Side chairs can serve many purposes, but are typically referred to as the chairs that line the long sides of a dining table. They are often armless, lightweight, and easily mobile.
Side chairs can also be used for extra seating when needed during special occasions. If you find yourself scrambling for seating when you have guests over, then investing in side chairs could be the right choice for you!
You can find many affordable side chairs online to keep to one side of your dining room or living room and use them as needed. Don’t even think about getting an ugly metal folding chair. You can find a gorgeous, stylish side chair that will serve as a decorative piece when not in use!
Types of Side Chairs
Side chairs come in various designs and styles, each suited for different purposes and aesthetic preferences. Here are some common types of side chairs:
- Dining Chairs: These chairs are designed specifically for dining tables. They often have a tall backrest, comfortable seating, and may or may not have armrests. Dining chairs can be upholstered or made of wood, metal, or plastic.
- Armchairs: While armchairs are not strictly side chairs, they are worth mentioning as they are similar in style and purpose. Armchairs have armrests on either side and provide a comfortable seating option for lounging or reading. They are often upholstered and can be placed in living rooms, bedrooms, or home offices.
Side Chair Styles
Side chairs come in various styles, each with its own unique characteristics and design elements. Here are some popular styles of side chairs:
- Traditional: Traditional side chairs feature ornate details, rich woodwork, and elegant upholstery. They often have curved lines, intricate carvings, and can be adorned with decorative accents like tufting or nailhead trim. Traditional side chairs are associated with formal and classic aesthetics.
- Modern/Contemporary: Modern or contemporary side chairs have clean lines, sleek shapes, and a minimalist design. They prioritize simplicity and functionality while incorporating modern materials like metal, plastic, or glass. These chairs often feature smooth surfaces, geometric shapes, and may include bold colors or unconventional forms.
- Mid-Century Modern: Inspired by the design trends of the mid-20th century, mid-century modern side chairs are characterized by organic shapes, natural materials, and a mix of simplicity and sophistication. They often have tapered legs, curved forms, and can feature materials like molded plywood, molded plastic, or upholstered seats.
- Scandinavian: Scandinavian-style side chairs emphasize simplicity, functionality, and natural materials. They feature clean lines, light-colored woods like beech or birch, and often have a light and airy appearance. Scandinavian chairs prioritize comfort and typically have ergonomic designs.
- Rustic/Farmhouse: Rustic or farmhouse-style side chairs embrace a cozy and informal aesthetic. They often feature distressed wood, natural textures, and earthy tones. These chairs may have a rugged or weathered appearance, with elements like cross-back designs, woven seats, or reclaimed wood.
- Industrial: Inspired by factory or warehouse aesthetics, industrial-style side chairs showcase a blend of raw materials and rugged finishes. They often incorporate metal frames, distressed or reclaimed wood, and may have exposed hardware or visible welds. These chairs evoke a utilitarian and urban vibe.
- Bohemian: Bohemian-style side chairs embrace a free-spirited and eclectic aesthetic. They often feature vibrant colors, mixed patterns, and a combination of different materials and textures. These chairs can incorporate elements like rattan, wicker, or upholstered fabrics with intricate designs.
How to Design a Room with Side Chairs
Here are some side chair design tips.
Arms vs Armless Side Chairs
Should side chairs have arms? No, side chairs don’t need arms. If the side chair is primarily intended for dining or working purposes, having arms can provide additional support and comfort. Arms can make it easier to sit down and get up from the chair and offer a place to rest the arms while using a table or desk, but they aren’t necessary. If you have limited space or need to fit more chairs around a table, armless side chairs can be a practical choice. They take up less space and allow for easier movement and maneuverability in tight spaces.
Armless side chairs are often more versatile in terms of their usage. They can be easily moved around and used in different areas of the house, such as the living room, bedroom, or home office. Chairs with arms, while providing added comfort, may be more specific to certain spaces or functions.
Side Chair Height
Should side chairs be taller than the table? For optimal comfort, side chairs should be proportional to the table height. The general guideline is that the seat height of the chair should allow the person’s feet to rest flat on the floor, with their thighs parallel to the ground and their arms comfortably positioned on the table surface. If the chairs are too low, it can create an uncomfortable dining or working experience. Similarly, chairs that are too high may cause the person to feel elevated and uncomfortable at the table.
