10 Dining Chair Styles and Designs, Defined
The hunt for new dining chairs is no easy journey – in fact, it can be gruelling, long, and confusing enough to bring about a major headache. There’s the dilemma of finding a style that suits your dining table, and the predicament of making that mesh with the rest of the room. If you want to mix and match, it becomes even more convoluted, with a variety of designs on offer that contrast or complement one another.
So, before you begin the process of selecting some new seating for your dining room, it’s key that you know a bit about the characters you’ll meet along the way. Dining chairs, like all other types of furniture, come in a huge range of styles, shapes and sizes, but there are repeat offenders that you’re likely to find at any store or on every page you browse. Knowing a little more about these styles means you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, the pros and cons of that particular choice, and how to tackle styling it in your space.
Popular dining chair designs
Let’s start with design – the configuration of your dining chairs, regardless of the frills and flourishes that make it unique and help it to fit within a certain style. No, we’re talking the way your dining chairs are laid out and constructed, and the functionality that provides. Be sure to really evaluate the purpose of your dining chairs and the way you like to use them. If you tend to sit cross-legged, maybe a chair with rigid arms wouldn’t suit. If you feel unstable on high bar stools, it’s likely you will want arms on your chairs.
Here are five of the most popular designs and design features for dining chairs.
Although you’ve probably never heard the term ‘side chair’, you’ve definitely used one in your lifetime – you might even be sitting on one now! They’re the most common design around, and many dining chairs follow this form with their own differentiating features. Side chairs have no arms, are traditionally wooden (although partially upholstered versions are now just as popular) and generally have a gap between the ‘head’ of the backrest and the seat of the chair.
These pieces are quite easy to mix and match, as they follow a similar configuration all the time. Look for commonalities in wood tone or upholstery colour to easily combine a few favourites.
Not to be confused with a big, comfy couch-like thing you’d place by the television, in this case, when we say armchairs we’re simply alluding to what the name suggests – a chair with arms, unlike a side chair. By adding armrests, you’re creating a much more comfortable seat that can be utilised for longer time periods, however with this comes more difficulty manoeuvring. You might find it harder to slide a larger armchair under a low dining table, and they also take up additional space around the table, which could limit the number of pieces that will fit.
Armchairs are often statement pieces, so if mixing and matching is your game, you’ll probably want to keep some of the other elements – such as the other chair style – quite simple and pared-back. Of course, if vibrant and eye-catching is your game, you could blend two daring armchair styles to create a visually interesting dining setting.
A Parsons chair is a traditional style of dining chair that features a straight, rectangular back at a ninety-degree angle to the seat, and is upholstered. You’ll find this timeless style featured in classic designs, so it suits a home with similar tendencies. They’re easy to push under tables and look very uniform and organised, so if you like a structured look, this one’s for you! Upholstered fabric backs lend a softness to these pieces, though, so depending on the colour and texture you choose, they’re a versatile dining chair style. To mix and match, keep the style the same and add excitement with two complementary upholstery colours.
Wishbone chairs are definitely trending right now, so chances are you’ve seen them around, whether that’s on Instagram or in the pages of your favourite magazine. What makes them unique is their arms; their form is almost geometric with a higher arm and back that creates a beautiful and striking shape. Wishbone chairs have an open back with two beams running down the middle as support, and can use a range of materials for the seat, including wood, upholstery and even rattan. These are timelessly cool and chic, and look great with any number of styles – just be sure that your table is high enough to accommodate their taller-than-average back and arms.
Finally, not all dining chairs have to be structured – in fact, the versatility factor skyrockets when you opt for a bench or stool instead of a traditional piece. While stools aren’t the most comfortable for some with no backrest, others love them and the bar or al fresco dining vibe they bring. The same goes for benches, which are slightly more stable with one long, flat seat rather than a smaller one to balance on. Both of these styles are super simple to manoeuvre with no pesky arms or backs to contend with, and will slot easily under any number of tables. They’re also great if you need to cover off multiple functions in your home – simply grab a stool and drag it over to the TV as needed.
