Best Dining Chairs 2023


HomeHome / Blog / Best Dining Chairs 2023

Apr 27, 2023

Best Dining Chairs 2023

Dining chairs are an easy way to experiment aesthetically, whether you’re

Dining chairs are an easy way to experiment aesthetically, whether you’re looking for a Shaker element or something pink and velvet. To surface the best-looking pieces (that are durable and, for the most part, budget friendly), we asked 16 experts — including design historians, architects, and interior designers — to share their favorites. Below are some thoroughly vetted choices, including a historically significant Viennese café chair with its own Wikipedia page and the startlingly inexpensive, thrice-recommended Article Svelti, which architect Ming Thompson describes as "the perfect piece of furniture for when you want to add color but don't want to spend $3,000 on a red couch."

In a search for a stylish dining chair, you’ll encounter too many worthwhile options rather than too few — from zany postmodern squiggles to exemplars of pure "chairness," a quality design historian Charlotte Fiell defines as "how a kid would draw a chair." One way to narrow your criteria is by considering an item's visual footprint. Translucent plastic, panels made from rattan with an open weave (also known as caning), or thin wooden spindles make for a lighter silhouette, better for small spaces, while a solid back, upholstery, or wide legs are more visually dominant.

You may also want to consider how a style complements your other furniture — either through resemblance or contrast. Lightweight, industrial chairs might have a similar silhouette to a postmodern coffee table; if you’re buying wooden chairs, you may want them to match the finish of other wood furniture. Still, there's no need to overthink it: if the main thing your chairs have in common is that you love them, that's also a great design scheme.

In general, dining chairs are made of materials that make them comfortable and solid enough to sit in for hours but lightweight enough that you won't pull a muscle or gouge your floor as you move them around. Most options on our list are made of wood, steel, plastic, or a combination of the three. For a plastic chair, UV resistance is a useful feature; it will prevent it from fading in the sun — something to which even indoor chairs are susceptible.

In most cases, you’ll be buying multiples of a dining chair (although some of the experts we spoke to, like The Little Book of Living Small author Laura Fenton, say it's okay to mix and match). Start with your budget and table size and work back from there: You may want a less expensive option to fill a six-seater table, or you can splurge on a pair of design-y chairs to round out a set you already own. We’ve sorted the list by price into four tiers, all per chair: below $150 ($), below $250 ($$), below $400 ($$$), and above $400 ($$$$).

Another option for saving on chairs is to buy vintage, which Charlotte and Peter Fiell (co-authors of Chairs: 1,000 Masterpieces of Modern Design, 1800 to Present Day and Modern Chairs) recommend as a way to "get more for your money" and is, to be honest, the only way I buy furniture. A good rule of thumb is to search for a design or style that has been continuously produced for many years — like a Parsons chair or Marcel Breuer's Cesca chair — and set alerts on eBay, your local Craigslist, and resale sites like Chairish and 1stdibs. Listings for popular styles come up fairly frequently, giving you a choice of vendors in your area, and they’ll still be around years later if you need to add more to your set. (Some popular vintage chairs are still in production, but many are quite expensive new, so buying vintage is usually a better deal.) It is harder to find a pristine vintage chair, but if you don't mind some signs of wear or doing a light cleaning yourself, it can expand your range of affordable options.

Material: UV-resistant polypropylene | Price: $

Multiple experts told us that Article's Svelti chair is a prime example of thoughtful design at an accessible price. The plastic construction is durable and "absolutely kidproof," according to Hunker editorial director Leonora Epstein. She appreciates the chair's versatility: "You can take it outside. You can use it as a desk chair. You can use it as a dining chair." Thompson likes that the chair comes in "great colors that are really matte" — like bright orange and a cool moss green — useful for buyers who want to add a trendy shade to their home but don't want to commit to a larger or more expensive piece in a non-neutral color. Strategist writer Emma Wartzman, who used them as dining chairs for two years before moving them to the backyard, says, "They’ve held up great. No signs of wear and tear at all."

Material: Pine | Price: $

Writer Laura Fenton likes this chair from Ikea's classic, inexpensive pine-furniture set, which she says "has been in the catalogue as long as I can remember." She calls it "a great affordable option" and that it's surprisingly versatile: "The lines are really simple and clean, so they can skew more modern, traditional, or country." Plus the unfinished pine is easy to customize. "You can paint or stain them to the color that suits your décor and easily refinish them later if your tastes change or you pass them on to someone else," she says.

Material: UV-resistant polypropylene | Price: $

To design the Élémentaire chair, Hay partnered with the Bouroullec brothers — sibling preeminent French designers. Despite being made of plastic, the chair that resulted is "comfy, not hard on your back, and designed to be used all day, not just to look nice in a corner of your living room," says Antoine Pons, owner of Momentum Design Store. He also appreciates the price: "It's an affordable way to own a collectible from great designers."

