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Before You Buy a Dining Chair

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Before you buy a dining chair, consider this: you need this chair to be both comfortable and stylish. Comfortable, because this is where people gather around to eat, work, and have conversations. Stylish, because you want it to look good and reflect your style. Consider also that you will be choosing from a dizzying variety of styles, materials, colors and brands.

But when it actually comes to choosing and then buying a dining room chair, it comes down to only a few factors. Once you've made a decision about these, it's relatively easy to pick out the one that's best for you.

Selecting a Size

Maybe size often gets neglected because it is the least glamorous part of the furniture buying process. However, this cannot be stressed enough: before you even go looking for dining chairs, determine the size you will need. For this you have to consider the size of the room, and the room around your table.

You also have to figure out where you will place any extra chairs, if your table is not fully extended all the time.

Measure your room and dining table to see the size and number of chairs you can accommodate in your dining room and around your dining table. (I do hope you have picked out a dining table before you go looking for chairs.) Remember to calculate the space between chairs as well as the actual space a dining chair will occupy, before you pick a size.

Arms or Armless?

It is entirely up to you to determine whether your dining chairs have arms or not. It has been customary to have armchairs at the head of the table, and armless chairs on the sides, but depending on your space and decorating style you can choose to have armchairs all around.

Depending on your space and style you may also want to go armless all around. Armless dining chairs do take up less space than armchairs, visually as well as in the actual space you have.

Armchairs can be more comfortable than armless ones. For older people, or those with problem knees, arms on a chair help in getting in and out of the seat. Choose according to who usually dines at your dining table.

Pick a Style

You can go and pick out a dining room set, or decide to buy your dining table and chairs separately. Before you do either of those things, consider your style. Consider whether you want it to be formal or informal.

There are open back chairs and there are chairs with solid backs, both upholstered or in metal, wood or acrylic. Look at the angles that make up the back, legs and arms and seats, and determine what looks good in your room and around your table. A smaller space might call for a more delicate, open style, while a large space might look good with larger more well defined shapes.

More than anything it is about scale.

Choose Comfort

It is hard to define what will feel comfortable to you, because everyone has different comfort priorities.

Sit on a chair to see how it feels. Is the seat comfortable and wide enough? How does the back feel when you lean back against it? Is the seat too high or too low? If the seat is upholstered there should be adequate padding so that you do not feel the frame through it.

In short, the chair should feel comfortable to sit upon, especially if your dining room also doubles as your home office.

Select Material

The material of your dining chair is important, as it also determines its look and feel.

  • Metal has reflective qualities, but it can be matte and substantial also, like wrought iron. You can pair a distressed surface wood table with metal chairs for contrast.
  • Acrylic chairs can look good in a modern or small space.
  • Wood is versatile and you can choose from any number of finishes and styles.
  • Upholstered dining room chairs can provide an opportunity to use color and pattern for a richer effect.
  • Rattan or wicker chairs provide both texture and style.
  • Of course you can also pick a chair made from mixed materials, too.

Judge for Quality

Before you buy your dining chair make sure you judge for quality.

  • Check to see if it is structurally sound by moving it around and jiggling it gently. The legs, arms, or back should not sway or move.
  • Check the seat to see if it is comfortable. A wood seat should be all in one piece, not made of pieces glued together.
  • Run your hand over the surface. It should feel smooth to the touch, and not have any splintering or snags.
  • If you are buying a vintage or antique chair, check to see if it is strong enough to be used. Can it be tilted on the back legs? Would it be able to support the weight of an adult?
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