Generally, side chairs are designed to complement a table, and the height relationship between the chairs and the table should be considered. The height of the table itself plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate height of side chairs. Dining tables come in various heights, including standard dining height (around 30 inches or 76 centimeters), counter height (around 36 inches or 91 centimeters), or bar height (around 42 inches or 107 centimeters). The side chairs should be selected accordingly to ensure a comfortable seating position relative to the table height.
Side Chairs in the Living Room
Can you use a side chair in a living room? Yes, side chairs can be used in a living room and can serve as versatile and functional seating options. Side chairs in the living room can provide additional seating for guests, create cozy conversation areas, or be used as accent chairs to enhance the overall aesthetic of the space.
Comfort is essential when choosing side chairs for a living room. Look for chairs with supportive seat cushions and backrests that provide proper lumbar support. Consider the depth of the seat, the angle of the backrest, and the overall ergonomics of the chair to ensure comfortable seating for extended periods.
Determine the placement of the side chairs based on the layout of your living room and the intended use. Side chairs can be positioned near a sofa or coffee table to create a conversational area or placed in a corner to maximize space utilization. Consider the flow of the room and ensure that the chairs don’t obstruct pathways or make the space feel cramped.
Best Side Chairs
Here are nine all-purpose side chairs for extra seating when you need them!
1. Eames Fiberglass Chair
The Eames fiberglass chair has been a design classic since it was designed in 1950. Both the seat and back of the chair are crafted from one solid molded plastic piece. It is attached to straight wooden legs. This is a beautiful side chair that can integrate into a variety of dining rooms or homes, even though it has a particularly Scandinavian design and vibe to it. Get this chair for as little as $45!
2. Cross-Back Bistro Side Chair
This is one of my favorite side chair designs. The cross back side chair is known for the two thin pieces of wood that form an X on the backside of the chair. Typically made of wood, this chair can work inside French country homes, Farmhouse homes and country homes. They can also be seen in modern coastal homes, too! Shop the chair below at Wayfair for $108, or go for a long-lasting yet slightly more expensive Williams-Sonoma version for $175.
3. Solid Wood Spindle Back Dining Chair
Another classic chair, the spindle back dining chair is typically made of solid wood. The $119 chair model we’ve shared with thin back rods works best in a Modern Farmhouse home, giving it an updated traditional look. If you’re looking for a more Scandinavian look for this chair, then try this chair from Wayfair.
4. Ghost Chair
Another versatile classic, the ghost chair got its name from the transparency it is known for. Typically made of a crystal clear plastic, ghost chairs are essential side chairs with a modern design. Grab this chair for as little as $85!
5. Wishbone Chair
Most often associated with Scandinavian design, Wishbone chairs are making their way into the mainstream design world. Their classic and simple design works best in minimalist homes. For a cost-friendly option, check out this chair on Amazon, but for a highly-rated investment chair, opt for this Wayfair one.
6. Velvet Side Chair
Velvet side chairs work best in glamorous, modern homes. This particular chair is upholstered in blush pink velvet and stands on thin brass legs.
7. Light Oak Teak Wood Arm Chair
This side chair has a little more personality than the other chairs, but I truly love its style and design. I can see it inside a California casual home or a modern coastal dining room. It’s made of a light oak wood and features white, bonded leather webbing on its seat, creating a beautifully modern side chair that will warm up any room! Grab this chair from Amazon!
8. Brown Leather Side Chair
A classic mid-century design that doesn’t look dated, the brown leather side chair with metal legs is the perfect addition to any modern home. Upholstered in a smooth leather, you can purchase this chair in a variety of colors from brown to gray, to deep green, to black. I love it in this light brown, caramel color.
9. Mid-century Modern Side Chair
Lastly, when in doubt, opt for a time-testing mid-century modern side chair like this one. The warm brown wood will always be welcoming and the minimal design will keep this chair from standing out amongst your other furniture. I have seen this kind of style in Emily Henderson’s home designs so you know its designer-approved!