Dining Chair Buying Guide – Must-Know Tips
Selecting dining chairs that complement your table is a task that requires a surprising amount of thought. While they might seem more practical than anything, the right chairs present a chance to make a beautiful statement in the dining room, and to accentuate your choice of dining table in whatever way suits your personal brand of interior style. But, with thousands of styles on the market, this decision can feel easier said than done.
Instead of agonising as you pore over page after page of gorgeous dining chairs, keep reading to discover our complete buying guide, compiled by our expert stylists. From colour and style to the functional elements of your dining chairs, we’ve got you covered from start to finish.
How to choose the right dining chair
So, you’re ready to replace your dining chairs and take your dining setting to the next level. Throughout this guide, we’ll break down a few things you should consider throughout the process, including practical needs and aesthetics. Here’s a peek at what’s to come…
- Dining chair size – will they fit with your current dining table?
- Dining chair spacing – how many chairs can your table accommodate?
- Types of dining chairs – what are the different designs?
- Upholstery vs no upholstery – what suits your needs best?
- Backrests, armrests and legs – how do these elements affect comfort and practicality?
- Colour and material – how do you coordinate new chairs with an old dining table?
- Dining chair styles – what does a dining chair that fits with your style look like?
How many chairs will my dining table fit?
Let’s start with the logistics. Presumably, you’re working with an existing dining table that you’re hoping to bring new life to by adding some chic dining chairs. So, you’ll need to consider the dimensions of your table and ensure that you’re purchasing dining chairs that fit easily under the table, with enough leg room to be used comfortably. You’ll also need to ponder the number of chairs that your dining table could accommodate and make sure this fits with your needs.
The recommended buffer between chairs is between 60cm and 90cm, with the happy medium (75cm) serving as the ideal distance for your average diners. So, the simplest way to determine how many chairs to purchase is to measure the length of your dining table. Then, once you’ve found a chair style you like, subtract its width from the total length of the dining table, then 75cm, then the next chair, and so on in sequence. This rule is pretty foolproof for rectangular or oval-shaped tables. On the other hand, if your table is round or square, it’s safe to say that you’re looking at four chairs, or perhaps six for a very large style.
To work out the right height for your chairs, just take the height of your dining table and subtract 20 to 30cm. This is the approximate width needed to sit down comfortably and use the dining table without impediment.
Types of dining chair
There are a number of dining chair designs that appeal to different home designers, and subsequently, household needs. It’s important that throughout the process of picking out those gorge new dining chairs that you really understand and work towards the needs of the people that live in your home. For instance, if it’s just you and flatmates or a partner, you mightn’t use the dining table as much as a family with children. You’ll find that different types of dining chair will suit specific uses better than others. Here are a few broad designs to consider…
Classic wooden dining chairs come in a number of styles and are made from a range of timbers and materials. They’re a reliable choice and tend to pair best with timber surfaces, although we’ve seen some incredible mixing and matching with marble, glass and concrete dining tables, too. They’re adaptable to any number of styles – for instance, if you love a modern vibe, you might select a wooden black dining chair, whereas a fan of coastal chic may instead opt for rattan dining chairs.
Upholstered dining chairs provide a soft cushion for your back (and backside!), usually with a supportive timber frame. The padded fabric surfaces mean you’ll be able to spend lots of time sitting down at your dining table very comfortably. However, they’re a little more restrictive when it comes to style – an upholstered chair in a simple fabric will lend itself well to a classic traditional, Hamptons or even French provincial aesthetic.
Material armchairs are, for some, an unusual pick for the dining table, but for others, they offer the perfect fit! We’re talking about those smaller accent chairs that are a little too cramped for luxe lounging, but provide a soft and uber-comfy seat for the occasional diner, the multi-purpose user, or anyone who just loves to be cosy. Opt for fun fabrics like velvet or leather to add this style of chair to a modern or new Art Deco dining room.
Metal and plastic dining chairs might not sound super comfortable, but in the right room, they can look and feel great. Pair them with a barely-there cushion that provides some support but doesn’t detract from the industrial and contemporary vibe. They’re super easy to wipe down and keep clean, making them a great fit for anyone with a busy young family. However, don’t expect to spend lots of time sitting down on these chairs, unless you’re not fazed by comfort.
Should I opt for upholstered dining chairs?
One really common question that pops up during the dining chair buying process is ‘upholstery, or no upholstery?’ Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and how well a cushy seat will serve your needs.
Consider an upholstered chair if you spend lots of time at the dining table – especially if it’s used for activities other than eating, such as helping with homework, playing board games with the family, studying or working, and having drinks and nibbles when friends come over. The soft seats will allow you to sit for hours on end without getting fidgety or uncomfortable.
On the other hand, an upholstered chair might not be for you if your dining table is quite irregularly used, or alternatively, if you have a young family with kids and pets. Upholstered chairs can’t simply be tossed in the wash (although we’d love to see you try…), and thus will require careful spot cleaning on the occasion of a spill or scuff. If this is a regular occurrence in your household, then a wooden, metal or plastic chair with a removable cushion will be a better bet.
Selecting the right backrests, armrests and chair legs
There are a couple of other dining chair nuances to mull over before we jump into style and aesthetic. Ensuring your chairs have the right features to suit your needs is crucial, so don’t forget to think about things like backrests, armrests and chair legs.
Most dining chairs have very simple, straight backrests, which create support while sitting down and keep you upright as you eat your meal or go about daily tasks. There are a number of beautiful backrest styles on offer, including cross back dining chairs (which feature pieces of wood or metal in an ‘X’ pattern), Windsor dining chairs (where lots of vertical slats of wood form the backrest) or Bentwood dining chairs (a rounded shape with negative space in the centre of the backrest).
