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How to Choose Chairs for Your Dining Table

Mar. 07, 2024
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Don't pass on a stunning dining table just because it doesn't come with chairs. Your table and chairs don't have to match. Your chairs do need to suit your table's scale and style. Here's what to consider when you choose chairs for your dining table:

Scale 

For comfort, the respective scales of your dining table and chairs must be compatible.

If you measure from the top of the table to the floor, most dining tables range from 28 to 31 inches high; a 30-inch height is the most common. From the top of the seat to the floor, dining chairs frequently range from 17 to 20 inches high. That means the distance between the seat and tabletop could be anywhere from 8 to 14 inches.

The average diner finds a distance of 10 to 12 inches the most comfortable, but it varies by the thickness of the tabletop, the height of the apron, and by the size of the diner.

Seat Height

To find the seat-height-to-table-height distance you find comfortable, test a table (or tables) with a mix of different chairs.

You can visit a furniture store with lots of kitchen and dining sets on display. Or, simply pay attention to your comfort level when you dine out. Keep a small measuring tape in your purse or pocket so you can note the exact distance when you find one that fits.

Don't just measure from table's top to the seat. If the table doesn't have an apron, measure from the bottom of the tabletop to the top edge of the chair seat. If the table has an apron, measure from the bottom of the apron to the top of the seat.

Note whether the chair seat is hard or upholstered. Upholstered seats tend to compress when you sit. If the padding is thick, the compression may be substantial. To get an accurate reading, measure from the top of the upholstered seat to the floor while the chair is empty, and then have someone measure it again while you sit. Add the difference between the two to your ideal table-to-seat distance.

Tip

If you visit a furniture store to test different chair and table heights, tell the salesperson what you're doing so she doesn't lose her spot on the "UP" list—a system used in certain stores to help determine which salesperson will be assisting a customer.

Width and Depth

Scale isn't just about compatible heights. You also need chairs that actually fit under your table. If they don't, your diners won't feel comfortable and you'll damage both table and chairs.

The chairs you place at each end of a rectangular or oval dining table should slide under the table without bumping into the table legs, or into the base of a pedestal or trestle table. Those guidelines also apply to every chair you use with square and roundtables. 

If you plan to use two or more chairs on each long side of the table, make sure there's room to slide them underneath with bumping each other or the table's base or legs. If the chair seats touch, diners feel cramped and uncomfortably close. The same is true for roundtables; leave at least two inches of space between each chair.

Arm and Back Heights

If you use dining chairs with arms at any type of table, make sure the tops of the arms don't brush or bump the bottom of the tabletop or apron. In addition to the inevitable damage your chair arms will suffer, diners may not be able to sit close enough to the table to eat comfortably.

The final scale concern when choosing chairs for a mixing room table is the difference between the table height and the overall chair height. Make sure the backs of your chairs are taller than the top of the table. Taller is better, but a height difference of two inches is the absolute minimum. The chairs look squatty otherwise.

Style 

In addition to choosing tables and chairs of compatible scale, the pieces need to look good together. The styles must be compatible too.

Choosing tables and chairs with a common element usually ensures that they'll look good together. That common element can be the period, the color undertone of the finish, or the level of formality. It can even be a single design element, such as the furniture legs or feet. That said, don't choose tables and chairs that share all of the same elements or you might as well just buy a matching set.

If you have an 18-century mahogany double-pedestal dining table with a gleaming French polish, it's not going to look right paired with distressed pine ladder-back chairs with coarse rush seats. It's also not the right table for a mismatched collection of metal ice cream parlor chairs or folding French garden chairs made with wooden slats.

A planked farmhouse table with turned legs is the better choice with any of the chairs from the previous paragraph, but it won't look right with the Chippendale ribbon-back chairs that are ideal for the mahogany table.

However, upholstered Parsons chairs or painted Hitchcock chairs both work with either of the aforementioned tables.

The Parsons chair—an upholstered slipper chair with dining chair proportions—has simple lines that are neutral enough to work with most table styles. Its level of formality depends primarily on the fabric used to upholster it.

The painted finish of the Hitchcock chair makes it compatible with most wood finishes. Its woven seat makes it casual enough for the farm table. The gold stenciling and classic shape make it dressy enough for a formal table.

Style Exceptions

As with most decorating rules, there are exceptions. When mixing a dining table and chairs, the exception is when the pairing works because it's so outrageous. 

If you mix an uber-sleek contemporary zebrawood dining table with a set of early American maple chairs, it just looks like you have no taste and no sense of what's appropriate.

