Start with the table
When it comes to settling on the style of your dining chairs, you’ll need to think about your table as much as your room. It’s doesn’t really matter whether the table comes first or the chairs do, but they’ll be partners for life (or many years at least) so it’s important that they complement each other.
A grand table like Balmoral needs an equally bold chair, one that won’t get lost beside it, so we tend to use upholstered designs, like Henley. Similarly, if your table is a simple design – like our Wardley – it’ll need an equally simple companion that won’t take away from its understated details.
Don’t be afraid of contrast though. Pairing a traditional-style table with a more contemporary chair can feel fresh. Take Balmoral again. We’ll often put it with Shoreditch (which is still bold but in a clean-lined, graphic way). Or Chichester, which we’ll sit with our Long Island chairs. The key to making it work is to choose pieces that aren’t poles apart. Ours are all pared-back enough – not too far in either direction – that you can’t really go wrong.
And don’t forget, your table’s shape is just as important as its design, especially when it’s a circular one. These naturally suit chairs that have a slight curve in the backrest, like Wardley or Calverston – they’ll sit more snugly up against a round table’s curves and echo its shape.
If all-out comfort is what you’re looking for, then go for an upholstered design. They’re as close as you’ll get to armchairs around the table.
But don’t think that they’re your only option. You can make timber and Lloyd Loom chairs softer with scatter cushions or even throws and sheepskin rugs. A mismatch of cushions on your chairs can make the setting look more relaxed and cosy too.
And all our designs (apart from Wardley, which has a clever saddle-shaped seat carved in) have the option of matching seat pads.
If you’re still torn, a combination of upholstered chairs and wooden ones for those that don’t mind a firmer seat can work well…
Mix it up
It’s certainly true that a mix of chair styles around your dining table feels less formal, and that it gives you the opportunity for different comfort options. But you’ll need to put in a little more thought so it doesn’t feel disjointed.
The easiest and safest way to do it is to go for one style and two different colours or textures. Our Suffolk and Wardley chairs come in both painted tulipwood and unpainted oak, and we’ll often combine the two finishes. Or you could do the same thing with an upholstered chair in two different colours of the same fabric, or two fabrics in complementary shades.
But if you’d like to mix designs as well, stick to just two that have something in common. Like Harrogate and Suffolk, which are both straight-backed timber chairs; or Mowbray and Long Island, which are both uncomplicated designs. Or add in a bench. Whether freestanding or built in, they’re one of our favourite (and easiest) ways to include more than one style.
Lastly, think about how you use your dining table and where it sits in your home. If it’s in the kitchen or will have lots of little ones sitting round it, then a combination of a bench and practical (read: wipe-clean) wooden chairs might be best. Benches will also always make a setting feel more relaxed, so freestanding designs like Carter and Arundel are perfect if you’d like to make a separate dining room feel less formal.
And if your table is an extending one, you’ll also want to have a few spare seats on hand for when guests come around. This is when our Carter stool comes into its own, because it’s small enough to store away or even act as a side table when you’re not sat on it.