A hot trend that has been around for a few years is mismatched dining chairs. Most often this is accomplished by making the 2 head chairs something different. It used to be that meant just adding arms to the same chair style as the rest of the chairs…..not anymore. It seems the idea of using “different chairs” means truly that – VERY different chairs. Today Cindy and I tackle the pros and cons of mismatched chairs.
Terrie Gives Chairs a Thumbs Down
First let me say that I like an eclectic style. I enjoy the excitement and interest that mismatched things can bring to a space. However, I’m not a fan of mismatched dining chairs. The short reason for not liking mismatched chairs is that most people don’t do it well (including many designers). Introducing 2 chairs in a totally different style and shape from the rest of the chairs involves using the correct scale, balance and keeping a sense of cohesiveness. Most people get some part of that wrong and the dining room suffers for it.
In this dining room I like that the table is a different wood finish than the chairs, but then how do those upholstered chairs work in this setting? There is nothing about them that relates to the other elements or the kind of Shaker style of the room. I think one of the elements that bothers me is the openness of the wood chairs and the solidness of the upholstered ones. I’m just not feeling it.
In this case I find the upholstered pieces too busy and competing with the intricate backs of the wood chairs and there’s also the pattern created by the window moldings. If the head chairs are going to be different, I think they need to be plainer so the carved chairs take center stage. A simple parson chair (same style, no skirt) in a solid or tonal pattern would work better.
This very traditional formal dining set is changed up by adding an upholstered bench. At least the bench is tufted, lending it an appropriately traditional style. However, to me the balance of this room is thrown off by the weight of the larger upholstered piece compared to the open backs of the other chairs.
Remember, I’m not a fan of slipcovers and to me the white slipcovered chairs are too slight for the bulk of the table and are much too casual in style to complement the striped head chair. The chair profiles and styles are too dissimilar. A stronger look might be to use parsons chairs which are more substantial and upholstered in the same stripe – change up the shape between chairs but keep some continuity in fabric selection.
Surprisingly I find myself more a traditionalist about this style than I would have expected. Generally I prefer the look of a matched set of chairs around the dining table – though the rebel in me agrees that the chairs don’t have to be a perfect match to the table! Just to each other.
Here’s the more traditional style of changing up the head chair……add arms and call it good. I do like the addition of the scarf or runner folded over the back for a little contrast and interest. I realize it’s awfully tame compared to some of the above looks, but I find the overall look more cohesive and balanced.
So after all that, I had to include this casual dining look…..why do I like this dining mix? Not only is every chair different in shape (but actually quite similar) but it’s also a boldly different color (maybe I’m just in the mood for some springtime color!). And yet, I find it strangely appealing – perfect for a porch or whimsical breakfast room.
Cindy Gives Chairs a Thumbs Up
I think mixing it up a bit with chairs provides a fun option for personalizing your dining room. Why should everything match perfectly? As you can see in the photo below I have dining chairs upholstered in different colored fabric and I like the casual and whimsical touch it lends to the simple glass table.
Terrie presents the first photo above, the one with two light colored upholstered chairs, saying there’s “nothing about them that relates to the rest of the elements or the shaker style…” I beg to differ – to me they work and relate to one another. Why? Take another look at the photo and you’ll notice the upholstered chairs are basically the same height as the wooden chairs and look at the arms – both chair styles sport arms that curve slightly up and then gently downward. Other reasons they work are the wooden legs are the same height as the pleated drop of the upholstered skirts and the back of both chair styles bows slightly. This means the legs, height of the seat and height and shape of the back all mirror each other.
Now, while looking at the photo, imagine the room without the upholstered chairs – mentally replace them with two more matching wooden chairs. That change would fill the dining room with nothing but dark, hard, wood surfaces. The two upholstered chairs add softness to the room and their fabric ties in very well with the window coverings, the lampshades on the sideboard and the color of the chandelier globes. Yes the chairs are different – but they also have similarities that allow them to work together. I think this room would feel cold, dark and hard without the upholstered chairs – I give them a thumbs up!
In the photo below a mixed element is introduced by upholstering chairs at the head of the table in a solid color to coordinate with the print used on the chairs around the table. The shape of the chairs is the same except arms are introduced on the two black chairs.
The photo below illustrates how the same chairs painted different colors work around a table. Although this photo is similar to the last photo Terrie presents above, I like this presentation but dislike the display Terrie likes. In the photo above the blue chair with the rounded back looks out of place to me and it’s the first place my eye goes when I look at that photo. While below, the chairs are harmonious even though they are different colors – their shape ties them together.
There’s no doubt you can make a great looking dining room with mismatched chairs. Mismatched chairs make a modern, casual and fun statement. I believe the trick to making them work is to follow a few simple guidelines. When creating your seating design consider the following:
If you use a variety of styles select chairs with backs and seats at the same height.
If you use different chair styles paint or upholster them in the same color.
If your chairs are all the same style, paint or upholster them in different colors.
If you’re mixing chair styles around the table, add some symmetry simply by having the 2 chairs at each end of the table match.
Bottom line – if you’re mixing chairs, look for some similarities in terms of style, shape, color or finish - find something that ties them all together somehow. If the chairs don’t somehow relate to one another they will look messy and disconnected. Give it a try – mix it up and have some fun – highlight the differences but first look for the similarity.
What’s Your Take?
Do you have mismatched dining chairs in your home – or are you exploring that possibility? Which side of the design trend do you find yourself on? Give us your feedback in the comments (Comment link is located just below our signatures and ads, on the bottom right).