how to choose dining chairs

How To Choose Dining Chairs for Your Home

The dining table is the main location for socialising in the home, from long lazy Sunday breakfasts to extended dinner parties, it is the place where family and friends unite together.

Traditionally dining tables and chairs were bought as matching sets. Today’s market however, is open to endless style combinations. Mix and match is by far more interesting, than the conventional matching set, but also involves more thought and consideration to put together.

mix and match dining chairs

So before rushing into making a purchase, it is important to consider the following points when choosing a dining chair for your home.


It is essential that your dining room chairs fit comfortably around the table, the height and width should be measured. The average chair needs approximately 6 inches of space at either side, to allow diners to move freely in their chairs. Restricted space around the dining table may cause your guests to knock elbows and feel cramped.

Narrow chairs tend not to be comfortable to sit in for long periods of time, whereas fewer wider chairs can fit around the table. Dining chairs also need to have enough space behind them to allow guests to freely push their seats back without bumping into other furniture or a wall. Finding the right balance between size and aesthetics is key to a pleasant dining experience.

dining room

Table Sizes

Round or square tables usually fit either 4, 6 or 8 diners, whereas rectangular or oval tables seat 6, 8, or 10 diners.

Measurement tips

  • Always measure your chair at its widest point
  • Anything narrower than 17 inches will be uncomfortable for long periods
  • Most tables are 30 inches tall or more
  • The average dining chair height is 18 inches and the average width is 22 inches
  • Allow approximately 12 inches from the chair’s seat to the top of the table
  • Allow for at least 38 inches between the chair and any other walls or furnishings
  • Chairs with arms require additional space

Style and Design

Having established the approximate dimensions of the chairs needed, you will now be in position to choose the style and design.

Regardless of whether you choose matching or non-matching, there should be a common design element linking the chairs to the table – whether it be the material or the form and lines of the furniture.

upholstered chairs around a glass table

A traditional hardwood polished table will not suit ultra-contemporary plastic chairs for example, and mixing different types of bare wood does not usually work either. Having said that, there is much successful matching to be done, especially when it comes to fabric upholstered dining chairs where the combinations of colour and prints are endless.

Dining chairs can help form the style and the mood of your home décor, whether the look you are trying to achieve is traditional country rustic or modern clean lines.

High Backed Dining Chairs

  • Create a more formal and traditional dining experience
  • Well suited to large spaces, where smaller chairs are swallowed by the space
  • Take up more space visually

Low Backed Dining Chairs

  • Provide less formal, more relaxed dining
  • Good for smaller spaces
  • Preferable for houses with young children


Chairs with armrests ultimately provide more comfort, the disadvantage however, is that they also take up more space, this can be a great disadvantage when is stops diners from moving around feely.


Consider how much you and your guests will be using your dining chairs. Choosing upholstery fabric with armrests, provided you have the space, will inevitably offer greater comfort.

Different Material Options

  • Upholstery fabric
  • Synthetic blends
  • Wool
  • Leather
  • Cotton
  • Crushed velvet
  • Wood
  • Rattan
  • Metal
  • Plastic

The material you choose and whether or not you opt for upholstered dining chairs really comes down to personal style, taste and life style preferences. Wooden chairs provide a more rustic feel; rattan a more tropical look.

Upholstered chairs speak comfort and luxuriousness, and depending on the colour and print, can offer anything from a classic traditional look, to the modern and contemporary in bright bold patterns. Most upholstered dining chairs have wooden legs in a variety of different finishes, this is also worth taking into consideration when choosing your dining chair combination.

Metal and plastic chairs are often modern and minimalistic, working well in urban dining areas which offer limited space.


Portability is an important factor, heavy clunky chairs may be comfortable to sit in, but are awkward to pull to and from the dining room table, especially for children, the elderly and pregnant ladies. High back chairs with solid upholstered backs can be less easy to get a grip on and move around, whereas chairs with a slatted back are generally easier to manoeuvre.


What sort of household do you live in? The furniture of a busy household with young children and pets will endure more wear and tear, therefore light colours and delicate designs will not be appropriate –  opt for darker colours or patterns to mask stains in materials which can be wiped down or easily cleaned instead.

array of coutry dining chairs


Do the chairs feel sturdy? Independently of the price tag, the chairs should feel stable and not wobble – a robust chair will last longer. A high-quality chair should be well manufactured using only the best materials.

Look underneath the chair to check how well it’s been constructed, taking into consideration the joints and any fixtures. Fabric upholstery should have stain, piling and fade resistant qualities, be easy to clean and maintain and of course be fire retardant. All superior quality chairs should also come with a warranty.


If you require help choosing dining chairs, or if you need design advice, contact The Chair People.

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