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How to Mix Dining Chairs and Tables (Pass the Pretty Test)

Do your dining room chairs match your table? There’s a better way to style your dining room. Furniture looks best when it’s coordinated but not matched. Here’s how to mix dining chairs and tables.

I was so excited to spot this (Eames plywood) chair in a secondhand shop for only $50 when I was on the Sunshine Coast with my Mom a couple weeks ago!

When I walked into the store and saw it, I asked how much it was. When they said $50, I looked around for another 30 seconds and then casually said “I’ll take it”.

When the owner loaded it into the car with me, he offered to buy it back for $60, haha.

Then, when I shared it with you on my Insta-Stories, I mentioned that this chair passed the “pretty chair test.” What’s this test, you ask?

Similar here

Basically, if your chair can sit all by itself in a room and it’s still beautiful, then it passes the pretty chair test.

There are so many NOT beautiful  dining chairs out there. Take a peek at your dining room. Would your chairs pass the test?

When I took a poll on Instagram, 55% voted YES and 45% of you said, Nope!

How to mix dining chairs and tables.

Well, I want to help save you from the ugly dining room chair dilemma and for many of you, it starts with the matching dining room set. I’ve received lots of reader questions about how to mix and match dining chairs, so I’m sharing some designer tips with you here.

wishbone dining chairs

Wall Sconce | Tulip Table | Wishbone Dining Chairs

Don’t buy the matching dining set.

Have you ever felt that what you have isn’t right, but you aren’t sure what to buy? THIS is where a designer can save you money (and unnecessary stress)! I’ve said this before, but often the price of a designer pays for the cost of one mistake. 

Read more: 23 Decorating Secrets (Only a designer will tell you)

Remember the mid-century modern home I styled for my client a few years ago? She had purchased a counter height dining set (below) – matching chairs and all. She knew it was wrong, but didn’t know what to replace it with.

I see this all the time. Long gone are the days when you walk into a furniture store and choose the entire set – whether it’s a dining room, living room, or bedroom set – it’s just not something you should do. And if you already purchased the matching dining set (oops), keep reading for some ideas on how to make it look better.

Your home isn’t a restaurant, nor should your dining room look like one. You need atmosphere and a look and a feel that reflects your personality and style – and it isn’t created when you buy the entire matching set.

Bad Matching Dining Set

Oh, and don’t even get me started on counter height bar tables – the feeling of having your legs fall asleep due to lack of circulation while dining at a tall table is not one you want to share with your guests. Trust me.

A countertop height dining set usually works best if there’s a view you wouldn’t see otherwise, while dining.

The point is, your dining room looks best when your tables and chairs look coordinated and not bought as a set. Adding a little contrast in your furniture (either with colour and/or style) is the key to creating a fresher look.

Read more: 6 Mistakes New Decorators Make

Instead, I selected this teak table with a modern, streamlined base and paired it with these lovely turquoise mid-century style chairs. Notice that the end chairs are a different shape than the side chairs.

Mid Century Dining Room

Wall Colour: Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice

Eiffel Dining Chairs: Similar  Similar  Similar | Dining Table

By mixing this teak table with blue Eiffel chairs (while also repeating the blue and orange colour palette inspired by her art) we added way more personality and style into this dining room. Both the table and chairs have a mid-century vibe but they are clearly not from the same set. (Note: After this refresh, my client couldn’t wait to entertain guests here!)

Pair those same mid-century style chairs with a matching table and the look is much too leggy and stale.

too matchy matchy dining set

Again, the key to a more interesting dining room design is a COORDINATED set of dining table and chairs – not a MATCHING one. I love how this eclectic dining room (below) mixes a set of thrifted woven chairs with more modern upholstered end chairs.

Mid-century dining room thrift store chairs

Via Kaleidoscope Living

Add different (prettier) chairs to the ends of your dining table.

Look at any designer magazine or home decor blog and you’ll find the most striking and beautiful dining rooms are the ones where the chairs don’t match the dining table. But, if you already have the set, consider changing out a few of the chairs for a whole new look.

Fresh greens always stand out in a blue colour palette. The pretty green painted wicker chairs (below) plucked at the end of this otherwise matching antique dining set add to the garden ambience set by all the leafy plantings.

Dining Set mixed with green wicker dining chairs

Via @jogalbraithhome on Instagram

Here’s another dining room refresh for one of my clients where we simply replaced the two end chairs with upholstered Parsons style ones. This one small change helped make her dining room feel more collected and less matchy-matchy.

