Help me buy dining room chairs!
February 8, 2021 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting a new dining room table and need some nice, comfy, modern (but not midcentury modern!) chairs to go with it! Where should I shop? Can you work around a chair that's slightly too tall or unpadded? Advice from short people and Bay Areans especially appreciated.

So I'm looking to buy dining room chairs and I'm trying to figure out 1) where to shop 2) if my problems with chairs I've tried are fixable or not.

My questions are:

1) I like the Crate and Barrel Miles chair, but I'm 5'2" and it's 19" high, which is just slightly too high for my feet to rest flat on the ground. Are there good ways to mitigate a chair that is slightly too high? Footrests? Or are those annoying at a dinner table? Let's assume that I don't have any woodworking skills and am not going to acquire any.

2) Are wooden chairs un-comfy after sitting for a long time?

3) Are there good ways to cushion a chair to make it equivalent to an upholstered one? I know you can buy cushions, but I worry that a) they won't be as comfortable or good-looking as a chair that's upholstered in the first place, and b) that once the cushions are in place my feet won't touch the ground.

4) What furniture stores should I be shopping at? I live in SF and am willing to travel up to ~1 hr to furniture stores and to spend up to ~$500/chair. I already tried:

- Article (no-go, I need high-backed chairs due to back pain and midcentury modern tends to have low profile chairs)
- Room & Board (same problem as Article)
- Crate & Barrel (1 ok chair)
- Ana Furniture SF (they actually had a decent selection, found a few chairs here I liked but I'm worried that they might not be comfortable for long periods)
- Macy's (I popped in because they're practically across the street from Crate & Barrel, but the furniture seemed pretty low quality, I am looking for something nicer)

posted by phoenixy to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered Ikea? I've found that build quality has improved over the years.
posted by bbqturtle at 2:56 PM on February 8, 2021

West Elm?
posted by nathaole at 3:06 PM on February 8, 2021

I grew up with upholstered dining chairs and they were fine but crud accumulated in them and as I have pets I didn't want to deal with their hair getting in them or the cats scratching them so when I had to buy dining chairs 10+ years ago I bought unupholstered ones from Pier1. My family hasn't had issues with their comfort and can sit in them for hours at a time. When I bought the chairs I told myself I could buy cushions for them if it was uncomfortable but the chairs were fine so we never looked into that. When we moved house and wanted a different look we bought our most recent set of chairs from West Elm, again unupholstered, and the lack of cushioning wasn't even a concern.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:26 PM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

That’s a pretty decent budget. I’d checkout DWR if the showrooms are open. We got a set of Salt chairs about 9 months ago that I’m still quite stoked on.
posted by supercres at 3:27 PM on February 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Scandinavian Designs? I think there's one in San Mateo.
posted by A Blue Moon at 3:30 PM on February 8, 2021

Best answer: On the wooden chair question– this depends on your weight and weight distribution. I'm a heavyweight and an unpadded wooden chair is very uncomfortable. I have one friend that has plain wood chairs and if I stay more than an hour my butt and legs are painfully stiff and sore. Using a pad helps somewhat, I can sit more like 3 hours on a padded chair. My friend is thinner and has no problem with these hard chairs. I'm short too, and use a wooden box as a footrest under the table.

The most comfortable wooden chairs I've sat on were old fashioned courthouse chairs that had a shaped are for the bottom instead of a flat seat.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 3:32 PM on February 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a fan of Dania for clean lines and decent furniture. Looks like it's called Scandinavian Designs in your area?

I own these, and I'm happy with them for long periods of sitting.

I think you'll find that the 19" seat height is pretty standard. If it were low enough for your feet to touch the ground, you'd feel uncomfortably low to the table.
posted by hydra77 at 3:32 PM on February 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've had unpadded wooden chairs that are comfortable, but it is very specific to the chair design, and I can't tell until I try them. I actually have some comfortable unpadded wooden stools we got from Ethan Allen, so that might be a place to add to your list. They have a ton of stuff.
posted by primethyme at 3:35 PM on February 8, 2021

In precovid times, I've been to the Design Within Reach in Berkeley, and found the sales folks there very attentive. Family members about your height found the Globus chair comfortable.
posted by oceano at 3:41 PM on February 8, 2021

I would at least go look at Hoot Judson. They have quite a variety, and don't seem to share suppliers with everyone else (looking at you, Living Spaces/West Elm).
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 3:53 PM on February 8, 2021

Best answer: I am a short Bay Arean! (5'0"; when I sit upright in a dining chair, my "back of thigh to sole of foot" measurement is 15". I am sitting on my couch right now and my feet are dangling a good 2+" off the floor.)

