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white wingback dining chair and oak wingback dining chair around white dining table

Don’t go out Buying Dining Chairs without Reading this First

There’s no denying that some items in your home are temporary.

I like to change up my decor each season (so sue me!), and am more than happy with particular pieces being rotated and replaced regularly (more on that here).

Dining chairs, however, are not one of the items I’d suggest you take this approach with. Even in my interior design work, I always advise clients to invest wisely in dining chairs over other pieces of furniture. They’re not something you want to replace every six months, mostly because of the cost associated with replacing four to six of them at one time.

And so this guide has arrived (hurrah!) to give you the lowdown on what you need to consider when buying dining chairs. It’ll save you time, money, heartache and potentially back break. Yes, a bad chair can totally wreak havoc on your spine.

The Stylists Guide to Buying Dining Chairs

1. First things first: look and feel

Before you even hit the store to road test dining chairs, consider the look and feel you want to go for in the space. A common mistake I see people make is buying chairs that don’t complement their dining table. While I don’t believe you should buy your table and chairs as a set, the dining chairs should still speak to the rest of the room (or overall home design) in some way.

So get thinking about whether you want a Scandinavian feel, industrial vibe, sophisticated setting or country scenario. And don’t be afraid to take a photo of your table, get it onto your computer, and mood board some chairs around it to get an idea of how it’ll look. It really helps you visualise the room better!

buying dining chairs black leather dining chairs and timber dining table

2. Now, measure your table height

You know the style of dining chairs you’re gravitating toward – awesome! Now you need to measure the height of your table. Not all tables are made equal, so you need to go into a store with your table height written down.

Doing this will allow you to not only ensure the chairs sit under the table properly, but that when you sit on the dining chair, there’s enough clearance for your legs to sit under the table top also.

On the flip side, you might have a slightly higher table height than most, and some chairs can have low backs that look incredibly dwarfed around the table. Measuring is everything – and don’t be afraid to take your tape measure to the store with you.

upholstered dining chairs from west elm 2017 furniture range

3. Consider your weight

This is not an attempt to put you on a low-carb diet (a life without bread is not worth living!). But it is important to be honest about your weight, as every chair will have a maximum kilogram total they can carry.

This is particularly important because some dining chairs that are made from plastic can crack easily. And trust me, nothing is worse than a chair collapsing from underneath you or a family member and causing major damage to the spine.

I purchased chairs for $160 each at a local retailer over a year ago and two of the backs cracked when you leant back on them. And I’m in the 75kg range. So buyer beware when it comes to plastic chairs.

Some legs can bow under too much weight also, so make sure the legs are sturdy.

small round dining table in timber with matching timber dining chairs

4. Choose materials for your Lifestyle

I know, aren’t fabric chairs a plush gift from the decor gods? I love them too. But if you have young children with tomato sauce hands, you might want to think about how easy (or brutal) the fabric will be to clean.

Take it from someone who has two cats; sometimes you have to choose function over looks when it comes to buying dining chairs. Or any furniture for that matter.

Some fabrics are difficult to clean. Others might take more work than you can be bothered with. So don’t be afraid to go to your furniture store armed with fabric-cleaning questions for the staff. They should be able to answer your important maintenance queries.

brown timber dining table and chairs with brass pendant

5. Keeping your Tush Happy

A vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to buying dining chairs: tush happiness. Your butt needs to feel like it’s sitting on a feathery cloud made by angels. Well, that’s how I like to feel when I’m at the dinner table, anyway.

Road testing chairs is imperative! I’d actually never purchase a chair online unless I didn’t plan to sit on it much (like an occasional chair for the corner of your bedroom – that we all throw clothes on). Make sure you sit in a dining chair at the furniture store – and for a while. Lean back, lean forward, imagine eating at the table while sitting in it, and make sure there’s plenty of upper leg room.

If you don’t think you could handle sitting in it for an hour, move on!

Did this guide to buying dining chairs help? I hope so. Drop me a comment below if you need further guidance, of if there’s a chair brand you love, share that too!

The images in this post come courtesy of West Elm.

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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