There is a huge range of dining chair styles to choose from made from various different materials, including plastic, wood and metal, with and without upholstery. We hope this guide will help you choose your perfect set of chairs.
How do you sit? Some people naturally cross their ankles under the seat? If this is the case, you may want to avoid complicated metal bases such as on the Eames DSR chair, as you are likely to bash your ankles on them. Instead look at chairs with four legs or a cantilever base. If you like to sit for hours over dinner parties with friends, you may wish to test out lots of chairs to see which you find the most comfortable.
Many contemporary chair designs have no upholstery. This doesn’t necessarily mean the chair is uncomfortable. For example, Vitra’s Panton chair is very comfortable due to its cantilever design, which provides some “give” and bounce, and the curved seat shape fits the body well. Chairs with no upholstery also have the advantage of being perfect for family life as they are so easy to clean. Vitra’s .03 chair is pretty unique in offering a clean, modern design with the comfort of an upholstered chair, thanks to its seat shell of polyurethane foam.
If you would like to add a level of comfort, you have a huge choice of upholstery options for many chair designs. For example, the Eames DSR and DSW plastic chairs give the option of complete upholstery of the inner shell, or just seat upholstery. Alternatively, you can add separate Vitra seat dots, which are a simple and inexpensive way to add comfort to these plastic chairs. For serious comfort, consider the Saarinen Conference chair, which is fully upholstered with a polyurethane shell, with or without arms, with chrome or wooden legs. And the choice of upholstery options is immense.
Do you want to be able to use the chairs outside? Some chairs have an option of choosing an outside finish, such as the Eames plastic chair range and the Bertoia side chair. The outdoor finish for the Bertoia chairs looks fantastic with a hard wearing rilsan frame in white or black – this gives the chair a totally different look when compared to the classic chrome for indoor use. Other manufacturers such as Magis and Kartell product chairs specifically for outdoor use. Check out Morrison’s Air chair for Magis, and Kartell’s Dr Yes.
Chairs vary quite considerably in their width, which in turn affects the number of chairs which can fit around a table. Knoll’s fully-upholstered Bertoia side chair and Carl Hansen’s Wishbone chair are both pretty wide at 55cm, whereas Vitra’s DSW chair is slimmer at 46cm.
Chairs also vary quite considerably in their seat height. The average is around 44cm. But some, such as the Tulip chair is as high as 49cm, whilst others such as the Eames plastic DSR and DSW chairs are as low as 41cm. Strangely if you are very tall a lower dining chair may work better as it means you will gain more leg room, particularly if the table has a deep edge.
You also need to consider what dining table is going with the chairs, both in terms of style and size, as discussed above. Most dining tables are 72 to 74cm high. Bear in mind that the height is measured to the top of the table, so if the top is particularly thick it will limit the leg room underneath. If this is the case, you may need to consider lower chairs such as the Eames plastic or HAL range.
Will you often have spare chairs, reserved for extra visitors and certain occasions? In this case stacking chairs would be a good option, such as Fritz Hansen’s AJ Series 7 chairs, Jasper Morrison’s HAL tube or Van Severen’s .03 chairs both from Vitra.