Polycarbonate plastic, chrome-plated steel | $

Former Strategist writer Leah Muncy owns two of these "extraordinarily comfortable," wobble-free Ikea plastic cantilevered chairs. They accent four rattan chairs around her six-seater table, but the Tobias chairs are so much more comfortable that "my roommate and I only sit in the [Ikea] ones," Muncy says. Strategist contributor and furniture reseller Billy Domineau also includes the chair on his list of ten Ikea pieces that are made to last: "It's durable, versatile, and surprisingly comfortable," he says.

Material: Steel, plywood | Price: $

I bought four of these steel-framed, plywood French school chairs while searching for a dining chair under $100 (they fit the criteria if you buy from Etsy), and they’ve become one of my favorite home purchases. The chairs are quite sturdy, easy to clean, and comfortable — they’re effectively my working-from-home office chairs, too, and I haven't noticed any back or neck pain from sitting in them for hours at a time.

Although the Mullca chairs are vintage and no longer available new, they were mass-produced in their prime and are easy to find in a wide range of styles, colors, widths, and finishes on resale sites like Etsy, 1stdibs, and Chairish. If you’re trying to match a specific color you can't find online, spray-painting the steel components would be a quick DIY workaround. I’m not their only fan — Dimes Square bar Le Dive has a bunch of them with cherry-red frames.

Material: Wood, cane | Price: $$

Interior designer Charlie Hellstern discovered this woven cane-backed restaurant chair while searching for an affordable, nonplastic dining chair for a client. Several experts we spoke to caveated their love of cane furniture by mentioning its susceptibility to damage, but "choosing a chair made for restaurant use" like this one is a "good way to ensure durability," Hellstern says. "Caning is one of the most ancient techniques, and I love how classic the look is with black-stained wood."

Material: Wood-fiber composite, metal | Price: $

Curbed senior story producer Diana Budds mentioned this chair by Umbra, which she finds reminiscent of Michele DeLucchi's extraterrestrial First chair in its angled hoop armrest. It's suitable for indoor or outdoor use and stacks for easy storage.

Material: Beech, molded plywood | Price: $$

This spindle-backed Windsor chair, manufactured by historic Czech chair company Ton (founded by Austrian furniture-maker Michael Thonet), is recommended by Fenton. "Often, when chairs get smaller, they become less comfortable, but this one supports you, even though the square footage it takes up is very small," she says. The chair's timeless design works in a variety of settings, "which is a good thing for people in a small space who may move to a larger space later."

Material: Polypropylene | Price: $$

For those looking for a quieter piece of furniture, interior designer Caitlin Murray says this chair's open design and monochromatic colors make it a "soft addition" to an existing look. The polypropylene, she says, is durable and "very wipeable." She recently bought a few in the matcha shade to furnish an outdoor dining area in a client's Laurel Canyon home; the result, she says, felt like sitting in a tree house.

Material: Polypropylene or wood, steel frame | Price: $

For a dining-chair set you can bring out for a group and fold away when you’re not hosting, Fenton recommends these "clean-looking" chairs from Armett, which collapse "extremely slimly" compared to similar models. The design is "nice enough that you wouldn't be sad to sit on it every day," especially in cheery colors like tomato red and petrol blue. And, she says, they’re "a major upgrade from the Ikea ones my parents pull out of the garage when they have extra guests."

Material: Polypropylene, oak | Price: $$$

According to Thompson, Normann Copenhagen is known for producing "beautiful furniture that's super sturdy and built to last." (Her firm has used its pieces to outfit offices, which demand furniture that can stand up to constant use.) She particularly likes the Form chair, which, in addition to a comfortable molded-plastic upper, has oak legs that offer a little more weight and gravitas.

Material: Polypropylene with glass fibre added | Price: $$

Designer Sophie Collé likes these durable, stackable, and outdoor-safe chairs by Jasper Morrison, a designer she says can skew "space-age futuristic" or "very chic and low-key." "I love a chair in a residential space that looks like it could be in a restaurant," Collé says. "Especially with dining chairs, you want them to be resilient … For my own home, personally, I would never dare have an upholstered dining chair."

Material: Polycarbonate | Price: $$$

Two of our experts praised Kartell's Ghost series — created by French industrial designer Philippe Starck in the early aughts. Design editor Caroline Biggs says they’re "surprisingly comfortable," adding that the plastic fabrication is "so transparent and streamlined" that a full set makes a space "feel airy, which is not typical in a room with six dining chairs stuffed at a table."

Material: Beech | Price: $$$

First produced in 1859 by Thonet, this classic chair, which became popular in Viennese coffeehouses, is known for being unexpectedly durable despite its delicate and light silhouette. "Every black-box comedy theater has that chair on the stage," says designer Michael Yarinsky. "You can throw them around and they bounce off the floor. They never break." Supporting Yarinsky's thesis, a version of the chair — the No. 18 chair, below, which has a bentwood loop that connects from the back to the seat — appears in Westworld, starring in a climactic fight scene.