If you mix that same table with a collection of carved-and-gilded chairs prissy enough to make Marie Antoinette look like a casual gal, the look is deliberate and avant-garde.

You'll still get some raised eyebrows from your more provincial pals, but the fashion-forward folks on your guest list will wish they'd thought of it first.

FAQ

  • Do your dining table and chairs need to match?

    Your table and chairs do not have to match perfectly, although they should be similar in style or symmetry. Try using different color chairs but all in the same shape and style for an interesting look.

  • How much space should there be between the tabletop and the chair seat?

    Allow 10 to 12 inches of space between the chair and the table to provide the most comfortable amount of legroom.

  • How much taller should the chair back be in relation to the table?

    The back of the chair should be able to be seen above the table by at least two inches—taller would be better.

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Want to update your dining room chairs but are not sure what kind of chairs you should choose? Find the ideal balance between aesthetics and practicality with these top five tips for choosing the perfect dining room chair.

A dining room is not just a space for enjoying meals it is a place for gathering, conversation, and creating cherished memories. And dining room chairs play a vital role in setting the ambiance and ensuring everyone’s comfort during those delightful moments. With these 5 things to keep in mind, it can be easy to find the perfect dining room chair for your home.

Affiliate links included. See our Discloser Policy. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Today I’m sharing some things to think about when choosing dining room chairs that are perfect for you! And please check out all the great chairs at the end of this post! You will love them!

Types Of Dining Chairs

There are two main types of dining room chairs. Armless or side chairs and head chairs. Here is a brief description of both.

Side Chairs

Side chairs are the most basic and common type of dining chair. These armless chairs are versatile and can complement various dining table styles and decor themes. They can be found in a range of materials, from wood to metal and upholstered options.

Arm Chairs or Host Chairs

Armchairs, also known as captain chairs or host chairs, feature armrests on either side of the seat. These chairs often have a more substantial and formal appearance, adding a touch of elegance and grandeur to the dining room. Armchairs are typically placed at the head of the table.

Benches

Benches or a dining bench offer another option for sitting around a dining table. They are space efficient and family-friendly because they offer more seating in a smaller space. They are most often used as an option to seat younger people.

Choose Comfortable Chairs

A dining room chair must be comfortable! I know we all want beautiful chairs, but comfort is always first. Have you ever sat on an uncomfortable chair in a restaurant? I have, and it is miserable. So make sure you and anyone sitting at your table are comfortable!

There are a few important things to keep in mind when looking for a chair that works with your table and your dining room.

Seat Height

The seat height of a dining room chair is crucial for ensuring that the chair works well with the table.

Ideally, the seat height should be a comfortable fit with the tabletop, allowing for your legs to fit comfortably underneath.

Standard dining tables typically have a height of around 28 to 30 inches, so aim for chairs with a seat height of approximately 18 inches. However, it’s important to consider the thickness of the tabletop as well, as it can affect the overall seat height requirement.

Seat Depth

No one likes to sit on the edge of their seat!

The seat depth of a dining room chair is the measurement from the front edge of the chair to the backrest. It determines how much space you have to sit comfortably.

Aim for a seat depth of around 16 to 18 inches to provide ample room for comfortable seating.

Seat Width

The seat width refers to the measurement across the widest part of the seat. It determines how much space you have for sitting comfortably. Make sure the chair’s seat width allows enough room for individuals to sit comfortably without feeling cramped. This is especially important when a seat has arms. Make sure the seat is wide enough that diners don’t feel squeezed into a chair.

A width of around 16 to 20 inches is generally suitable for most people.

Chair Back Height

A chair’s back height is the measurement from the top of the chair’s backrest to the seat.

It affects the overall visual proportion and support for your back. Consider the height of the backrest in relation to the table’s height and the desired aesthetic of your dining area.

Taller chair backs typically offer more support but may obstruct the view in an open-plan setting, while lower backs can create a more open and airy atmosphere.

Armrest Height

If you’re considering chairs with armrests, take into account the armrest height. The armrests should comfortably fit underneath the table, allowing for easy sliding in and out without bumping into anything under the table. Ensure that the armrest height doesn’t exceed the table height or restrict movement.

Mismatched Chairs

Dining room tables and chairs that match can give a cohesive look to a dining room. It can often look a bit overwhelming or boring! Choose chairs that are different than your dining room table. LONG gone are the days when everything matches. Thank goodness!

Here are some tips for choosing dining room chairs for a table.

Visual Interest and Individuality

Mixing different styles, materials, or colors of dining room chairs can add visual interest and personality to your dining space. It allows you to express your unique taste and create a more eclectic and curated look. This approach can make your dining area stand out and become a conversation starter for guests.

