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How to Pick the Right Dining Chair Height

…and the perfect style for your space

By The Inside

Decorating your dining room is about more than just creating a space that looks good – it’s about feeling excited to bring loved ones together in your home to share a meal. And with all incredible decorating and entertaining imagery we see in design magazines and on Pinterest, we want to help you design an effortless yet inspired dining area that not only celebrates your individuality, but also creates a personalized backdrop to make beautiful memories around the table.

Whether your dining area consists of a casual kitchen corner, or a formal dining room that’s mainly reserved for special occasions, choosing the right height and style for your dining chairs will make all the difference. This guide will help you pick the perfect dining chairs for any dining space.

Shop the look: The Inside’s Classic Dining Chair in Chroma Austin Stripe by Old World Weavers

Why choosing the right height dining chair matters…

First things first – why is dining chair height such an important consideration? Perhaps most importantly, the right height chairs are crucial in ensuring that you’re comfortable while sitting at your dining table. We’ve all sat in a seat that’s too high or too low for the surface we’re eating on, and that can ruin the entire atmosphere by just being downright uncomfortable. Also, if you have more than one dining chair around the table, you presumably want to create an environment that naturally fosters conversation – seat height and chair size are key considerations for keeping the conversation flowing.  Finally, you probably want your dining space to look beautiful, and seat height plays an important role in ensuring the furniture in the space is proportionally pleasing to the eye.

What is the standard height of a dining chair?

A dining chair has two main measurements: the seat height and back height. To understand the guidelines, it’s helpful to think about the standard height of a dining table, as the two are in direct relationship to one another as part of your overall dining set. A standard tabletop sits somewhere around 30 inches. As an interior design rule of thumb, the standard height of a chair seat (the top of the seat that you sit on) is about 18 inches high. This seat height allows for about a foot of space between your body and the table. As for the back of the chair, the standard height is between 32 to 34 inches, but you’ll see a lot more variation in the back heights than you will seat heights.

Image Source: Furniture Choice

Are all dining chairs the same height?

Most dining chair seats are roughly the same height (18 inches), but the height of the back of the chair greatly varies, and that’s the element that really sets the look of the dining room. If you’re going for a modern, streamlined look, a dining chair with a lower back (one that’s the same height as your table) can achieve that effect. For a more traditional look, opt for a dining chair whose back is slightly taller than your table (32 inches or slightly above). For a dramatic statement, opt for a dining chair with a tall back (34 inches or above).

What height should a dining chair be?

While these measurements are helpful in thinking about where to start, the height of your dining chair can vary depending on the heights of the people who will be sitting in them. Not everyone needs 12 inches of space between the seat and the dining room table, and some people may need more. For instance, young children may need a bit less space between the top of the seat and the tabletop, since they are shorter in stature.

Shop the look: The Inside’s Classic Dining Chairs in Azul Ticking Stripe by SF Girl by Bay

How many dining chairs do I need?

The number of chairs you’ll need will vary depending on how bulky your chairs are and the size of your table. As a rule of thumb, allow at least two feet of space for each dining chair. You can certainly fudge that rule when entertaining in a pinch, opting for a cozier setup. In this case, it’s helpful to have two additional chairs waiting in the wings. With this in mind, the length of your table will dictate how many chairs you’ll need, and this handy table size guide will give you all the answers you need. Starting from scratch? Start with the table. Once you know the size table you’re committing to, then you know how many chairs you need to order.

What style of dining chair should I choose?

The chairs tend to be the standout piece of dining room furniture in any dining space. Your chair is the opportunity to infuse color and pattern into your space and dictate the sense of style.

There are a few different style elements to keep in mind:

  • Upholstered vs. Wood/Metal: From style perspective, upholstered dining room chairs are great because they can speak to variety of styles, whereas wood and metal tend to be more specific and feel a little less formal. For example, the silhouette of this upholstered chair [LINK] is a chameleon and can match with any table or room style depending on your custom fabric choices. Style aside, it’s also important to think about comfort – and on that front, you can’t beat an upholstered chair.
  • Fabric: If you do opt for upholstery, you’ll have a few different options for fabric – from linens to velvets to patterned printed cottons. Above all, if you’re loving the upholstery but worried about stains, opt for a performance fabric (try a performance linen or performance velvet) for easy stain removal and spot treatment.
  • Arm vs. Armless: The common wisdom when it comes to arm chairs vs. side chairs (chairs without arms) is that arm chairs tend to look great at the two heads of the table, whereas armless chairs (also know as side chairs) look great around the…well…sides! Having all arm chairs can sometimes make your space feel more like a board room than a dining room.
  • Color & Pattern: This is where things really get fun. If you’re in love with a pattern but don’t have the budget to cover your walls or living room sofa in it, the dining chairs are a great alternative. If you’re going bold with your chairs, keep your wallpaper or window treatments simple, so they really pop. We’re also big fans of mixing materials, so if the dining table is a really rich wood, a soft fabric (perhaps a moss velvet [LINK]) can really soften the look.

Shop the look: The Inside’s Classic Dining Armchair in Navy Velvet

What if my dining area is my kitchen counter?

If you don’t have a separate dining space (hello, studio apartment living!), you can transform the kitchen counter into a great alternative to the formal dining nook. You won’t be in the market for dining chairs, but instead considering a bar stool or counter height stools. While there are many options out there – from backless stools to swivel stools – there is one main rule to keep in mind (and avoid learning the hard way, as we have before!). The terms “bar height” and “counter height” are two crucially different things. If you’re working with a counter height table, this will be 36 inches high. In this case, you should be specifically searching for “counter height chairs” or “counter height dining stools”. On the other hand, bar height tables are 40-42 inches high, so be sure to search specifically for “bar height stools”. Interchanging the two will make for quick an uncomfortable mealtime!

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