A seat at the table

A seat at the table
July 23, 2017 admin
contemporary dining room with assorted styles of dining chair in black


For good-looking dining spaces, it’s all about the dining chairs, but do they work as well as they look?

Read time: 3 minutes

If you want your dining space to look its best, forget the table, it’s all about the chairs. With every shape, size, style and colour imaginable, and whether you mix them or match them it’s a sure fire way to give your room a splash of personality.
Yet despite the cornucopia of dining chairs on the market, curiously very little innovation seems to have gone into making chairs that work as well as they look, particularly as we get older.

Unlike a lounge chair, essential to a dining chair is also being able to move it to a table to dine – generally also with ourselves sat in it – otherwise it is not a dining chair. This is something that is easier said than done if you have any mobility, strength or coordination problems. I know when my nan comes round we have to precariously balance her on a stack of cushions like the princess and the pea followed by a team building activity of trying to get her closer to the table, then pray she doesn’t topple off of our armless beauties before dessert. Yet the ability to more easily manouvre yourself to and from the dining table would help everyone and make our homes much more friendly for ourselves and more visitable for others.

There are innovations that help make this a bit easier, such as the Millie-Mova, which affix to your existing chairs, but they are generally geared towards someone else maneuvering you, rather than enabling people to do it themselves independently and unobtrusively. And they rather ruin the look of your beautiful Eames chairs, if it would even fit.

A young girl pushing an older man on a dining chair pressing a millie-mova with her foot attached to the chair legs

Having chairs on sliders or skis makes it a lot easier on carpet, but will still give your core a workout.

A light wood dining chair with arms, padded green seat and ski-feet

Or you can use office-type chairs, this one from Rouka, which both wheel in and out and swivel to help you move away from the table, but unless you want your dining room to look more like a board room, this doesn’t feel like a good solution.

dark grey uphoulstered swivel chair with bronze metal arms and wheeled legs

Even those swivel chairs without wheels still scream office from the legs down, as attractive and dining room-esque as they can be up top. This one designed by Patricia Urquiola and found on Amara.

Light blue grey high back Windsor style chair with black swivel base

Swivel chairs with four legs offer another option that remove the need to pull heavy chairs back and forwards but still look like they belong in the dining room. But my oh my these few and far between and you are hard pressed to find somewhere you don’t have to have them made bespoke. Not exactly for the everyperson. There are a few from Japan that are going some way to addressing this issue, but still look a little institutional to my mind, but are at least are on the right track. I would imagine because Japan is a county that has one of the fastest ageing populations. This one also has a nifty lock and slide mechanism.

Light wood dining chair with beige padding and swivel mechanism

There are some better looking ones out there, although most have price tags that bring tears to your eyes, but give an idea of what is possible. I love these ones for example:

Round four legged swivel chairs in wicker with beige uphoulstered seats

Swivel chair with four legs, curved back support and red seat

3 four-legged swivel chairs with light wood legs and uphoulstered seats with arms in multiple colours

This one is the best I can find that you might be able to buy without having to sell all your other worldly goods first, but it also doesn’t have arm rests or take anyone weighing over 90kg:

Grey four legged swivel chair with light wood legs

So with such limited choice in style and quality, it’s no wonder you don’t see these in people’s homes very often. As a crude example, take a look at the UK Argos catalogue: there are 17 pages devoted to dining chairs. Yet zero are height adjustable, zero have swivel or skis and quite surprisingly zero had arm rests either, which are essential for many people to aid sitting, standing and stability. I cannot vouch for which were lightweight, but the stats don’t look positive.

When we can pop down to Argos or Habitat and see a selection of great looking options that also subtly incorporate some of these features, then perhaps we can all have a seat at the table.

Thanks for reading. I would love to know what you think. Have you got a dining chair that works brilliantly for you? Is there anything that you would like to tell designers? What would be your perfect chair? I want to know!

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