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Mix-And-Match Dining Chairs For A Casual Kitchen Or Dining Room

Over the last few years, kitchens and dining rooms have gotten a lot more casual. Large, open kitchens aren’t just for cooking anymore – they can be used as a gathering spot for the whole family and a convenient hub for entertaining. And often dining rooms are no longer necessarily their own separate space, but are instead part of a multipurpose grand room and serve to bridge the kitchen and living room. All that means there’s a whole lot more room to get creative with your dining room set, particularly your choice of dining chairs.

Sapphire White Prisma Dining Table R348203000117 from Rossetto
Sapphire White Prisma Dining Table R348203000117 from Rossetto

The most traditional option is, of course, to have a full set of identical dining chairs placed at even intervals all around your dining table. This works for a few chairs or a lot of them, and tables that are big or small, round or square or rectangular. Whether the chairs are high backed, upholstered, formal dining chairs or simpler, more casual wood seats, having perfectly matched chairs lends the dining set a rigid, traditional look and a nice sense of balance that won’t draw attention to itself.

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Upgrading to upholstered chairs at either end of the table can make an otherwise humble dining set feel elegant (by de[luxe] design studio)
Upgrading to upholstered chairs at either end of the table can make an otherwise humble dining set feel elegant (by de[luxe] design studio)
From there, though, a basic table can easily be dressed up or dressed down simply by changing out the dining chairs. For example, if you have a dining room set with basic wooden chairs and a rectangular dining table, swapping out the two chairs at either narrow end of the table with matching upholstered chairs can give the whole setup a much more formal, sophisticated appearance. While having a full set of upholstered chairs is something that’s usually reserved for a formal dining room,  having two chairs in this more traditional style is a simple way to elevate the style of the table. In a pinch, you can even cover an existing chair with a tailored cloth slipcover for that slightly more regal appearance.

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Replacing conventional dining chairs with a long bench adds extra seating in a pinch while saving space when it isn't needed (by Rebekah Zaveloff KitchenLab)
Replacing conventional dining chairs with a long bench adds extra seating in a pinch while saving space when it isn’t needed (by Rebekah Zaveloff KitchenLab)

Another option that’s been gaining popularity lately is to replace the chairs on one side of a dining table with a bench. Reminiscent of the banquettes that are also coming back in vogue, this setup offers more flexibility in terms of maximum seating capacity while creating a look that’s slightly more relaxed and casual than a conventional dining set that only has chairs. The benches themselves can range from very basic (like the rustic wood benches you might find paired with a picnic table) to fairly ornate (either in terms of woodwork or upholstery). The design you choose – and the chairs you pair it with – will have a major impact on the overall appearance of the dining room set, but even very decorative benches tend to have a more relaxed, homier appearance than a traditional set of chairs.

Haight Ashbury Table And Richmond Chairs From Zuo Modern
Haight Ashbury Table And Assorted Upholstered Dining Chairs From Zuo Modern

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For a much more casual look, you can shirk the idea of a dining “set” entirely, and opt instead to mix and match your chairs – different sizes, different styles, different colors, whatever! This is an especially good option if you’re fond of vintage finds or flea market salvages that come packed with personality; turn of the century and mid century modern mass produced chairs might not match, but they pair well stylistically for a fun, eclectic look that’s very casual. Mixing and matching upholstered chairs can work, too, particularly if you want to mellow out a formal dining room.

Vintage finds can be lovingly refinished and reupholstered to match, even if the designs are very different (by decordemon)
Vintage finds can be lovingly refinished and reupholstered to match, even if the designs are very different (by decordemon)

If you’re afraid that your dining set will dissolve into chaos if you just pick your chairs out willy-nilly, a great way to give non-matching chairs a sense of unity is to pick ones that are the same color or paint them to match. This works especially well with wire and molded plastic mid century modern chairs, which look great in just about any color, and can pretty easily be bought new to match. That way, you’ll still get the eclectic feel of having a lot of different style chairs, but without making the space look or feel too busy. Ditto for upholstered chairs: the backs, legs, and arms can be mixed and matched, just as long as the upholstery is the same on all the chairs.

Choosing multiples of the same chair in different colors is a great way to add visual interest to your space without breaking the unity of your dining table (by Terrat Elms Interior Design)
Choosing multiples of the same chair in different colors is a great way to add visual interest to your space without breaking the unity of your dining table (by Terrat Elms Interior Design)

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On the flip side, if you want a more playful look, you can buy lots of the same dining chairs but in different colors. For wood, plastic, or metal chairs, that can mean making a bright, mix-and-match rainbow of colors arranged any way you want for a look that’s eye catching, but is at least consistent enough in terms of design not to be distracting. For upholstered chairs,  you can get even more wild, mixing and matching fabric patterns as well as colors. For a look that’s a bit more subdued, stick with chairs that are in different shades of the same color. You still get a bright, varied look, but one that’s more ombre than rainbow, and a bit less busy and more unified.

What do you think of these twists on traditional dining room furniture? Is there something special you’d like to do with your dining chairs? Let me know in the comments!