Material: Cotton velvet, hardwood frame, brass legs | Price: $$$

These Anthropologie velvet chairs have the unusual endorsement of being "rabbitproof," per Biggs, who uses them around a breakfast table in the room where she keeps two free-roaming pet rabbits. The velvet is "really plush," she says, but its dense weave makes it tough enough to withstand animal-related wear and tear. (I’ve noticed the same effect with cats who treat every bit of upholstery as a scratching post — the density of a velvet weave just doesn't interest them.) Fur brushes right off — "I don't even need to use the lint roller," she says — and the bales of hay that Biggs stores near the chairs don't damage the fabric.

Material: Polypropylene, steel | Price: $$–$$$$

One of the most imitated plastic-chair designs, the Eames molded chair, was first introduced as an entry in a MoMA low-cost furniture competition in 1948. It's a favorite of Tyler Watamanuk, author of chair-centric newsletter Sitting Pretty, who has sought out the chairs since buying a "terribly built" knockoff in his mid-20s. Compared with other historic chairs, its customizable range of materials, finishes, and heights is "seemingly endless." Maddie Bailis, manager of new product and merchandising at Alex Mill, is a devotee of Eames side chairs. She owns a vinyl-upholstered pair that she rescued from a renovation of her family's synagogue in a Philadelphia suburb as a 10-year-old; she reports that they’re still in good shape.

Material: Veneer shell, chrome-plated or powder-coated steel frame | Price: $$$$

Originally developed for kitchens and canteens, the Series 7 chair is an "absolute icon of Scandinavian design," according to Charlotte Fiell, who owns a set from the early 1960s and says that "they look good with more use" — especially the wood, which "builds up patina with age." Fiell likes that the chairs come in plenty of colors, "stack well," and have "a curved seat that looks like a smile."

Material: Wooden frame, paper-cord seat | Price: $$$$

Several of our experts recommended the Wishbone as their holy-grail chair. Watamanuk describes the chairs as "sturdy" and "comfortable," and Thompson has had her set for more than a decade. Thompson mentions that Hans Wegner designed the chair in 1949 as part of a series based on portraits of Danish merchants sitting in Ming-dynasty chairs — a bit of backstory she values: "I love that there's the Scandinavian purity but also the decorative, beautiful back that refers back to classical Chinese furniture." She adds that the chairs are durable enough for a family with kids — albeit with a cushion added to protect the paper-cord seat. Her kids will spill "a whole bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on the chair," she says, and the chairs have been just fine.

Material: Wood, cotton canvas | Price: $$$$

"All I care about are Shaker chairs," says Harper's Bazaar fashion news director and Opulent Tips newsletter writer Rachel Tashjian. "Can you imagine sitting in that chair and singing a plain, simple song?" Tashjian's retailer of choice — the Etsy store Llanfair Studios — has closed, but the Connecticut store Shaker to Fit offers a similar degree of handmade, high-quality craftsmanship and customization.

Material: Walnut, maple, oak, or poplar | Price: $$$$

"Some of the homes that are really hot right now are mid-century modern ones with big open spaces and big, wide, open windows … In a space like that, furniture needs to have its own visual weight," says Hellstern. She loves the Hanko chair by Seattle company Chadhaus, a brand she trusts for quality craftsmanship and design — particularly this chair's contoured backrest and seat and non-"wispy" legs. And although it's a splurge, Hellstern says it's a fair price for handmade furniture that will last. "I would rather buy one chair every four years — or whatever is my budget — to get a chair that's going to be with me forever that I love."

Material: Recycled plastic | Price: $

Bailis describes this recycled-plastic stool from Danish brand Kiosk48th as her "secret fifth dining chair." She uses it as a side table, pedestal, or plant stand, and "when I have more people over for dinner than I have chairs, I can just throw a pillow on it." The speckled plastic is "a nice way to bring in color to an apartment without feeling like it's going to eat the room."

• Diana Budds, senior story producer at Curbed• Maddie Bailis, manager of new product and merchandising at Alex Mill• Sophie Collé, furniture designer• Leonora Epstein, senior content director at Hunker• Laura Fenton, author of The Little Book of Living Small• Charlotte Fiell, co-author of Chairs: 1,000 Masterpieces of Modern Design, 1800 to Present Day and Modern Chairs• Peter Fiell, co-author of Chairs: 1,000 Masterpieces of Modern Design, 1800 to Present Day and Modern Chairs• Charlie Hellstern, interior designer• Julia Noran Johnston, founder and president of Business of Home• Leah Muncy, former Strategist writer• Caitlin Murray, founder and principal designer at Black Lacquer Design• Antoine Pons, founder of Momentum Design Store• Aran Simi, vintage dealer• Rachel Tashjian, Harper's Bazaar fashion news director• Ming Thompson, architect at Atelier Cho Thompson• Emma Wartzman, Strategist writer• Tyler Watamanuk, author of Sitting Pretty newsletter• Michael Yarinsky, co-founder of Office of Tangible Space

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Polycarbonate plastic, chrome-plated steel | $ Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: Material: Price: