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How to Mix and Match Dining Chairs Like a Boss (+ 28 Pairs We Love)

photo by Zeke Ruelas | from: ginny’s dining room reveal

There are three approaches when it comes to dining room furniture: matching chairs, matching side chairs + different head chairs, and an eclectic mishmash where no two chairs are the same. Frankly, there are no wrong answers, it’s just a style choice. So…to match or not to match is the big question. Maybe you like the idea of contrast, or you want the people sitting at the ends of your table to feel a little bit special, or you just have so many amazing chair choices that you don’t want to pick just one. (We wouldn’t blame you, there are so many great chairs out there.) So how do you put them together? That’s where this handy post comes in.

In many traditional dining sets, the chairs at each end of the table are styled a little differently: they usually have arms, and are sometimes larger or more ornate to reflect the importance of that position at the table. These days, we don’t take seating charts as seriously, but a little contrast is still a nice look, so for this guide, we’ve chosen to pair up armchairs and side chairs. Of course, you can also use these principles to pair side chairs with other side chairs, or armchairs with other armchairs (if you just really love arms).

Before we get to the shopping bit, let’s take a look at a few real-world examples of mixed chair pairings. Like Ginny’s up top, where two time-honored classics come together. Eames shell chair, meet bentwood. These styles have a lot in common: they’re both light and understated. But there’s an element of contrast, too: the wood tones of the bentwood chairs are a nice balance to the smooth whiteness of the shell chairs. Together with the modern pedestal table, a crowd of shell chairs on their own could feel a little too space age-y, but paired with the bentwood chairs, they’re just right.

Emily Henderson dining room chairs
photo by Bethany Nauert | from: lisa’s collected European-vibe dining room

This dining room is a bit more traditional, with upholstered head chairs paired with side chairs that have a rustic vibe. Besides adding a rustic/industrial element to the space, the side chairs also help to lighten up the room. A whole table of upholstered chairs (especially around the hefty trestle table) might feel a bit heavy or stuffy, but pairing them with lighter side chairs creates a nice balance, while making some allowances for comfort. (Because we get it, not everyone wants to sit for hours on a hard chair.)

Emily Henderson dining room chairs
photo by Melissa Oholendt | from: the curblys eclectic modern dining room

The Curbly’s dining room is a great example of how to work within the same color palette but bring in contrast, tension and visual interest with mixed silhouettes and materials. This room brings together two chairs you might not think to put together (one very modern, the other vintage). But here’s why they work together: the wood and metal set up a pleasing contrast to the upholstered chairs at the head of the table because proportionately, they are both still visually light and “leggy,” plus the cohesive color palette brings everything together in a way that feels like they always belonged around the same table.

Emily Henderson dining room chairs
photo by sara tramp for ehd | from: we gave a deserving single mom a flash makeover

In last year’s Feel Good Flash Makeover (if you haven’t seen the video yet from that post, run don’t walk, and grab your box of tissue on your way over), Emily and the design team paired super sensible black wood chairs (for the kids) with a cozy upholstered armchair to bring in a little softness (for momma after a long work/parenting day…and maybe for homework time sans spaghetti sauce looming disasters). The light blue works to balance the darker chairs, and both silhouettes are visually light and hit at about the same height.

Emily Henderson dining room chairs
photo by tessa neustadt | from: new spring target collection

Here’s a look Emily created to showcase Target’s spring collection a few years back, with lots of seating choices that all work together for a super eclectic vibe (even with some of the pieces leaning traditional). For anyone who isn’t brave enough to go with three different chairs, here’s what else would work from this look: rattan chairs + slipper chairs (for a bit more of a funky pairing), or slipper chairs + bench (this one is more “family” friendly and traditional), or rattan chairs + bench (which will come off boho but refined).

Simplified Modern

Do you love clean lines and elegant, understated looks? Do you lean a little more mid-century or industrial? If you’re not about fussy materials or overly artistic silhouettes, this is the board for you.

Emily Henderson modern dining room chairs

1. George Armchair // Alba Dining Chair | 2. Prouve Standard Chair // Green Dylan Dining Chair | 3. Remy Arm Chair // Masey Wood Dining Chair | 4. Slope Dining Chair // Henry Chair | 5. Coppice Armchair // Bentwood Chair | 6. Bertaux Armchair // Clark Dining Chair

Okay, so admittedly #1 would get PRICEY, but we aren’t going to pretend we understand everyone’s decorating budgets, so we left it on the board because it’s just so dang cool if you have, um, $3,000 to spend on dining chairs. I’m really digging #2 and think it would really jazz up a super simple table. Plus the green upholstery is a great way to bring in color if say, you don’t want to paint your walls but are craving a little sumptin’ sumptin’. The Windsor-style black chair from #3 is a pretty classic frame, but when paired with a fluffy leather-like upholstered chair, it’s all of a sudden a little bit edgier. For a really mid-century modern friendly pairing, #5 is where it’s at.

Cool Eclectic

If you’re drawn towards the unusual and the quirky and your taste tends to be a bit off the beaten path, then these unexpected pairings will be a perfect fit in your dining room.

Emily Henderson Eclectic dining room chairs

1.  Castine-Striped Dining Chair // Maple Bentwood Dining Chair | 2. Wire Frame Dining Chair // Zeke Indoor/Outdoor Dining Chair | 3. Bendt Dining Armchair // Workshop Chair | 4. Hoffman Side Chair // Carson Bench | 5. Malou Chair // Emmerson Reclaimed Wood Bench | 6. Antonio Acrylic Chair // Marte Dining Chair

In pairing #1, the slipper chair is pretty voluminous  in that it has no openings, so putting it together with something much lighter and simple is the key to a balanced marriage, while in #2 it’s less about opposites and more about a similar airy, wiry frame (with the yellow adding a nice punch to the more industrial West Elm chair). And because we LOVE a chair + bench mashup, #4 and #5 come into the mix but with very different aesthetics. Oh, there probably isn’t a more “opposites attract” pairing than #6: lucite and white upholstered mixed with all wood and caning, but somehow…it works because it screams “I’M COMFORTABLE WITH TAKING RISKS” and who would dare question such confidence?

Modern Luxe

Creating a “luxe” look isn’t all flashy metals and bling. It’s actually a lot more subtle than that (but every pair here has a velvet chair because what’s a glam vibe without some sheeny velvet?). Another pillar of “modern luxe” is interesting silhouettes that feel a little more special and art-y. Let’s take a look.

Emily Henderson glam dining room chairs

1. Ibis Dining Chair // Dasilva Upholstered Dining Chair | 2. Azalea Grey Mink Chair // Cerchio Chair | 3. Silver Lining Armless Dining Chair // Elim Velvet Dining Chair | 4. Rust Orange Velvet Chair // Haylee Mono Rattan Chair

The velvet colors here could all be interchanged with anything that works for your decor. For #1, I’d go with the black metal chair as the side and the rust armchair as the head, but in #3, I think the green velvet as the side chairs and the white CB2 chair as the head chair would be SUCH a killer look. There’s also something really nice and balanced about #4, with the persimmon-colored beetle chair and the rattan bucket seat…they work well together because their bodies are similar in shape so it’s less of a blatant style clash.

Soft Neutral

We highly suspect that this is where most of you will feel comfortable. It’s definitely the most “livable” aesthetic, and look, not every piece and every room in your home has to be this big statement or risk. This “Soft Neutral” is exactly what it sounds like: quiet flaxes, heather grays, varied wood tones and straight up comfort. If you find yourself drawn towards classic looks, check out these armchair and side chair pairings, which will fit seamlessly into a more traditional interior without feeling stuffy or overdone.

Emily Henderson neutral dining room chairs

1.  Bacci Chair //  Logan Dining Chair | 2. High Back Dining Chair // Dane Dining Chair | 3. Ercol Originals Stacking Chair // Shaw Walnut Bench | 4. Alastair Arm Chair // Owen Metal Frame Chairs | 5. Melrose Dining Chair // Windsor Bench | 6. Natural Linen Armchair // SKOGSTA Chair

The prices on this board really run the gamut, from that nearly $1,300 Rejuvenation bench (that’s SO STUNNING with the chair we paired it with) to an under-$50 IKEA chair (that could easily have come from some boogie boutique somewhere in LA for 10x the price in terms of look…maybe not material or craftsmanship). While #1 is a good coupling of mid-century styling and curves, #2 actually works because they’re opposites (one is sharp and angular, the other is soft and sinuous). Both those chairs from #4 are SUCH great prices and when paired together, they elevate each other. And uh…that blonde wood bench from Target at #5 is so good, I’d say if you don’t have room for it in your dining room, grab it for another area in your home because it’s so good (and under $250).

