Buyer's Guide to Dining Chairs
BUYER'S GUIDE TO DINING CHAIRS
Whether they’re used for a quick breakfast or a leisurely dinner party, dining chairs not only have to be comfortable, they have to withstand years of kids’ sticky fingers and adult behinds. So buy the best first time round.
COMFORT vs STYLE vs STRENGTH
When we’re shopping for chairs, most of us undoubtedly consider what they look like before we give much thought to how comfortable they are – let alone whether they’ll be tough enough to last as long as the dining table. But, getting comfort factor, durability and quality balanced with how nice they look in your dining space is a must. Here’s how.
Whether you go for contemporary or period designer chairs (or lookalikes) or traditional seats, there are a few basic design rules that you should bear in mind:
- For a formal look, particularly in a dining room, choose high backed chairs, such as our Berson Dining Chair featured to the right. Bear in mind that high backed chairs also take up more space visually.
- For small rooms, that you want to make feel bigger or if the space is open-plan, low backed chairs would be a better choice.
- For a relaxed look, pick low backed chairs, such as our Brunel chair. More practical for a kitchen, low backed chairs suit children more, too.
- For a traditional, rustic look, think wooden or rattan chairs, such as our Maya Four Seater Dining Set featured opposite which is wonderfully suited as conservatory furniture; wood and metal chairs, such as our Brunel chair, suit industrial style dining areas, while moulded plastic chairs look better in very contemporary rooms.
- Chairs’ finishes affect a room’s mood, too. Darker finishes, whether for wood or plastic, will look heavier, while paler coloured pieces will bounce light around and help the space feel larger. However, darker colours will hide the dirt better – a bonus if you have young kids.
- Buy a dining table? A table and chair set combined or non-matching pieces: which to go for? A matching set will look more formal than furniture from different ranges. Matching ranges will also help a small space feel more streamlined.
When you buy dining chairs, consider not only your comfort but that of everyone who will regularly use them. These tips will help you get it right:
Ideally, the seat itself should be at least 45cm to 55cm wide, deep enough to comfortably support the thighs of even the tallest family member, and 45 to 48cm high.
Do you want a soft or hard seat?
If you like a leisurely lunch, you’ll want a firm seat with some give in it, so consider an upholstered or webbed seat.
Arm rests or no?
If you tend to sit at the table for long periods, you’ll find arm rests a bonus. If space is tight and meals are rushed, do without them.
How is the back support?
What suits one person might not suit another, so it’s worth knowing if you prefer a low or high backed chair before you buy. Ideally, the back rest should follow the natural curve of your back.
Will the chairs last?
Whether you just want to ensure they stand up to the kids’ fingerprints or will withstand years of wear and tear, here’s what to consider:
- Can you clean it easily? Most chairs should be durable and wipeable, even leather and faux leather, although these might need special cleaning products.
- Can covers be removed and washed? If you go for fabric-covered chairs, loose, removable covers are more practical so that they can either be dry-cleaned or popped in the washing machine. They also allow you to indulge in light colours, even if you have mucky toddlers. Our Dunham dining chair is a good example.
- Check the quality of the foam used in the seat of an upholstered seat. Low-density foam will flatten out over time, while quality padded seats will be more resilient as well as more comfortable.
- Chairs with woven or webbed coverings can suffer from wear if not well made, a design that pays attention to how these materials are attached to the chair’s frame will last longer over time.
- For wooden chairs, examine the joins carefully. Traditional, all-timber joins made by a skilled craftsperson should be as strong as any metal join. One of the bonuses of wooden furniture is the variation you’ll get in colour, grain, knots and burrs – each piece is truly individual. The wood’s colour can change over the years as it ages, too, and this is something to bear in mind when buying.
- To ensure quality, chairs should sit firmly on their feet and not rock or wobble.
1 Are the chairs the right height for the table they’ll be matched to? You can assume they are if they’re sold as a set but if you’re buying them separately, you need to check measurements carefully. Dining tables tend to have a standard height of 75cm, but not all will, so check first.
2 Have you bought the right number of chairs? If space in the room is tight and you’ll regularly only use four chairs, why not buy two or more foldaway or stackable chairs and store them somewhere handy? That way, you’ll keep the room feeling as spacious as possible while still having enough seating when you need it. Or, consider a chair and stool combination (see our District Eight range of stools), or a chair and bench combination (our Brunel bench is a popular buy). Both of these will help save space in a small room.
3 Will the chairs come ready-assembled or will you need to assemble them at home? Ask before you buy.
4 How are the chairs sold? Some chairs are sold as a set or in pairs, others are sold singly.
5 Is there a guarantee? Find out how long the chairs you buy are guaranteed for before you buy.