Avoid the dining room nightmare: 3 tips for buying new dining chairs

Guest post by Julie F.

def4a131333d176c1a7502159e69f2e2 Seven years ago when I started college, I bought some cheap Ikea chairs. Starting last year, one by one, they started to give in. For $25 per chair, I can say they ended up being a pretty good buy — but I decided I was ready to go upscale a bit and buy myself furniture that I would really love. And just like that, I got caught in the unexpectedly wild adventure of buying new chairs for my dining room.

As a well-informed home decor enthusiast, what I thought would be a piece of cake ended up in a year-long drama. First realization: Omg, chairs are fracking expensive. Fortunately, with countless hours of research (ahem, Pinterest) and couples therapy, I finally found something that would be affordable, with a design both my husband and I would like So I thought I’d share with you my newly acquired expertise on buying chairs for your dining room — you know, to at least save you the therapy fees.

1. Mock ups

This is a copy of an Eames eiffel chair for $100.
But, but, I want THAT chair! Yeah, that happened a lot in the past year… Given I’m a huge mid-century fan, I was naturally attracted to designer furniture. But if you thought regular chairs were expensive (oh my, a hundred bucks for this crap?) you’ve seen absolutely nothing (yep, $350-$500 per chair). So if your buying ethic allows it, you might want to consider copies of the real thing. You will get the expensive look at a much more affordable price tag. Find a look you like first, then downsize to a cheaper furniture store or one that specializes in copies!

2. Mix n’ match

This solution solves a lot of headaches all at once: First, you don’t have to settle for one unique style that you’re sure you love more than the other. You can get all of them! Second, you can buy over time. You don’t need to purchase all the chairs (in my case, six!) at once, giving you a lesser punch in your wallet. My advice if you’re going to go for a mix n’ match: you need to find consistency in your chairs. This can be the color, the style, the material, the height. Choose two among those, and you’re in business.

3. Buy boring, dress it up

Sometimes, you just have to go with boring. They’re cheap, they’re a gift, they come with the table you want, you don’t have time to shop for something else: whatever your reason, ending up buying boring chairs doesn’t mean the fun has to stop there.

Awesome decorative cushions are awesome!
Solution A: Paint it! But prime first. Your butt will be kissing that chair many times a day. Make it last and prime the chair before painting it.

Solution B: Add a cushion! Choose a colourful and cute cushion to pimp out those chairs. This solution is really effortless and can be the pop of color you’re looking for.

Solution C: Cover it all! Can’t stand the view of your chairs anymore? You can buy fabric covers to dramatically change the look of your dining room in a glimpse.

So in the end, what did I chose? I opted for a mix n’ match of old and worn wooden country chairs. Can’t wait to share photos with you, but I have to admit I’m not completely done just yet.

What did you do when it came time to buy your dining room chairs? Share your experience with us!

Comments on Avoid the dining room nightmare: 3 tips for buying new dining chairs

  1. Our dining set was a family antique that hadn’t been used heavily in many years. Our table is kind of the heart of our home, so it fell apart under the strain of daily use.

    We found a super-sturdy and high-quality dining set on Craigslist for a steal, but the upholstery wasn’t our style. I reupholstered them–problem solved! The chair style is still slightly 90s for us, but overall they’re just fine.

    I used Scotchgard on the new fabric, so the chairs still look good 18 months later.


  2. Tip 4: maybe you don’t need to purchase chairs at all. I have a few nice wood chairs from dumpster diving! In my DIY dreams I will paint them all to match. Or paint them all to mis-match–I’m loving that top photo.

  3. We are doing a little of column a, a little column b- all ordered, delivery pending! We decided on the eames replicas- but in mix ‘n’ match colours. That way it’s fun, modern, and means that if any colour were to be discontinued in the future but we decide we need more chairs, we’re not stuck buying a whole eight more chairs!

  4. Thanks for this! You’ve provided me with EXACTLY all the points I’ve been trying to convey to my husband as to why I’d like to purchase some spare chairs. I’ve been battling the Sacred Dining Setting of the Holy Order of the Middle Age for months now. First I was hoping to get rid of it and buy something more in keeping with my grand plans for a wildly ornate bordello luxe dining room. No dice! Sacrilege! When it became apparent that hubby wants to be with this set til death do them part and likely buried with it too I floated the idea of painting it. I thought he was going to keel over then and there. Foiled again! SO then I said I wanted to get some fancy armchairs from one of the trusted, old school furniture places because I knew that I’d never convince him to buy chairs from anywhere that I liked but he said mismatched chairs would look silly and like we were poor or in college or something. SO now I’m down to buying a second hand set from craigslist, painting the chairs and/or buying chair covers for all of them. I swear if the zombie apocalypse comes and we’re without electricity first thing I nominate for the fire is that dining set.

  5. Good midcentury furniture lovers – this won’t work for you. But for others: Another option – keep your eyes peeled at thrift shops. It is seriously SUPER easy to paint and recover a wooden chair if you like the shape and form. And I agree – for some reason folks throw away the most AMAZING chairs! You may need do do some work to stabilize the chair by taking it apart and putting it back together with wood glue.

    Also, I have at least four projects in mind involving modge podge and fun colorful fabrics, following this tutorial. Someday…

  6. I….uh…”borrowed” some from the basement of my former church. They are nice wooden ones, and the church had a lot, and I asked…and then I just sorta hung on to them…

  7. I’ve been collecting chairs of a similar style at yard sales (or trash piles), and just painting them a matching color. Unfortunately, the straight-back simple style I chose turned out to be less common than I thought, so I may start looking for others. The bow-backed design (where a strip of wood forms an arch for the back with vertical spindles) seems to be the most common design in my neck of the woods.

  8. We plan to mix and match a set of dining room chairs at some point but for the moment we do have a matching table and chairs. The chairs are a set of 4 I was given by my parents when I was a kid and I have painted them twice. The first time I watered down acrylic paint to “stain” them after spending many hours and $$ stripping them down to bare wood. (Do paint stripping outside, with gloves, and preferably on cardboard for easy clean up.) The second time I sanded them down to mostly bare wood again and then painted and stained to match an old country kitchen table I had. I have promised myself I will clean up my photos and submit that project soon. But it was pretty easy to stain the seats, then paint the rest of the chairs. Tip: Buy a stencil and paint over the stain for a cool 2-tone look. I got inspiration from this post: http://www.domesticimperfection.com/2012/05/paisley-stenciled-table/ and this one: http://roadkillrescue.net/2012/05/doily-design-chair/

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