Flexibility and Versatility

Mixing and matching dining room chairs can change the look of your dining room more easily. You can swap out chairs or add new ones over time, adapting to evolving design trends or your changing decor preferences.

This flexibility is an easy way to refresh your dining room without having to replace the entire set. Such a smart idea!

Budget-Friendly

Buying a complete matching dining room set can be costly. Believe me, I know! We saved five years to buy our first matching dining set!

Mixing and matching dining room chairs enables you to explore a wider range of options and price points. You can find unique chairs at various price ranges, including vintage or thrifted pieces that add character without breaking the bank.

Design Balance and Contrast

Mixing chairs with different styles, materials, or finishes can create a balanced and visually appealing composition.

Contrasting elements can add depth and dimension to your dining space, making it visually pleasing and very attractive. By incorporating different textures, colors, or shapes, you can achieve a harmonious balance that enhances the overall beauty of the room.

While mixing and matching dining room chairs can bring a one-of-a-kind aesthetic to your dining space, it’s essential to maintain some cohesiveness. Consider factors like the overall style, scale, and color coordination to make sure that the different chairs work with each other and the table, creating a visually pleasing and inviting dining room.

Choose Chairs That Have The Same Seat Height

When choosing different chairs to go around your dining room table, it is important that the seat heights of the different chairs are the same height. Here are several reasons why this is important.

Uniformity

Chairs with consistent seat heights create a sense of visual harmony and uniformity in the dining area. It provides a cohesive look and contributes to an attractive space. When all chairs are at the same height, it establishes a balanced and pleasing look, enhancing the overall appearance of the dining room.

Comfortable Seating

Uniform seat heights ensure that all individuals seated at the table have a similar dining experience.

It promotes a level playing field, so to speak, where everyone can comfortably reach their plates and eat without feeling too low or too high in relation to the table.

Easy Interaction

When chairs have the same seat height, it facilitates smooth interaction and communication among the diners. If the eye level of diners is relatively consistent, allowing for easy eye contact and conversation across the table, it promotes engagement during a meal.

Strive to find a mix and matched chairs with the same seat height for the comfort of those who sit around your table and the beauty of your dining room.

Durability and Maintenance

Dining chairs get a workout with regular use, so it’s important to choose chairs that are built to last. Here are a few important things to consider.

Frame Construction

The frame of the chair should be sturdy and well-constructed to withstand regular use. Look for chairs made from solid wood, metal, or other durable materials. Avoid chairs with weak or flimsy frames that may break or bend over time.

Have you ever sat on a wobbly chair? It’s not a secure feeling!

A chair with a well-built frame is designed to last. The strong construction and quality materials used in the frame increase the longevity of the chair, reducing the need for frequent replacements. Investing in a durable frame means you can enjoy your dining chairs for many years to come.

Upholstery Quality

When choosing a chair that is upholstered, there are two important things to consider. If the chairs have upholstered seats or backs, consider the quality of the upholstery. Look for durable fabrics that can withstand spills, stains, and general wear.

There are many durable, stain-resistant fabrics on the market that are best for dining room chairs.

Style Factors

For most of us, this is the fun part. Choosing the perfect chair to work with the aesthetic of our dining room. Here are a few things to consider.

Design Style

Consider the overall design style of your dining room or home. Are you going for a traditional, modern, transitional, rustic, industrial, farmhouse, or eclectic look? Choose chairs that emphasize your design style to create a cohesive look.

Shape and Silhouette

Pay attention to the shape and silhouette of the chairs. Determine whether you prefer chairs with clean, straight lines for a modern look or chairs with curved lines for a softer, traditional feel. The shape of the chairs can greatly influence the overall visual impact in your dining room.

Material and Finish

Consider the material and finish of the chairs in relation to your personal style. Wood chairs can evoke a warm, natural feel, while metal chairs can bring a contemporary or industrial touch. Upholstered chairs with fabric or leather can add elegance and comfort.

Choose materials and finishes that complement your existing decor or contribute to the look you want to create.

Color and Pattern

The color and pattern of the chairs can significantly impact the overall look and feel of the dining room.

Decide whether you want the chairs to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the room or make a bold statement as accent pieces. Consider the color palette and patterns used in your dining room to decide if you want the chairs to harmonize or contrast with the rest of the room.

You can choose dining room chairs that are a perfect fit for your dining room and the people who will sit around your dining table if you keep these 5 things in mind!

Shop For Dining Room Chairs

Many of these chairs come in a variety of colors.

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