Our favourite dining chair styles
With form and function out of the way, it’s all about finding the perfect piece to suit your dining room’s individual, and surely gorgeous, style. We’ve all got our tastes – it’s undeniable – so there are likely some elements that stick out as being typically ‘you’ that you might like to reflect in your choice of dining chair.
However, if you’re struggling with where to start, you might identify with one of these five common and ever-popular styles and the beautiful dining chairs they encompass.
Classic traditional style is timeless, charming and dripping with pageantry. With variations that date back centuries (such as Queen Anne and Regency pieces) classic style will never fade and is bound to inform design decisions until the end of time. These pieces mix upholstery and wood, usually in a medium brown or chestnut tone, and focus on neutral shades with subtle pops of colour like soft blue, navy or pink.
Classic traditional dining chairs are usually parsons chairs or side chairs in form, and feature upholstered backrests with either a fabric or wooden seat. This backrest might be studded for a distinctive look, and often has a slight wingback style. Neutral colours like white, grey, beige, cream and blue tie them into a cohesive collection that borders on the formal side of things, and looks gorgeous against a strong and structured dining table.
Mid century modern
Mid century modern emerged in the 1950s, and is still a powerful design choice beloved around the world to this day. Cool and graphic, this once-contemporary style now evokes the charm of days gone by without looking dated. In fact, it’s influenced so many current pieces that mid century modern style has become an expected part of the design zeitgeist. Although there’s nothing that exactly typifies mid century modern, some of the features you can expect include geometric shapes, disparate sizes, wingbacks, curves, medium-toned wood, jewel toned upholstery and lush fabrics like velvet.
Modern contemporary style is another ever-popular choice, and you’ll see it dotted around almost every home – it’s practically inescapable, because it ties so well into other aesthetics, and is a very common choice for dining furniture due to its sleek nature. Modern contemporary pieces, like mid century modern, can’t be pinned down in one sentence, but might utilise cool neutral tones (think black, grey and cold white), clean lines, metals like gold and silver, geometric shapes and materials including stone, marble and glass.
The best part about modern dining chairs is their versatility – pair them with practically any dining table and existing style, and it’s likely they’ll fit right in. Their sleek design means that they’re usually lower and easier to move around in your space.
Natural, minimalist and cosy, Scandinavian style is everywhere, accommodating for the rise of life trend hygge (comfortable conviviality in the home). Designed to create an air of clutter-free comfort that lets the mind rest, Scandinavian pieces are often simply yet durably constructed and are typified by light wood, thinner beams and clean yet classic lines. You might see some upholstery on the backrest or seat of a Scandinavian chair, but the focal point will be gorgeous light wood with some slight curves to add visual warmth. Colour choices for Scandi furniture are also neutral; think cream, beige, tan, grey and white.
Due to their minimal, light frames, Scandinavian-style dining chairs are a great choice for those who like to entertain, and need the room to house more chairs, or move them around easily. They’ll likely slide under tables effortlessly, but some designs do have higher arm rests or backs to think about.
Harking back to aristocratic times, French provincial style is elegant, romantic and has the look of luxury. But, in the 21st century, it’s also increasingly affordable, which means you can recreate a look previously only adopted by royalty in any home. French provincial style relies heavily on upholstery, either mixed with visible wood elements on the chair’s arms and legs, or on its own using a slipcover to hide any wooden parts. Soft and luxe to sit on, a French provincial chair might boast tufting, an elaborately curved backrest, a wingback style or soft, overstuffed cushioning. Popular colour choices include white, tan and pale blue.
With a much better idea of what’s out there, shopping for dining chairs has just gotten a little bit easier! Ultimately, these pieces are functional, but they’re also fundamental in determining the flair and feel of the room, and establishing the mood and stylistic tone, whether that’s formal, retro, laid-back, fun or something else entirely. Before you shop, be sure to have a clear picture of the styles you like and the feeling you’re trying to evoke. Then, head over to our huge range of dining chairs and take your pick – here at Brosa, we offer Australia-wide shipping and flexible payment options on every purchase. Happy dining!