It’s about the look, not the food.
Whether you’re grabbing a quick breakfast or settling down for a large dinner party, the dining chair you sit in makes a difference. Sure, you can eat a meal perched on any old chair, but a stylish (and comfortable!) seat seriously improves the dining experience. A romantic bistro chair might transport you to a cozy Paris restaurant and a warming plate of coq au vin, while a mid-century tulip chair may inspire daydreams of sharing a steak with Don Draper or Peggy Olson. If you have a fantasy meal, there are perfect dining chair styles to match. It’s probably one of the five below, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Designed by German-Austrian cabinet maker Michael Thonet in 1859, the No. 14 chair was the world’s first mass-produced piece of furniture. Made using a then-revolutionary process of steaming and bending wood that Thonet developed, the iconic seat proved that curvilinear furniture was possible and is often referred to as a bentwood chair for that reason. Today, it’s most commonly recognized as a bistro chair for its prominence in French bistros.
When French designer Jean-Michel Frank invented the modernist Parsons table with his Parsons Paris students in the 1930s, the group came up with a matching chair design, too. The high-backed, armless style features straight, square legs and clean lines. It can be upholstered or slipcovered, but the latter hasn’t been in vogue for some time.
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, also known as Shakers, are responsible for the upright, ladder-back chair associated with Americana style (yes, really!). The religious sect valued simplicity and functionality, which is reflected in its utilitarian designs, and often used pine or other inexpensive woods, which explains why the pieces were light in both color and weight. Beliefs aside, the Shaker chair is a timeless model that’s still found in modern and traditional homes alike.
In 1956, Finnish-American designer Eero Saarinen created the Tulip chair for Knoll to accompany his Tulip table. The sculptural modernist chair includes a pedestal base, just like its table counterpart, with a molded fiberglass shell and an upholstered cushion. For a mid-century aesthetic, there’s no better seat out there.
Call it a Wishbone chair, a CH24 chair, or Y chair, but this 1949 Hans Wegner design for Carl Hansen & Søn is a classic no matter what. With a bentwood wraparound armrest, a Y (or wishbone) shaped backrest, and a handwoven paper cord seat, the style is a prime example of Danish furniture design and works beautifully in Scandi, minimalist dining rooms.