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How to Select a Comfortable Upholstered Chair

Learn How to Pick a Chair That's Right For You


McGee Chair, C.R. Laine

McGee Chair, C.R. Laine

Photo (c) C.R. Laine

The real reason you choose an upholstered chair: comfort. Yes, style matters, you need it to fit into your home decor, but you select an upholstered chair because it is comfortable, it is a chair you can use to relax.

So how do you go about finding a chair that is comfortable for you? You will need to consider your height, weight, how you sit, and your center of gravity. The chair should be the perfect size and fit for you to be just right. Remember Goldilocks? There is a reason she didn't find the Papa Bear and Mama Bear chairs that comfortable.

What to Look For in a Seat

  • Feel: The seat should feel soft to sit on yet offer firm support. If it sinks in too much, you will have to struggle to get out of it. If it is too hard, you may become uncomfortable after sitting in it for a short period.
  • Angle: Your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor, because you can't be comfortable if your knees are pointing up or down. Look for a seat height that is right for you. Most chairs are about 18" high, but you can find seats that are higher or lower.
  • Depth: Another factor to consider is the depth of the seat. If you are taller, look for a seat with greater depth. The extra depth can easily accommodate the length of your legs. A shallower depth is good if you are not very tall, or suffer from bad knees.
  • Width: A wider seat such as in a chair and a half is good if you like to lounge in your chair. A chair and a half is also a good substitute for a loveseat if you are short on space. Take a look at the RC Green Chair and Half.

What to Look For in a Back

Height: Backs can be high or low, but more than anything, the back is there to offer lumbar support. If you read or watch TV in your chair, you would also want some neck support, so those chairs would be better with high backs.

Chairs with lower backs are good for conversations, and you tend to sit up straighter in them, but they are hardly meant for lounging.

Tight back or pillows: There are two basic kinds of seats and backs, those with a tight cover or those with loose cushions. You can choose whichever look appeals to you, but if you are looking for comfort, cushions do make it a little cozier. You can also choose a mix with a tight back and a cushioned seat or the other way around.

Additional pillows along the back can have many functions:

  • Offer more support
  • Make the seat shallower
  • Provide accents.

Arms or Not?

Whether you choose a chair with arms or not is entirely a matter of personal preference. It depends on how you like to sit, and how often or how long you sit in that chair. If the back is slightly curved in, you will still get some support without actual arm rests.

Arm rests could be important in a chair that you use every day, but not in a chair that is only used occasionally or when you have visitors over. Being able to rest your arms on armrests is more relaxing.

Arms can be upholstered or not. They can be either wood or metal or some other material. They may also have padding on the top, while the rest is exposed. Sit down and test a chair to see if you can place your arms the way you like to, or if a particular style feels awkward.


The way a chair is constructed determines not only how long it will last, but also its comfort level. Of course, it is also going to affect how it looks, especially after some time has gone by. These tips for selecting a sofa also apply to selecting a chair, as both are basically constructed the same way.

Buy the best quality chair your budget allows. You will be happy that you did. The quality of a chair depends on its frame, seating support, and the filling used for cushions. Judging a chair for quality is very similar to judging a sofa for quality. See below for more help on selecting a good quality chair.
Seating Support
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