From lazy breakfasts to grand dinner parties to game nights, life happens in the dining room in more ways than one. Here’s how to pick dining chairs, to create that perfect gathering spot:

For the longest time, chairs have played matchy-matchy with tables, making dining sets not only predictable but expensive too. But today’s open concept homes and mix-it-up trends have broken that custom, throwing buyers into a tizzy. Can you pair a sleek, geometrically designed chair with that adorable rustic farm table? Can you risk plush seating with pets at home? Will that low-back chair you are eyeing be comfortable enough? The options are aplenty but the rules are simple.

1. Comfort in dimensions
Dining set with different end chairs and side chairs

Source: Andrea Brooks Interiors

It’s surprising how color comes first, while comfort comes last when buying dining chairs. Looks can be deceiving, so ask yourself – can you sit comfortably on this chair for the next two hours without getting up?

  • Measure the dining chair’s width at its widest point – either the backrest or the seat
  • An armless dining chair offers optimum comfort when 22 inches wide and 24 inches deep
  • Avoid anything smaller than 17 inches by 20 inches
  • Chair arms require an additional six inches, so opt out in limited spaces

If you are living with knee patients, toddlers, pregnant women or older people, having at least one arm chair at the dining table can be a boon as they provide support and protection when getting in and out.

Being a busy space, the dining room needs a clean movement area. So choose chairs which can easily slide under the dining table. A minimum of 12 inches between the tabletop and dining chair seat ensures relaxed seating while providing sufficient legroom.

Make a note of upholstered seats that compress when sitting. Inclined backrests, preferably those that follow the natural curve of your back, and padded or upholstered chairs are great options too.

2. Mirroring style with lifestyle
When choosing dining chairs consider how it would fit your lifestyle.

Do you frequently host grand banquets at home? Or do you enjoy casual, laid-back meal-times? Your lifestyle can be easily reflected in the dining chairs you pick.

High back chairs set the tone for formal settings while low back chairs easily create a casual ambiance. Also, delicately designed or open back chairs allow longer sightlines, making a small dining room look spacious. Similarly, well defined, voluminous chairs do well in large spaces. This thumb rule applies across themes whether it is traditional, contemporary, minimalistic or anything else.

You could also take the middle path and opt for extravagant end chairs and simple side chairs. This is easy on the pocket and creates a semi-formal dining setup that does not eat up visual or actual space.

3. Mix it up
Add some intrigue by mixing it up with different styles when choosing dining chairs.

Source: Design Sponge

Dining chairs that complement rather than match dining tables are the flavor of the season. It sounds challenging but the trick is to find a common element – color, shape, style, height, leg style, or material – that unites the chairs together or makes it relatable with the dining table.

For example, mismatched geometric chairs can be brought together when painted in the same color or when upholstered in the same fabric. If you are a lover of any one particular material and color, say metal painted white, invest in a group of chairs which come with different backrest designs. You can even travel through different furniture periods with ease. Antique tables can pair handsomely with mid-century, modern furniture if they have similarly styled furniture legs.

4. Easy to move
Purchase dining chairs that can be easily moved around the house.

It is always preferable to have dining chairs you can easily move around the house. This is especially important if they are pulling double-duty. It could be used for extra seating in the living room when entertaining guests. It might come handy when being used at your home office.

Chairs with open backrests  can help do away with visual clutter while providing support. Slat back or plastic moulded chairs provide easy grip when moving in and out of the dining room and they are easy to use option for kids and pets too. Solid back or heavy-set chairs are comparatively difficult to maneuver.

However, it is important to remember to not pick chairs that cut into people’s backs. You can opt for chairs which are partly upholstered on the upper half so it can be easily picked up by the elbow.

 5. Buy stable structuresLook for sturdy structure when choosing dining chairs.

Irrespective of what material they are made of, chairs should stand firmly on their feet and not wobble under tension. This is especially important if you are picking antique pieces.

Wooden dining chairs are a common favourite and offer durability like metal ones. Chairs that are made by skilled craftsmen using traditional joinery are likely to last longer. Glued pieces, splinters and snags are a definite no. Apply the same principle even if you are opting for a wooden bench for seating instead of individual chairs.

 6. Choose easy maintenanceThink of maintenance when you pick your dining chairs.

Your dining chair material can help evoke moods you want. Metal can add sheen and lightness. Rattan can render a tropical aura. Wood gives off a warm, organic feel. But each comes with its own set of maintenance requirements.

If you have pets or kids, your dining chairs are bound to face a lot of wear and tear. Non-upholstered chairs or those with minimal fabric are ideal in these cases, since they are easy to clean.

Bonded or tufted leather, cotton blends, Sunbrella fabrics are easy to clean and look good as well. Food stains or drool or worse can be wiped off with ease. But if you have really want to have something in delicate materials like chenille or velvet, buy slipcovers which can be easily cleaned and removed when the need arises. A medium to dark shade is great for concealing stains too.

Since wood is most coveted material for dining chairs, it is important to remember that although it’s easy to clean, wood changes color over time. Also, spillages have to done away with promptly as they leave water stains. Same goes for glass textures as they can look ugly with fingerprint stains. And if you are going for metal, ensure that it is rust-resistant and can be cleaned easily with a damp cloth.

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