If you prefer a slouchier, more comfortable feel, though, you might opt for a sloping, curved backrest like those on an armchair or accent chair style. If a backrest doesn’t factor into your equation, you’ve got the choice of going without, and instead employing stools or a long bench for your household members to sit on. While this might be a great selection for young, 20 or 30-something housemates, it’s probably not ideal for anyone with squirmy kids, elderly relatives, or just a bad back.
If you’re caught up by the functionality of your chairs, you might be considering dining chairs with arms, and wondering what the difference is with or without armrests. Simply put, armrests aren’t necessary for a good dining experience, but if you’re using the chair for longer periods of time, might be favourable for comfort. Be sure that if you do select a chair with armrests that it can fit easily under the table and doesn’t present any issues being tucked away. Some dining chair styles with armrests are absolutely stunning, including ever-popular wishbone dining chairs.
Finally, while your chairs’ legs won’t affect your comfort too much, the pickier of us may like to weigh up the various options (we don’t blame you!). From a functional standpoint, most dining chairs will have four slightly splayed legs that offer great, even support for users of all shapes and sizes. However, there are other alternatives, such as those with tripod legs (criss-crossed from a central stem – think Eames chairs) or those that run on a gliding steel or chrome frame. The main things to think about when pondering a chair’s legs are support and comfort.
Considering colour and material
When you’re working with an existing dining table, it might seem like a mountainous task to find chairs that match or fit – which is why so many home designers before us have chosen to purchase a dining package where everything coordinates. However, there’s so much wonderful freedom to be had by purchasing your table and chairs separately, and it means that you’ll avoid falling into that matchy-matchy trap, too. There are two central things to consider when pairing new chairs with your dining table, and those are colour and material.
If your style is more on the modern, edgy or bold side, try sourcing chairs in a different material to your dining table to create contrast. A really popular option here is to pair a wooden table in a traditional brown tone with metal or black dining chairs for some juxtaposition. You can translate this same approach to a softer home, too – instead of opting for same-same, find a chair that stands out a bit. For example, white dining chairs in a luxe upholstery would be a fantastic, eye-catching addition to a big, rustic wooden dining table.
When it comes to colour, black, white and wooden are the most popular choices – but that doesn’t mean you have to subdue your style if that’s simply not you. Coloured dining chairs look incredible with a plain black, white or glass table, especially if they’re in a standout material. Who wouldn’t want to sit on pink velvet dining chairs, or lush, baby-soft brown leather dining chairs? Whatever colour you select, be sure that it’s used as an accent throughout the room, so it feels like an intentional choice.
The same principles go for material. Selecting a fun and slightly offbeat material will suit a number of home styles, whereas others will fare best by sticking to the traditional. Think about the principles of your style and apply them to your choice of dining chair, and you can’t go wrong! There are tonnes of materials to consider, including rattan, wicker, velvet, leather, boucle, cane and many more.
Your guide to dining chair styles
Finally, we’ve compiled a mini dining chair style guide to help you work out what’ll best suit your home, depending on the category your aesthetic falls into. Let’s explore…
Mid century modern: If you’re still loving the 50s and 60s vibe, mid century modern dining chairs will be right up your alley. Think dark wood shades, geometric shapes, curves and jewel tones. The Ingrid Dining Chairs are comfy and structured, and will pair beautifully with a mid century dining table.
Modern contemporary: Modern dining chairs should be sleek, slick and simple. While dark wood tones might fare well against a modern table, metal and shades of black, white and grey are even better. Go super neutral with the Madea Dining Chairs (bonus points, they’re stackable!). You’ve also got the option of adding some flair within the confines of this style with the Comet Dining Chairs, which have a rounded, modern shape and dark blue velvet upholstery.
French provincial: French provincial dining chairs are typified by an elegant look and feel, employing styles of the era such as tufted backboards and a curvy, elaborate shape. If this is totally you and your home, you’ll adore the Marie Dining Chairs.
Classic traditional: If your home is clean, chic and classic, with lots of wood and neutral colours, your style is likely classic traditional. Pair a dining table that fits this bill with chairs that are simple yet effective – we love the neutral upholstery and basic shape of the Espen Dining Chairs.
Scandinavian: A Scandi dining chair should be very pared-back and simple, and will traditionally be made of lightweight, pale wood. Our go-to to suit a chilled out Scandi dining room would be the Matsumura Dining Chairs, which add a tiny bit of flair with their rounded backrests, and provide comfort with a grey upholstered seat.
Coastal: If your style is reminiscent of a beautiful beach vacation, coastal furniture will suit your tastes perfectly. A coastal-style dining chair should incorporate natural materials (think cane, rattan or jute) – the Koko Dining Chairs do exactly this, with a sturdy woven base and a popular wishbone shape.
Hamptons: Another beachy vibe, Hamptons is a little more upscale and perfected than its relaxed sister, coastal style. Think whitewashed wood and ocean-inspired colours like sand, royal blue, soft green and white. The Petit Fleur Dining Chairs in white exemplify luxe yet laid-back Hamptons style perfectly.
With all of the elements of choosing dining chairs locked and loaded, all there’s left to do is begin the hunt! Shop Brosa’s range of beautiful and carefully-constructed dining chairs today, and explore other dining furniture options along the way. Need more help along your journey? Our expert team of stylists are available virtually or in-store at our Melbourne and Sydney studio spaces.