone native to the land, not ported in from a far-off quarry, was carefully selected, cut, and placed in both exterior construction and interior adornments and fireplaces.

Characteristics of Adirondack Architecture

Adirondack buildings are recognizable by their rough finish, contrasted with their obvious attention to incredible craftsmanship and detail. Wood that hasn’t been milled into finished lumber and is in its natural form describes the National Park Service’s rustic building style. Adirondack architecture remains versatile to this day, and is still seen incorporated into custom homes, roofing, cabins, boat houses, furnishings, kitchen fittings, birch and cedar furniture, logs and “twig work.” “Twig work” is the detailed construction of decorative motifs in buildings and furniture using twigs and branches.

Adirondack Style Today
Although there aren’t many homes being built today in the grand Great Camp style, the influence of the period is still seen in other architectural elements and décor items that can grace anyone’s home. Mission style furnishings blend particularly well with Adirondack style. Twig-work furniture is another way rustic elements of the Great Camps show up in homes, incorporated in everything from bannisters to dining room chairs or chandeliers. And we can’t leave out the chairs most synonymous with Adirondack and cabin style, the Adirondack chair.

Take a moment to explore the history and charm of the Adirondack style and see if you can incorporate some pieces in your own camp!