How to Mix-And-Match Dining Seating
You deserve to love your dining space, and selecting the right seating pairing is crucial to making the most of this costly, highly frequented gathering space in the home. As you select chairs to fill your dining table, there are likely a few questions on your mind. How do you choose the right dining chairs? When do you mix and match seating? How do you choose the right chairs for the scale of your table, and what about if you have an open or closed concept space? In this guide, we’ll answer each of those questions. As you mix-and-match your way to dining room perfection, we’ve curated four tips and tricks to help.
“When I’m choosing a dining table and chairs, I’m considering how they speak together without being a set”
No. 01 | Tone and Material
The best way to create tonal balance is by mixing the chairs’ tones and materials with the dining table’s tone. “There are warm tones on this chair,” Shea says of the pairing below. “It’s a metal chair, which will contrast really well with a wood table.” (The pairing pictured is the Vincent Chair and Dillon Extension Dining Table by McGee & Co.) The black metal and leather accents of the chairs provide a strong divergence from the natural wood table, helping the chairs make their own statement capable of standing alone if the reclaimed elm table were removed. The soft, natural linen fabric on the captain’s chairs—the Elton Chairs by McGee & Co.— are yet another design choice centered around contrasting in a curated and collected way. “I like solid upholstered chairs for the ends of the table if you choose to mix-and-match, because it gives the eye a nice break,” she concludes.
No. 02 | Weight and Shape
The second key element to consider when mixing and matching dining seating is selecting chairs that have contrasting weights. For example, if your end chairs have chunky legs, keep the others simple and thin. “I don’t want the legs to feel like they’re clashing,” Shea explains. In the dining room pictured below, Shea selected chairs with leg details to go around the table and chose fully upholstered chairs with no legs for the ends. “I wouldn’t love this pairing as much [if each piece had similar legs]. Always pick a chair with more substantial weight when you’re mixing and matching [with slender chairs],” Shea adds. If your mixed and matched end chairs are too similar to your other chairs, the legs will feel repetitive and in competition with one another.
No. 03 | Size of Space
While the video goes into detail about the previous two points, there are a few other considerations worth taking into account. When creating your seating pairings for the dining room, both the size of your space and whether it is an open or closed concept should inform your choices.
“In an open concept,” Shea explains, “the best way to approach your seating is by thinking through all of the tones, finishes, and shapes in the kitchen and dining room.” If you can see the counter stools from your dining room, make sure to include them in your thought process. You may consider incorporating metal into the counter stools and reserving wood tones for the dining room, or using wooden counter stools and selecting iron and fabric seating (like the Vincent Chair and Elton Chair) for your dining room.
In smaller spaces, try to be cautious of how many different materials you are using, making sure they are not too consistent but not completely random. For example, you might use a wood table, black dining chairs, and a wooden bench. Speaking of benches, another foolproof way to mix-and-match dining seating is by incorporating a bench. It’s great for small spaces, and it also allows for more flexible seating for guests or large gatherings.
"The best way to approach your seating is by thinking through all of the tones, finishes, and shapes in the room."
No. 04 | Table and Style
Consider the style you want and the shape of your table. These two things will help inform your decision to mix-and-match, as well as what shape of chair you choose. “I hardly ever do mixed chairs around a circular table,” says Shea. “Round tables usually call for a continuous look.” Mixed and matched seating works far better on rectangular tables, which leave room for switching up the side and end chairs. Create a more formal, timeless feel by pairing side chairs without arms alongside end chairs with arms, or vice versa. This gives a more classic feel than mixing upholstery and shapes, which is a bit more collected.
Finally, if you’re looking to make a change, consider swapping out the end chairs of your rectangular table for something new. Firstly, there’s less to buy so it’s a more wallet-friendly option. But they also make a strong statement, allowing them to breathe new life into your dining room. You can also play with tie-on cushions, which is a nice way to keep up with trends or play with the material, color, and fabric of your upholstered or cushioned chairs.
For those of you who mix and match for a living, check out our newly launched Designer Trade Program. The benefits include a dedicated team of customer service agents to help whenever you need it, discounts and tax exemptions on every purchase you place through McGee & Co., and free swatches and samples delivered to your doorstep to ensure you get the design just right. Discounts are based on yearly spending, starting at 15%, and as your overall spending increases, as do the discounts and benefits. As fellow designers, we hope to be a trusted resource and alleviate the stress of sourcing and ordering. Happy styling!