How to choose the right dining chair

What you need to know before you buy a dining chair

Sprucing up your dining room can be easily done with new dining chairs. If you want a really individual look, buy them separately to the table, rather than simply plumping for a ready-made set. Before you rush out to your nearest furniture warehouse, here are some things that you will need to consider

Getting the size right

First things first, measure your dining table and figure out how wide the chairs should be to fit under it. Leave some space either side – you don’t want your dinner guests to be wedged in like sardines. Avoid buying chairs that are less than 50cm wide as they won’t be wide enough for sitting comfortably.

Another thing to think about is the shape of your table. If it is round or oval, the space underneath may be limited, so make sure all the chairs can be pushed under easily when not in use. As a guide, allow around 60cm of table-top for each person at a rectangular table, and about 75cm for a circular table.

Settling on the style

Choose something that will work with your dining table; it’s better not to mix different types of wood if you can help it, and you should keep the styles fairly similar - a contemporary glass table might look a bit odd surrounded by shabby-chic painted chairs.

Think about comfort

Consider how much the dining chairs will be used. If you rarely have guests, and usually eat your meals in another room, then you won’t need a particularly luxurious design, but you will need to pick something that would be comfortable to sit on for a couple of hours.

Fabric upholstery can provide comfort, create a more sumptuous look and introduce pattern, while leather is hard-wearing and wipe-clean (although can be sticky in the summer).

Even if you don’t use the dining room very often, a hard seat is not ideal and will soon have dinner guests fidgeting. You won’t have to raise your budget to incorporate cushioning into the look, but the depth of cushioning/amount of springs will improve the more you spend. Investing in a particularly comfortable design, perhaps with arms, could mean that the chairs can be used as extra seating in the living room when needed.

You could also buy hard chairs and commission seating pads to really customise the look. Tie-on cushions have a very country-home feel, while chunky foam covered in a modern fabric has contemporary style.

Personal choice

The internet has some great bargains, often at a pretty high quality, but it’s always worth, if you can, travelling to a showroom to test the dining chairs out. The only way you’ll establish exactly how comfortable and sturdy they are is to sit on them yourself – this will also give you the chance to have a good look at any upholstery and see just how hardwearing it is.


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.