How to Buy Dining Room Chairs

We’re having a custom dining sale at Birchwood Furniture Galleries this month. What better time to go through some basics about how to make your dining room chair selection! We know making major purchases for your home isn’t as easy as it seems, so take these points into consideration when looking for what is right for you. – Design Style – Comfort – Seat Covering – Construction Quality – Your Budget STEP 1 – CONSIDER YOUR DESIGN STYLE Things have changed in recent years with dining room options and styles. Designers and consumers are no longer looking for the simple choices of our grandparents and even parent’s days. Manufacturers caught on, and offer many options for each model they carry. There is paint and stain colour, wood or metal finish, glass or no glass options. The options really are endless! No matter how great this is, it does make your lives as home owners a little more difficult. You’ll have to take into consideration what kind of look you want before going into a store. Pointing and picking can get you results, but when the options are as diverse as they now are, there is no way any store can keep an example of every style/color/upgrade permutation available to you in stock. Finding this a little overwhelming? Don’t! Design experts suggest you start with the design of the back of the chair and take it from there. It is the most important part of the setting because it is the first thing you will see. Makes sense? So go with your gut, and find a back design you love. Check out some top chair design styles outlined by Elle Decor’s ‘Top 10 Dining Room Chair’ slide show.  In the image below, we’ve recreated some of the styles they suggest using our supplier Canadel’s U-Design centre. Read this previous blog post for more details about this quality Canadian-made casegood manufacturer. Now that you’ve selected a chair, customize your style. Play around with mixing up chairs around your table. Do so successfully by keeping them within the same colour family or style to create some consistency.  Or find a unifying element in your table or chairs selection to help them come together, like colour or shape. Repeat lines and shapes found in your table to your chair to make your eclectic look work. Always keep the scale of your chairs in mind. You want the size of each piece work with the next, and your room’s shape and size.  

  Read more about how to achieve different looks in our previous post about customizing your dining room in style. If you are having any doubts about your selections, just ask a Design Consultant for help! They’ve got the decor ability to help you turn your house into your dream home. STEP 2 – TEST DRIVE FOR COMFORT When selecting your future dining room table and chairs, find the fit for you! You want something that sits comfortably for you, but also will work with the scale of your room. A great tip we give clients is to look for a chair that you could sit in for a good 60 to 90 minutes without moving around, and fidgeting. If you are more interested in some specifics, here are a few dimensions to keep in the back of your mind. A good standard seat width for an armless chair is 22”. But really, anything within the 20-24” wide range should allow for greatest comfort. For table height seats, 19” is the ideal height. As a rule of thumb, we suggest you leave 12” from the top of the seat to the top of the table for you and your guest’s best comfort. Dining tables are usually 29-30” high.

  When working around an existing table, make sure to measure it and take pictures of it before heading out chair shopping. Having the details in front of you will help take a lot of guess-work out of the process. It will also save you from the headaches that come from trying to picture your piece in the context of a store setting. Lastly, when selecting a chair to fit your space, style and comfort needs, make sure you take into consideration who will most often be using the chairs. Portability of a chair is a commonly overlooked part. Do you have young children or elderly persons at your table often or on a daily basis? Think about the weight, shape and handling of your choice. Having chairs that are too heavy or too big for those who use them most can be cumbersome and off-putting. You want everyone in the household to feel at home and considered. STEP 4 – SELECT THE CHAIR COVERING FOR YOU Now that you’ve got your style and size sorted out, you’ve got stains and fabrics to select from. Let’s be realistic – you (and others) are eating here, so eventually someone will spill on your chairs. The question is how much are you willing to worry about it? Consider your options! Wood seats are the lowest maintenance of all. You can select a matching stain, or a contrasting stain or paint colour for impact. Even better, every spill is just a whip away from clean! Microfibers are great in heavy usage areas and are easy to clean, while patterned fabrics can help hide minor stains. Leather, pleather, vinyl, ultrasuede, cotton blends or commercial fabrics are your lowest maintenance options.

If you decide to use delicate fabrics, look for chairs with removable seat cushions so that the material can easily be replaced. If this is your game plan, make sure to buy extra yardage of your specific fabric. This will help you protect yourself from disappointment in the case of fabric discontinuation, and die lot changes. Another great option is to consider slip covers. You could use them as a protective measure for the day-to-day wear, and take them off for special occasions. STEP 5 – IDENTIFY CONSTRUCTION QUALITY When shopping for your new dining chairs, don’t forget to look them over closely to see if you like the way they are constructed. You are spending your time and money on this process, so make sure you are buying something that will last. For wooden chairs, feel free to lift up and look underneath of them to see how they are made. Inspect the joints and seams. Quality chairs will have any combination of notches, wooden dowels, nails and screws. Poorly constructed chairs will only have legs that are tacked, stapled or glued on.

For metal chairs, also inspect their construction by flipping them over. Where the legs meet the seat you should see either a soldering line or bolts and screws connecting the two parts of the piece. Quality soldering will be smooth, not pitted or scarred. This is important because poorly soldered joints can snap or break over time. Where the metal is not soldered, bolts are preferable over screws. This is because they are less likely to loosen over time, making them more sturdy. Lastly, do they pass your sit and squirm test? We suggest you take a seat and squirm around a little to see how you feel in the chair. Does it feel wobbly? Squeaky? Loose? This is a good way to get your gut feeling about the quality of the chair. STEP 6 – YOUR BUDGET What prices should you expect when out shopping for a basic dinning chair? You’ll find them ranging from $150 to $800. Because generally clients seek out longevity, we recommend you buy the best quality you can afford at your time of purchase. Keep warranties and insurance add-on’s in mind when you budget as they can make all the difference to your overall satisfaction with your dining table and chairs in the long run. Make sure to ask what kind of warranty the manufacturer offers for wood & fabric, as well as if the store itself offers any extra protection plans.

When living with little ones and pets, a few hundred dollars extra at your point of purchase can go a long way, even if it is only for peace of mind. At Birchwood Furniture Galleries, we offer great leather, fabric and wood protection plans by Diamond Kote Insurance. Our design consultants swear by the care kits that come with the protection, and our clients love the no-questions-asked replacement guarantee. We hope we’ve set you up with all the questions to ask, as well as things to take into account on your next dining room furniture hunt! As always, if there is anything you need help with, we’re here to lend a hand. At Birchwood Furniture Galleries, it’s about you – it’s about choice.