How to buy a dining chair—A Definitive Buyer’s Guide

How to buy a dining chair—A Definitive Buyer’s Guide

by Sushant Mehta

Dining room comes in all shapes and sizes — stylish dining spaces, casual dinettes and breakfast nooks, and everything in between. However, the most critical element of any dining space is the dining chair. Is the dining chair you’ve selected comfortable enough? Is its height appropriate for your table? Is it durable?

Simply put, there’re many things you must consider before you shop for chairs.

But worry not. We’ll guide you through the process so that you can make the right purchase.

Measure for size

There’s one thing you must do before you even start looking for chairs—and that’s determine the size.

The height of a standard dining chair is 18’’ and that of a standard dining table is 30’’.

Rule of ThumbThere should be a gap of 10’’ of leg space (that is, space between the bottom of your dining table and the top of your chair.)

When measuring the chair size, consider the dining table apron if you’ve one. Make sure there’s ample clearance space for knees.

Now that you’ve measured the size, decide how many chairs you’ll need.

Rule of Thumb – There should be 24’’ of space per chair.

Typically, a 96’’ long table can comfortably accommodate 8 people, a 72’’ inch table 6 people, and a 120’’ table 10 people.

Of course, for large gatherings, you can always squeeze in a few more. But when shopping for dining chair, keep in mind everyday comfort, not a large gathering you host just once or twice a year.


The next looming question is — Upholstered or unupholstered?

Both offer unique advantages.

Unupholstered dining chairs are typically narrower. As such, they easily fit around a smaller dining table. Plus, they are easy to clean, so you don’t have to worry about occasional spills.

In comparison, holstered chairs are more comfortable. If you love to invite friends over a long, leisurely lunch or dinner, holstered chairs may just be the one for you. Also, these chairs look more stylish and elegant.

Arm or Armless?

Whether you should go for dining chairs with arms or without is something that only you can decide.

Depending on your style preferences and needs, you can choose to have an armchair at the head of the table and armless chairs on the side or armchairs all around or armless chairs all around.

A few basic things you may want to keep in mind, though, are:

  • Armchairs are usually more comfortable
  • Armchairs are more suitable for those who are old or have knee problems. They can use the arms on the side for getting in and out with ease
  • Armless chairs take up less space

Fabric and Finish

Do you prefer a mixed-and-matched look?

In that case you must think intelligently about finishes. Make sure different finishes complement each other well. A great way to do this is pick two different finishes that have one thing in common.

While contrast will make the space interesting and exciting, consistency ensures things don’t look hodge podge.

Head chairs and side chairs

If you prefer an eclectic and a layered look, consider using a head chair to lend more personality to your space. A head chair gives you the opportunity to use a heavier and bold style and an unusual shape to make the dining area stand out.

Since at the end of the dining table, you’re likely to have more space than the 24’’ you are keeping for side chairs, you can afford a head chair that’s slightly wider than the side chairs.

Tips for an Open Floor Plan

Picking the right chairs for an open floor plan is trickier than usual. That’s because each furniture piece should relate to one another, since you see everything at once.

Does this mean the dining chairs should match the bar stools? No, not necessarily. As long as your furniture as one thing in common, you’ll do fine.

So which coordinating element should you look for?

Well, that’s entirely up to you. It could be a fabric, chair style, a shape, or a finish. Having one element common in both dining chairs and the bar stools helps you unify two distinct spaces.

Final Words

Picking the right dining chairs shouldn’t be tough. Follow these tips and you’ll be fine, we promise.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do chairs have to match dining table?

No, not really. You don’t have to pick dining chairs that match your dining table. As a matter of fact, your dining chairs need not match with even each other, as long as they are comfortable and look nice together.

  1. How tall should my dining chairs be?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The height of your dining table governs the height of the chairs. Typically, you should leave a gap of 10-12 inches between the top of your chair and the bottom of your table.

  1. How many inches should be between dining chairs?

You should allow 24 inches between two adjacent chairs, as measured from the central point of each seat. For instance, if each seat is 20 inches wide, you should keep a gap of minimum 4 inches to provide ample elbow room.

  1. What size chairs for 42 inch table?

If you’ve a 42-inch dining table, your chairs should be 29-33 inches tall.

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