Side chairs are some of the most versatile and practical pieces of furniture you can ever own. They're easy to move around, they fit in small and awkward places, and they're great as decorative accents. Functional and stylish — what more could you ask for?
What Is a Side Chair?
By definition, a side chair doesn't have arms (that would be called an armchair). However, to avoid confusion, this article defines a side chair as a seat for one person that is not wholly upholstered. It can have arms or not, but there is a solid frame. It can have an upholstered seat and back, but the frame is not covered in fabric. A side chair looks like something you would traditionally see in a dining room (not like a big club chair or a bulky bergére).
How to Buy Side Chairs
Before you buy side chairs it's important to think of what their main function will be. Will they be used frequently or just as occasional chairs? Will they be in the living room, the dining room or the bedroom? Do you want them to blend in with the room or stand out and make a statement?
Think about how many side chairs you need. How many people reside in your home and how often do you have visitors requiring extra seating? Do you want them out on display all the time? If you live in a small space you might want to consider a type of armchair that folds and can be tucked away.
As a general rule, the size of your chairs should be based on the sofa (since most end up in the living room). A chair that's smaller than the sofa will make your room appear daintier, while a larger chair will make your room appear bulkier. No matter what size you choose to try to make the chair and sofa heights match up as closely as you can. This will keep the room from looking disjointed (even if they're not right next to each other).
When it comes to style the sky's the limit. If your chairs are going to be used and on display regularly you'll want them to suit the style of the room. That said since side chairs can easily be moved around you also want them to be versatile. Opt for a transitional piece that borders the line between modern and traditional.
Having said all of that, it's important to note that side chairs can also be used as decorative accents. If you want a fun pop of color or a wild shape, a trendy or unconventional armchair sitting in the corner of the room can really do the trick.
This is where you can really have some fun. Side chairs are the ideal spot for an accent color or bold pattern. Don't be afraid to try something wild. What's great is that since they don't often require a lot of fabric it's relatively easy and inexpensive to change it if you tire of it. It's also great if there's an expensive fabric you really adore but can't afford much of.
Side chairs can be made of just about anything. Some popular examples of materials and finishes include:
The material you use should be considered before you buy. You might find a metal chair that looks great, but it might not be comfortable to sit in. A Lucite chair might look amazing and be comfortable, but the fingerprints that get on it might drive you crazy. It might seem silly but these are all important factors to consider.
What you spend on a side chair is up to you. A dainty antique could cost over a thousand dollars while a great flea market find could cost $20. Whatever you decide make sure you consider the quality of the piece. Vintage chairs are often very sturdy and better quality than new — provided they're not falling apart of course. That $20 flea market find could be amazing, but make sure it's not rickety. If it's purely decorative then it doesn't matter.