Dining Room Set Upholstered Chair

Similar Upholstered Parsons Chair

There are lots of ideas for making your dining set look more curated. Maybe you keep the set, but consider painting the chairs or the dining table (maybe not both, though).

Update your dining room with these pretty dining chairs.

For the record, not buying the matching dining room set might even save you some money. Whether you are trying to work with what you already have or planning to purchase new dining room furniture, here are some design ideas that mix and match different dining chairs and tables.

Did you inherit a round oak dining table and chairs that you can’t part with? Consider adding some white chippendale chairs instead for an updated look. These chairs definitely pass the pretty chair test, don’t they? I might even add a fifth chair (for extra seating when company is over) and tuck it into a corner of the living room or at a desk, because it would look just as pretty there too.

Round Oak Table + White Chippendale Chairs

Interiors by Elizabeth Boyette

Chippendale Style Side Chairs | Similar Round Oak Table | Similar Brass Chandelier

Here’s a dining room with a traditional and rustic table. And while the table elevates the style in this room, the coastal-style dining chairs give it a more casual nod.

Coastal Rattan Dining Chair + Traditional Table

Via Style at Home | Wall & Ceiling Colour: Ultra Pure White by Behr

Similar Rattan Dining Chairs | Similar Pedestal Table

Here’s another dining room refresh from one of my clients. We added both scale and colour in the form of upholstered wingback chairs for an elegant upgrade to this dining room set. There’s just something regal about mixing wingback chairs in your dining room. By repeating the blue from the art and custom drapery the additional chairs pull this room together.

See more of this house here: 3 Timeless Decorating Trends (that won’t go out of style)

Blue Dining Room Wingback Chairs

Wall Colour: Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray

Similar Wingback Chairs | Similar Trestle Dining Room Table | Similar Dining Chairs

How to get the look.

Here are some different dining chair and table combinations with shopping links to help you restyle your matching dining set like one of the inspiration rooms shown above. Remember, furniture looks best when it’s coordinated, not matching.

Different Dining Chair and Table Combos

Chippendale Style Dining Chair + Round Oak Dining Table

Rattan Dining Chair + Pedestal Dining Table

Wingback Chair + Ladder Side Dining Chair + Trestle Dining Table

How many of you have the matching dining room set in your dining room? How about your bedroom. . . did you buy the matching set in there?

I hope this post gave you some inspiration to mix it up a bit. Let me know in the comments below! Oh, and if your chairs don’t pass the “pretty chair” test, then it’s time to let them go!

In case you’re wondering, yes I do often walk through my garden all dressed up with no place to go! I’m still amazed when I see peach everywhere in fashion. Last time I saw peach was in the 80s.

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and we’re enjoying in our back yard!

Most of my smaller eDesign packages are still sold out because of overwhelming demand, and the bigger bundles are still available here. However if you need just a siding or trim colour, or you need to install some stone in your backyard, my Masterclass for Exterior Colour Selection is available to watch anytime (and forever).

This was great! I have just recently purchased a new home that needs a lot of work on the  exterior. This course really helped me sort through what decisions should be made and in what order.

Specifically when you talked about what exterior finishes will only come in ‘stock’ colours, like the roof and trims. Really makes sense that you need to have those picked out first. Then on to paint, etc. I also had another ‘aha moment’ during your stone module. And it totally confirmed that I probably do not need to add stone to the house, it needs to be considered in the landscaping. This course was absolutely worth the investment.

I think you totally nail what everyone is looking for when upgrading their exterior. They want the end result to be something fresh and timeless, not trendy.

Get it here.

Related Posts:
My New Dining Room Botanical Artwork (What a Difference)
Don’t Make this Common Mistake When Choosing an Accent Chair
Ask Maria: Must my Kitchen Coordinate With the Dining Room?

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  • Elisabeth says:

    Thank you for your post. I’m in need of new dining chairs because mine broke (yippee, I hated them). So, this was timely. But, the REAL problem is I want comfortable chairs. We use our formal dining table as a family project table. It’s so hard to find good back support, pretty and reasonably priced!

  • Claudia says:

    Excellent post Maria, I have a round PB table that I bought second hand and I quite love, and 6 solid mango chairs that go with the table but are quite clunky – may be time for a refresh. You are always giving us great advice and inspiration. Your blog is simply the best. Thank you and stay safe. You look very pretty in your dress, BTW.

  • kimberley says:

    love the mix and match examples you show us! I think I need to go shopping now 🙂

  • Molly says:

    The courage to paint fine wood chairs is something I have almost mustered. The last hesitancy I think is fear I may someday want the beautiful wood exposed again and regret the permanence of the painting decision.

