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What Is a Side Chair? Complete Buying Guide

A side chair is one of those furniture pieces you use everyday – and deserves a closer look. Here’s the complete guide on the versatile design

Side Chair Defined

A side chair is a chair without arms. Often used in the dining room as additional dining table seating, its armless silhouette makes it sleek enough to fit in and around small spaces – think table corners, dining nooks and the like. Traditionally, side chairs are wood frame-based, meaning the backs and seat can be upholstered or not, but the legs are almost always made of wood. In terms of size, they’re varied (which is why it’s always important to check the measurements before buying). Traditionally, side chairs are the armless seats that are placed along the long sides of a rectangular table; armchairs are reserved for the “heads” of the table.

Are You Supposed to Match Side Chairs?

It’s a common question amongst customers who are looking for chairs for their dining room/table: Should chairs be bought as a set (i.e., “matching”) or can different styles of side chairs go together? It depends on the style you want to achieve; core traditional and core modern styles will want a matching set, and mixing-and-matching is preferred for “in-between” styles like boho or even rustic-traditional  or rustic-modern.

Types of Side Chairs

Pricing and types of side chairs range dramatically – from the stackable, folding kinds to the heavy wood designs. Choosing the best one for you will depend on why you’re looking for a side chair in the first place. Do you need temporary seating for a party or heavy-duty chairs that will add to your interior decor? If the former, a sheet metal stacking chair (that can be put away in a closet or garage when you’re not entertaining) is your best option. (These can be bought at almost any hardware store on the cheap.) If the latter, you’ll want to invest a little more time, money and effort in your search for a side chair that isn’t for temporary use, but rather made of long-lasting heavy wood that’s designed as much for aesthetics as it is to stand up to daily wear-and-tear.

Choosing a Side Chair Style

If you’re venturing out into the furniture market looking to “buy a side chair,” you may want to narrow down your parameters a bit. ‘Side chair’ can mean a lot of different things visually; here are a few of the common styles:

  • Upholstered seat with wood back and legs. Not as common as the other two, this style favors a wood design with a hint of upholstery in the seating only. Country cottage, rustic and farmhouse are the best complements for this design.
  • All-upholstered. More stylistically conservative, the side chair that’s all-upholstered (with a hidden wood frame) is the traditional answer to the former. Base is usually skirted or sewn to blocked legs.
  • Upholstered back and seat with wood legs. An upholstered back and seat is often the choice for those who spend a lot of time in their dining rooms, simply because it’s often the most comfortable of all the options. (Unlike the all-upholstered design, an open wood base allows for more legroom.)
  • All-wood. An all-wood side chair cuts right to the chase; it’s practical, sturdy, always easy to clean and always timeless in style.

Even if you want to purchase a side chair for a kitchen table, remember that it will probably end up being used in the living room, as well. Be sure to think about the colors and style of your dining room and living room when selecting a design. When thinking about the seating around your dining table, know that side chairs aren’t the only option. Benches, stools, armchairs and even table-height settees all make fantastic style alternatives. Mix and match with the side chair – or skip the side chair altogether! Of course, when we say ‘side chair alternative,’ we don’t just mean the side chair itself – we also mean places to put the side chair! For side chairs, the places beyond the dining table are varied (and exciting)! Try a lone bedroom corner as ‘book nook’ seating; home office desk for home office seating; or even as entryway seating (or “foyer seating,” if you’re feeling fancy)!

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Editorial Disclaimer: Articles featuring tips and advice are intended for educational purposes and only as general recommendations. Always practice personal discretion when using and caring for furniture, decor and related items.