Pick a Dining Room Chair – if only it were that easy

November 2nd, 2011

This afternoon I was reading an article in Sherwin-Williams magazine, Stir, by Jackie Jordan, their director of Color Marketing, when I was struck by a couple of comments she made.  Having discovered a photography book of homes of designers from the mid-century era, she was struck by:

“a distinct commonality among the various homes: They were lived-in, unpretentious and unassuming, yet still beautifully crafted, detailed and personally curated. A visitor would feel very much at ease in any of them. … As designers and architects, I’m sure you occasionally get the comment from your clients, “Your house must be amazing!” And I’m sure it is — but perhaps in a very unexpected way, just like the homes of these famous design icons.”


I do indeed hear that reaction from people I meet when they hear what is my profession/ passion.  The challenge of course for so many designers is that we are constantly discovering new products and therefore it can be difficult to select a piece for your own home when you know there are so many other options out there and you may have not found “THE RIGHT” piece yet.  Not quite the same as a plumber’s wife with a leaky sink, but you get the idea.

Somehow it’s so much easier to see a client’s taste and determine the best products for their home in part because there is a limited time window we are working in. Our own homes are constantly evolving and the layering process is never ending.  So where does that leave me? With a dining room table surrounded by folding chairs.

Why? Because having moved recently we finally have enough space to comfortably fit a dining room table that can fit a crowd.  In our old home we had to set up the table and chairs, and then pack them up at the end of a dinner party to fit at the back of a closet.


We’ve selected a beautiful dining room table we can both agree upon, but now I can’t find the perfect chair!  Mind you I’ve been thinking about this for YEARS. Of course, the new house impacted the selection somewhat because of the space and style of the home.  The biggest challenge is that I don’t want anything expected or overdone.  It shouldn’t look like any typical dining room in Dwell magazine just because it’s a mid-century home.  It shouldn’t be obviously mid-century or too classic Danish design because that room already has three Danish teak pieces and it would be overkill. I want comfortable chairs (I mean really, why WOULDN’T you want comfortable dining room chairs?!). And they need to be easy to clean since kids spill and cats scratch.

If the IKEA chairs above were still available in orange we would have gladly used those for our dining room. Alas, no longer available.


But I think we might have a winner, or at least a top two.




Here is the table, for your reference. Reclaimed wood plank top with cast metal base. Slightly industrial but with clean lines and a little ornamentation. The chairs above were all considered at one point or another. Some were too expensive, some too plain, some didn’t feel right with the table base.  For all I know I might go back to one of these or mix them in with another selection.

It’s funny how something catches your attention but you didn’t realize it until the third or fourth time. I snapped a picture of these chairs at the Hickory Chair showroom last month when I was there for a book signing. I’ve always liked them, but hadn’t given them a lot of thought before.

The next week I spotted these chairs on designer Linda Engler’s website and thought “Oh, those could work for our dining room!” Didn’t realize it was the same chair yet.

Then reading the latest issue of House Beautiful last week (about a week after the second sighting) I flipped to this picture:

I quickly pulled out my phone, snapped a picture, noting the manufacturer and made a note to research it when I got home.  Oddly enough, I spotted this right before Jackie Jordan, from Sherwin-Williams (see above), gave her annual presentation on color trends for next year. Wacky!

Looking at the website it all suddenly came together.  It has a unique shape that doesn’t look like any retail products. It is comfortable, easy to clean (with the right material choice), and not a full upholstered back (another wish list item).  The price is high, but it might just be worth it.


Unless this chair wins me over. It might be too classic Danish, and reupholstering is a must (the cushion is shot), but the curved back is so comfortable and allows you to crook your arm over the top in a delightful way (perfect for long intellectual or silly conversations after dinner). I found this when I went in to buy a different dining room chair set and it halted the decision process.

Now neither of these are cheap options, but for pieces like this I’d rather save up for investment pieces I love and will use for the rest of my life. These can be reupholstered in 20 years when there are no more kids to spill on them (but I’ll have to plan for grandchildren’s spills).  Remember my mantra:

Buy the best and you’ll only cry once.  - Miles Redd

So what will I choose?  Goodness knows, but that’s the fun of it. I love the pursuit, the visualization exercise of figuring out what looks best together. I love doing it for clients and I love doing it for myself.  Think of all the chairs I’ve looked at to narrow it down to those options. Now you can see why it’s faster for me to find great chair options for clients – I have so many already in my brain, on my computer and in my reference library.  Let me spare you the same fate. Let me pick your dining room chairs and table for you and you can spend your time doing what YOU love.


Photo credits:

1. Sideboard by Knoll, design by Christofi?

2. Unknown

3. Unknown

4. Chairs by IKEA, design by Pam Hill

5. Composition by Fox Interiors

6. Fox Interiors

7. Engler Studio Interior Design

8. Photo by Victoria Pearson, design by Parrish Chilcoat & Joe Lucas, House Beautiful, November 2011.

9. it’s a secret (I don’t want you stealing my chairs!)

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 at 6:33 pm and is filed under Design & Home Living Tips, Inspiration Boards. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Pick a Dining Room Chair – if only it were that easy”

  1. Allison says:

    I love this post! We have a 1930s-1940 dining room set (chairs, tables, armoire) from my great-aunt. It’s a beautiful cherry wood, but unfornately has lived in storage for the past few years, while we are embracing the modern loft living. Now, that we are looking for a houseI find myself dreaming of having a room for this set, but also thinking about how do we update it to reflect the style of both my husband and I while keeping the integriety of the pieces. So I’ve also started daydreaming about chairs and trying to find something that would make these piece shine, but also feel like us rather than a hand-me-down piece of furniture I gladly accepted in my 20s. Your thoughtful reflections above let me know that I’m not the only crazy one out there and I can’t wait to consult you when the time comes.

  2. Colleen says:

    Your dilemma is such a common one! There are so many solid , well made pieces of furniture from our parents and grandparents’ generations. Yet they aren’t always our taste. There are lots of different ways to make them feel appropriate for a more modern aesthetic. An enamel painted finish can update a table, especially if the finish is a bit beat up. Mixing modern and transitional chairs with a more traditional table can help bridge the ga as well. I can’t wait for you to find that dream house and help you build a dining room that fits you and will last for another generation!

  3. [...] for the dining room since they are right next to each other, so this will take a while. See my previous post on the issue for the full [...]

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