With such a wide variety of seating designs available, from formal and upholstered chairs to comfortable wood designs and stools, finding the right seating for your dining room ideas can be a daunting task.
The choice of dining chairs is largely a personal matter, and which design is best for you will ultimately depend on personal taste and what you find comfortable, however, there are a lot of other factors to consider that may have an impact.
To help you make the right decision, we asked interior designers for their advice on what kind of dining chairs are best—and here’s what they have to say.
What is the best type of dining chair?
To find out what type of dining chairs are best for your space, the first thing to do is examine how you use the dining room. Do you have a separate dining room dedicated to entertaining, or is your dining area part of a multifunctional kitchen diner?
The shape and size of the dining table you choose will also have a huge impact as well as the look and style to consider. No matter what, comfort should be the deciding factor, says New York City interior designer Philip Thomas (Opens in a new tab). “If a chair is uncomfortable, no delicious menu or good wine can make up for an uncomfortable chair.”
Also, no matter the style, “the seat height should always be around 19 inches,” says Simon Timbrill, director of interior design at Neptune. (Opens in a new tab).
Below we have listed some of the key aspects to consider when buying dining room chairs including tips for interior designers on the pros and cons of different designs.
For upholstery or no upholstery?
When it comes to comfort, nothing beats an upholstered dining chair, plus it offers an opportunity to showcase beautifully patterned and colorful fabrics. Upholstered chairs work well in traditional, formal dining rooms, helping to add a luxurious and casual feel to dinner parties.
“Upholstered dining chairs are more luxurious, and bring a soft, warm feeling to the space,” says Simon Temprell, director of interior design at Neptune.
The best dining chairs are usually upholstered in a circular motion. Interior designer Tracey Morris adds that she will bend over your back and provide comfort to your guests (Opens in a new tab).
Designer Philip Thomas is also a fan and suggests that “ upholstery is one element that can help create a comfortable dining environment. Upholstered chairs are also very useful for dampening sound. As we all know, dining rooms are often noisy due to the lack of sound-absorbing surfaces.
However, if you have a dining area in an open plan living room or are looking for kitchen seating ideas, you may want to opt for something a little less formal.
“In a high-traffic area like the kitchen or breakfast room (or a home with young children and pets), it would be best to choose a wood or painted chair for practicality and ease of cleanup,” says Simon Temprell. Of course, to make it more comfortable you can always add seat cushions.
Alternatively, if you have a small dining room, consider lightweight, stackable designs made of metal or plastic.
Are armchair dining chairs better?
Another big controversy when it comes to dining room seating is the choice of chairs with or without arms – again, there are pros and cons to both designs. If space is tight, armless chairs are undoubtedly more practical, but if space is not an issue, they can be luxuriously comfortable and versatile.
“I love armchairs, because they are the ultimate in comfort and can double as a reading or occasional chair, but they require a bit more space — as a rule, they need an extra 7 inches per chair, explains Sue Jones, co-founder and creative director at Oka, why they are used. Often at the head of the table (Opens in a new tab). “If you have a round table, or plenty of space to play with, nothing could be more inviting than the armchairs placed everywhere—your guests will thank you for it.”
Instead, New York City interior designer Philip Thomas describes how they can hinder engagement. Some of my clients find that the armchairs create an invisible fence between guests while the armless chairs allow people to be closer to each other. An armless chair is also better if space is limited. You can seat more people around a table when using armless chairs.
Take care of choosing the fabric
Dining rooms are places that are prone to spills, so if you’re considering upholstered dining room chairs, be sure to choose your fabric.
Choose fabrics that are highly durable and stain-resistant, says Roger Jones, director of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. (Opens in a new tab). “Leather and horse hair are traditional, but there are plenty of modern fabrics that are equally practical.
“In summer, simple linen slipcovers on dining chairs can change the look of a room—and can easily be put in the washing machine if marked,” he adds.
This is a good choice for those who have young children or have dining tables in crowded areas that are prone to a lot of wear and tear, plus it can be a great way to update the look of your dining space from season to season.
The great thing about upholstered armchairs is that you can get creative with the fabrics and with such a wide range to choose from, there is sure to be something to match the look and feel you are looking for. While coloring can be a drawback, “Advances in the textile industry have seen the introduction of many stain-resistant, performance fabrics including velvet, chenille, and life-proof linens,” says Amanda Huber, owner of Dining Chair Co. (Opens in a new tab)So, there is no need to compromise on elegance.
For a casual dining room, using colorful dining chairs is an unexpected way to add fun to the room, suggests Ann Heber (Opens in a new tab). Instead, make a real statement with a bold, patterned design.
We prefer seats that are not too heavy. Michael Sandsmark, interior designer at Design West, adds that the two-piece bench allows for more fun with fabric combinations to brighten the room. (Opens in a new tab). For a design that is both stylish and functional, you can try using a basic stain-resistant design on the seat with a distinctive design on the back of the chair.
Think high back
It may not be the first thing you think of when choosing dining chairs, but the back height of the chair can affect the comfort of the seat and the look of the room, experts say. High back dining chairs work well in formal spaces and traditional dining rooms, while low back designs give a more relaxed feel.
Historically, upholstered dining chairs tended to have higher support for support and warmth — Cromwell, Georgian, and Classic Adam designs are great examples of this. Nowadays, though, low back chair designs have really grown in popularity as they suit the more modern settings that modern life brings.
Amanda Huber adds, “Some of our clients will choose a higher back if they choose an impact fabric to make a statement, and they like to be able to see it clearly across the table or when they enter the room.”
Alternatively, if you don’t want to be distracted from other features within the room, more sedate, low-profile designs are a better option. Likewise, open frame designs such as Scandinavian woodwork or mid-century designs are ideal if you are looking to make a room feel more spacious.
Simon Temperall of Neptune advises that, “Chairs with a tall or rugged back tend to feel more formal, while chairs with a lower back are more versatile and work just about anywhere in the home.”
“If you want your dining room to look elegant and elevated, look for a dining chair with a tall back,” adds Anne Hepfer.
Consider the bench to feel relaxed
The bench is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to dining chairs, especially in diner restaurants and open-plan living spaces.
Its backless design keeps sight lines clear, making spaces feel open, plus seating helps rooms feel more sociable, and while they may not be as comfortable as benches, they can easily be made more comfortable with the addition of bench cushions. or sheepskin covers. Moreover, table and bench sets with benches designed to fit neatly under the table make great seating solutions for small spaces.
We’re also seeing the return of banquette seating. Like seating, banquettes can contribute to a relaxed atmosphere and encourage interaction. “I love building banquettes around the perimeter to create a lounge-like environment that can be inviting and useful during cocktail parties,” says interior designer Philip Thomas.
However, the drawback to sitting with fitted fabric is that the upholstery can be difficult to clean, so consider a material that is easy to wipe; Cleaning faux leather is easier than treating the real thing.
“Remember that leather is not as practical as it might seem in a dining room: It will absorb oil and grease into the leather, leaving dark marks that are difficult to remove,” warns designer Simon Temprell.
Instead, try a banquette with a darker fabric that hides stains better and adds color with bold pillows, shown in the space above by Salvesen Graham (Opens in a new tab).