Okay, you made it this far, and now you’re probably wondering…wait…what about tables? While we didn’t include them specifically in this round up, we have written two different chairs + dining table power couples posts so you can get some idea of how to pair things (like this one and this one). Also, did you know we have all our current furniture pieces (including dining tables for the sake of this post) curated in our SHOP page? Head here for a TON of picks at a variety of price points.

***Thank you so much to contributing market researcher Nancy Mitchell for helping us to pull this piece together.

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Julie S
5 years ago

One of my favorite ways to add personality to a home! We have a semi-open floor plan in a small house and mismatched dining chairs which make me smile whenever they catch my eye – farmhouse table, dark stained American tiger oak end chairs with higher backs, two lower-backed cream leather 70s style side chairs on one side and well I’m still tweaking the other side. There’s a cream spindle back country style chair there now as a placeholder which is frankly our sturdiest chair and the one large men go for. I’m thinking Danish style cream painted chairs with a similar height back as the other side, but am concerned about having too many smallish/slightly creaky chairs.

Catherine Zea
5 years ago

Can I mix 4 chairs? Too small?

5 years ago

These are so amazing! And thank you for the affordable options that still look high end. Does one of the two chairs need to “match” the table?

5 years ago

I am in Australia, so do not have as many options unfortunately.
Just a couple of questions, what minimum and maximum clearance do you suggested between chair seat and table (ie. for thighs to fit)?
And, when it comes to mixing colour and design in the dining area. What about all the same chair in different colours? I currently have a solid oak dining table and ‘matching’ chairs, I am hesitant to get rid of the chairs as they are sturdy and fairly age defying, so was thinking of sanding and painting them, perhaps in a gloss.
Querying 6 different colours, 2 chairs each in 3 colours, or 4 the same and 2 in something special to ‘imitate’ carvers??
What do you suggest?
Thanks, looking forward to the advice.

5 years ago

But which one is comfortable enough to sit in?

Ellen M
5 years ago

I don’t mean to be snippy but why do we have chairs at the head and foot of a table (sometimes called host chairs) that appear more comfortable than guest chairs? I like the look but there is something about it that seems rude.

5 years ago
Reply to  Ellen M

I e always wondered the same, lol.

5 years ago
Reply to  Dina

Initially this chair was meant to be used by the head of the family (pater familias in Latin), namely the “father”. He had a special role and status in a family – we all know why. But nowadays this seems a bit outdated 🙂

5 years ago
Reply to  Ellen M

I have special chairs at the head of the table but we always offer them to guests. It’s a way to make them feel honored. All chairs are comfy though!

Paula Tranchida
5 years ago

Love all this inspo! We bought a beautiful smooth cement table with wooden legs Scandinavian style. I am having a hard time figuring out what chairs would go well with the table. Any specific input? I was thinking in the direction of the flash makeover living room but not sure that would be too many styles +materials together. Thank you so much. ❤️

5 years ago

This is good timing for me! I need to buy two more chairs and can’t decide if I should get the same as the two I have, or two different chairs for the ends of the table. More to ponder and if anyone can help…
@designing_wini on Instagram

5 years ago

Thanks! Another informative post. I love that you share so much knowledge. Thank you!!! Here is my input to mixed dining chairs… 1) Love the concept and do it at our home 2) We often entertain young to old. Seniors appreciate a chair with arms as it’s easier to get up 3) We use a bench in our rooms but not at the tables. For holiday and other large group meals we may pull the bench to the tables but only for kid seating. It is so difficult for adults to climb in and out of bench seating. Even harder in some dress styles.

Betsy Jean
5 years ago

Approach #4 (?) (which is basically what the Target showcase is doing) is sets of two that rotate around the table depending on how much of the table I’m using. In my case, 2x Thonet bentwood + 4x Spanish Mission rustic upholstered in cowhide + 2x Breuer Cesca with cane back and mexi blanket seats. Around a heavy dark wood modern table it’s cute and all three sets have a matching lighter oak tone so they feel like a set in a way. When it’s just two or three of us at one end, we use the comfier chairs, when it’s a table full of people the tall people are forced into the bentwood. With love.