How to Buy a Good Side Chair

Gray blanket over chair in elegant living room
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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).

Before You 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.

Buying Considerations for a Side Chair


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 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:

  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Gilt
  • Acrylic
  • Lucite
  • Leather

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.

Types of Side Chairs

Wood Side Chairs

One of the most familiar side chairs seen every day is the all-wooden chair. A simple chair made out of wood, without arms or cushions. It could have a curved or straight back with slats. A molded seat is also commonplace for this type of chair. 

Arm Side Chairs

Just like it says, the chair has arms attached to the back and seat of the chair. It can be made of wood, metal, lucite, and other material. This type of chair can have cushioned upholstery on the seat, or not. 

Upholstered Side Chairs

Comfy with cushioned seats and sometimes backs, too, an upholstered side chair is the best option if you're looking for a side chair that will be used frequently. 

Metal Side Chairs

Metal side chairs are made of either steel or aluminum and usually can fold up for easy storage in a closet. They will sometimes have cushioned seats and even cushioned backs.  


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.

If you're looking to buy a new side chair, then plan to buy it when the best sales are out there. The best deals for purchasing furniture are usually around holiday weekends, including Memorial Day and Labor Day, and during January and July.

How to Choose a Side Chair

Side chairs can be a good addition to your furniture, used as accents in a dining room or bedroom, or for when company comes and extra seating is needed. Determine what you will use it for, how often it will be used, the style you like, how many you need, and what your budget is to purchase one or a set. Put these factors into the equation when buying a chair, along with the type of chairs available, and you are sure to pick out the right side chair (or chairs) for your home.

Where to Shop

Side chairs can be found in many places, from flea markets, supercenter stores, home improvement stores, furniture stores, and online. There are numerous options available, it all depends on what fits best for you.

  • Where can side chairs be used?

    Side chairs can be placed in whatever room you want to use them. Whether for extra seating in the dining room or living room when company comes or in a corner of a bedroom or other room as an accent piece, side chairs are good to have around. 

  • Can you add cushions to a side chair?

    Seat pads, aka chair cushions, can be added to a side chair, such as a wooden one, to help provide more comfortable seating. These pads can have strings to tie them to the back or have gripper material on the bottom of the pad to help keep them from slipping off the chair.

  • Should side chairs match?

    You don't necessarily have to have perfectly matched side chairs. Some people choose to mix and match, while others want a matched set. It's all about your style and preference.