I have never ever found dining chairs where my feet fully touch the ground when I am seated properly; I always have to scootch forward and perch if my feet feel like they need to touch the ground for a bit, and even then that just means the front edge of the chair is going to dig into the back of my thighs and cut off circulation to my lower legs, causing them to fall asleep even. I've only ever had wooden dining chairs, no upholstery, and they're all uncomfortable after an hour or so, so I want something somewhat like what you've posted, though maybe with a space between the seat and the back to be one less place for crumbs to catch, and the additional features I'll mention below.

Most dining chairs have a top-of-seat height of 17"-19", and most dining tables have a standard height of 30", so yes, if your lower legs are particularly short like mine, you're going to need to look for "alternate solutions."

Features I've found helpful in dining furniture:

1. Trestle tables, where I can rest my feet on the trestle; especially usable when the trestle is at least 6" off the ground (but also not too high, either). Pedestal tables (1-2 big legs in the center) usually have the base too far away to support my feet, or else it's too slippery and lacks durable ornamentation where my feet can solidly stay in place. Leg tables (where all the legs are in the corners/on the edges) lack support in the right places for my feet.

2. Chairs with "side stretchers" and "cross stretchers." (Helpful diagram of chair anatomy.) They provide some support for my feet; I can curl my legs around the back of the front chair legs and rest my feet atop the stretchers.

3. Padding, whether upholstered or a cushion; when the chair edge is hard or sharp, that puts my lower legs to sleep much more quickly and easily. It's why we're looking upholstered, and if we end up with wooden, will get padding even though that will lift me further off the ground. This is a distant third, though; it's not as helpful a mitigation as having some sort of place for my feet to rest.

I haven't tried any footrests recently; most of them are too wide to store under the table and under my chair, preventing the chair from pushing in all the way properly when we're not at the table. If I can find the right one, though, I feel like it will be more helpful for me than padding on a chair.

(We're also in the market for dining chairs, though, so I can't yet advise on specific models or stores nearby. We're replacing basic Ikea Stefans and a Melltorp, which are both significantly below your budget and are too tall for me and have sharp wooden edges, so you can definitely do better!)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 4:21 PM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

In your shoes, I'd ask around to find someone with handy/carpentry skills and work with them to pick a good chair they can cut down to the ideal height. (Assuming this wouldn't mean you're seated so far beneath the table that you can't comfortably reach your plate.)
posted by theotherdurassister at 5:16 PM on February 8, 2021

Best answer: I love the chair you picked! And, it doesn't look dated, which is great considering how dated many upholstered styles look. I wouldn't get a shorter chair or cut the chair as they're likely a very good fit for the height of your table unless your table was custom built to be shorter than standard. If it were an office chair or a chair that only you will use, I'd have different advice, but getting a too short chair so that your feet are flat on the ground could make everyone else's chair too short for the table or uncomfortably small if they're significantly taller. One day in the post-pandemic future, when we can have indoor visits that involve sitting around a dining room table, you'll likely want chairs that are comfortable for most and which aren't too low for your table. Instead, I'd solve the problem of you not putting your feet comfortably on the floor by getting a lovely, artfully made footstool for your chair that's customized to the height you need and made of the same material as your table or the chair, so that it blends nicely. Most footstools designed for ergonomics are not beautiful, but I'd imagine that you can find a woodworker or metal worker to make you a beautiful footstool that doesn't look like it came out of an office furniture catalog.
posted by quince at 5:29 PM on February 8, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far, it's been really helpful! It sounds like right now it's between the Miles chair and this Ana furniture cardamom chair, which has the curved seat folks have been recommending for wooden chairs. I'll also check out Hoot Judkins, Dania, and Ethan Allen. (I appreciate the DWR suggestion but it suffers from the midcentury modern low-profile problem as well.) And we actually are getting the table custom made, so I might ask about getting it done a touch shorter than 30".
posted by phoenixy at 6:24 PM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Re: trying out furniture, I would check out the EQ3 showroom in Potrero Hill - very spacious, not crowded and I had good luck with the couch I purchased. From looking at their chairs it seemed like many would fit the bill. The quality is high.
posted by rogerroger at 10:41 PM on February 8, 2021

This footrest looks like it would fit under the Miles chair and is not too ugly to use in the dining room. It was recommended by Wirecutter as an under the desk footrest.
posted by metahawk at 7:14 PM on February 9, 2021

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