    As for counter height tables, our tall family with children around 6ft 5in really like the added height in the table and seat.

    I love that we are talking about dining rooms because I think they are terrific rooms to have and use every day. There is nothing like a gathering round the table with special people in a special way to foster connection and take sustenance from it.

  • Loren says:

    “Furniture looks best when it’s coordinated, not matching.” YES!
    This is a great statement.
    And for those considering painting your wood furniture — do it, but perhaps start small. For instance, you could paint the legs of your table, or a couple of chairs first. If you don’t like the result you can always strip the paint and return to wood.
    Btw there are some great paint products (ie chalk paint) on the market with excellent coverage and terrific colour choices.

  • Margaret says:

    Always enjoy your posts. I have oak antique dining chairs and to change up the look, I covered the chair backs in a pillow case style cover. My chairs have a squared off back so it was easy.

  • Kristin says:

    Hi Maria!
    Side question…I know you are supposed to choose paint last. However, I am working with a small room under the stairs that gets no natural light that I am making into a mini playroom. I know not every color works in this kind of space, so shouldn’t I pick the paint color first and match the decorating to that? I have read that creamy whites, lavender, and certain orange colors (like Clementine) work well for dark spaces. What is your take on this?
    Thank you!

  • Nikki says:

    I’m not so much concerned if the chairs are “pretty” or if they are too “matchy matchy”. I host pretty large family dinners (30+ people) and I’ve found that dining room chairs need to be comfortable and be able to accommodate the needs of guests who may not be as “flexible” (read “older and getting stiff) and guests who may have “generous” proportions (ever try to sit on an old Victorian chair? Ladies were less than 5 foot in those days and quite slender). Globally, we are all getting “bigger”.

    My chairs are all extra wide, a smidgen higher than normal (19-20 inches), upholstered and have arms and two have casters to help older folks settle in more easily. There is nothing more distressing and nothing will ruin a nice dinner more than having an elderly guest fall or watch them struggle while attempting to rise from an armless chair.

    After they meet the “practicality’ test, then you can focus on “styling chairs”

    • Jennifer says:

      Reading this post in 2023 and really wondering where you found your amazing chairs? Everything g I’m looking for for my extended family and friends.

  • JanetDR says:

    Regarding bedroom furniture, we recently decided to replace the waterbed platform that I bought in 1980. (There were no issues with it and I loved the built in bookcase. We replaced the air cushioned waterbed mattress after we added on and moved the master bedroom upstairs.) I kind of wanted to coordinate with a armoire, but after walking around and around the shop came to the conclusion that the only way I could have what I wanted was to buy from different collections. And it looks just fine! I’m struggling with the dresser set I inherited because I would love to paint it (very dark stain currently) but afraid of rioting siblings!

  • Terrence says:

    I love the LCW Eames looking chairs. My favorite.

  • Liz in Oregon says:

    Although they match, our 6 rattan dining room chairs with coral upholstered seats definitely pass the “pretty test” and can stand alone, not just around the table. I found them on Craigslist at a second hand store about 9 years ago and they’ve worked with two very different dining room tables. One was a long blond maple table and our current table is a round glass one. I love being able to see the pretty seats through the glass.

    We do have matching bedside stands (not part of a bedroom set though). I like them and they work well for us, so I didn’t see any point in going to the trouble of looking for two that didn’t match, just for the sake of asymmetry. I had enough trouble finding ones I liked! 🙂

  • Joanne says:

    Boy, do I love a post that confirms a decision I made!! I had a lovely cherry Harden hutch that was at least 60 years old and in pristine condition. I had often mused that I wanted to ditch the upper hutch and make it a buffet. My mom (now deceased) would look at me with skepticism and bewilderment. And probably a little dismay.

    When I moved into my newly renovated home (done with all of Maria’s advice from ebooks, blogs, etc., on hand), I decided to follow through and use just the bottom portion as a buffet, purchase a new table (live edge with forged black legs), and have the old cherry chairs and buffet painted black. I replaced hardware, left the rush seats natural and the whole thing looks great! It looks much fresher and on trend. I think even my mom would approve!

  • Pam says:

    Maria, I really enjoyed this post. Can you share where the black maybe iron chandelier was purchased? I cannot find many good looking black chandeliers. I think it will work in our kitchen. Thanks so much.

  • Fran W. says:

    Great post, Maria. I added upholstered chairs at each end of my dining room table per your advice when you visited my home a few years ago. I’ve loved that room ever since, and I’m still amazed that such a relatively simple tweak could make such a big difference. By the way, you love lovely in your garden photo! 🙂

  • Whitney says:

    We just bought a matching set a year ago because I couldn’t decide on a chair! It’s hard to just order a color and fabric and hope it looks good together (I’ve very frugal with money I spend on myself)! Our table is a medium wood and chairs the same wood with grey seats. However it’s a round table- so I don’t think we can update by adding different chairs on the end! Oops!

  • Cynthia says:

    I think it’s important to talk about comfort. While the pictures Maria showed were beautiful, in a few cases the hosts get comfy upholstered seats while the guest have bare wooden chairs. Pretty to look at but not very considerate to guests.

  • Jen says:

    As a few others have said, IMO dining chairs, first and foremost, must pass the comfort test. Form following function.

    I struggle with this, as we have older, Windsor-back chairs from my husband’s family, and they are beautiful with non-matching but coordinating vintage table, but even with a thick cushion added, not the most comfortable for today’s taller/larger individuals.

    Also, when mixing table and chairs, their relative heights must be considered, especially if using vintage pieces. Maybe modern pieces are more standard. I really, really do not like sitting at a tabletop that is too high or too low for the chair seat height.

    I had the height of our dining table raised, to what is now a standard table height (refinisher/woodworker did a lovely job, can’t tell where the old stops and the new begins) to accommodate today’s taller individuals, and to work better with the vintage chairs.

    But these considerations aside, I love your advice re table and chairs “going together” vs matchy-matchy. I just stumbled into a non-matching, coordinating set by no virtue of my own, and love the way it “goes” together.

  • Lana says:

    Question: I love your post. I really love the covered headboard and matching bench in your first image. Can you tell where you got this? Did you have it custom made?

  • Pamela Roble says:

    Thanks for the tips on mixing dining room chairs and the table. I am in the process of a remodel, and I am pretty much stuck with my oval Thomasville Traditional Cherry dining table and 6 matching chairs. My new kitchen cabinets are a creamy white, with cream/greys/browns in the back splash tile , with the dining area nearby. Would it make sense to refinish the table and chairs to a light creamy color, or wait until I can purchase an entirely new set? I’m trying to be frugal, but this is such an eyesore at this point. Thanks for your time and consideration.

  • Cathie Stonier says:

    Maria, it is so nice to meet you! You were featured by my favourite blogger, Jennifer, of Town & Country Living from the USA of all places! I was thrilled to learn that you are Canadian and live here on the west coast! What a great find that Eames chair was, and on the Sunshine Coast no less😳
    I love your look and aesthetic, what a great story your career is. It’s so wonderful when you follow your heart and it pays off. I can see that you really put a lot of work into everything you do too. Good for you!
    Love the shot of you in the garden wearing that gorgeous dress and sandals 👍🏻
    North Vancouver, BC

  • Laura says:

    Hi Maria, I love this blog post! I’m currently helping my daughter look for dining room chairs (she already purchased a West Elm table) and I’m wondering if there is a “formula” for knowing the correct height for the chair seat? We have a local vintage furniture shop that refinishes and if needed, will reupholster MCM furniture and they usually have beautiful chairs at a great value given the quality of the wood. I like the look of mixing end and side chairs!

  • Melissa Shaw says:

    Maria, I have a frosted glass table with silver legs (Best way to describe it)! I matched it with 4 grey chairs. Was thinking to add clear chairs to either side of the table. What do you think? Would love to send you a picture if possible?

  • Marianne Kobyluch says:

    Designer here, Maria you are my favorite! I follow every blog. Here is a word of caution from a designer who has paid the price of this mistake! I agree with mixing chairs, however, you must pay attention to the seat heights. The seat height is crucial or you will have people sitting at different heights with some feeling like “Edith Anne”. A perfect example is the wingback chairs linked in the article. The seat height is only 18” while a standard dining chair can be as much as 21”. I made this mistake and the Mr. And Mrs. didn’t like being lower than their guests. This was an expensive error. So yes, designers can save you one bad mistake but we make them too. Although the expense was on me, not the clients. Always pay attention to dimensions and have fun mixing and matching.

  • Jennifer says:

    What do you do when you already ordered an out of your budget Ethan Allen table + 6 matchy chairs, quite pricey at I think more than 500/chair, and there is zero chance my husband will ever consider replacing, ever, unless there is a fire. They are wood with no cushion. Two are white wash with arms and the rest have no arms and match the table wood. Custom covers and cushions maybe? Not sure painting would help as they are all the same style. I can’t believe I did this. I hate matchy. I has worked all night and was tired and we needed to get things ordered for the holiday and I guess wasn’t thinking clear. But we don’t have a ton of money laying around so now what? I am so bummed. 🙁

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