A Guide to Dining Room Chair Styles
Style tips to know before purchasing your next set of dining room chairs
How to shop, design, and enjoy solid hardwood, Amish handcrafted kitchen and dining chairs in a range of styles, types, shapes, and sizes.
Amish handmade dining furniture sets made from solid wood are an investment that will last for generations to come. Dining tables and chairs are meticulously crafted to meet your hardwood, stain, and design specifications. Before purchasing your next set of dining chairs, this guide will explore the following:
- The anatomy of a dining chair
- Dining chair materials
- Common dining chair styles
- Types of dining chairs
- Dining chair design elements
As a bonus, we created a quick dining chair styles chart, featured in the below section, that you can reference as you shop.
Anatomy of a Dining Chair
The anatomy and finishing details of a dining chair can alter the style and functionality of a chair. Learn more about some of the elements present in each and every chair offered at Countryside:
- Solid wood construction: All elements of the dining chair will be made from premium American hardwood with the exception of any hanger bolts, kreg screws, glides, and upholstery. Rest assured, our Amish craftsmen don’t use veneers, particle board, or fillers.
- Comfort-formed seat: All our wooden seats feature a scoop for comfort which causes the seat thickness to vary slightly, but all are at least 1" thick.
- Poured foam seat: All our leather and fabric upholstery is hand-stretched over the longest-lasting cushioning on the market. All our leather is full grain and all our fabrics are premium. No better upholstery is available than what we use.
- Mortise and tenon joinery: Pictured below, this joint is used at every point of attachment and is reinforced with screws and glue as appropriate to ensure your chair lasts a lifetime.
- Reinforced attachments: All our chairs also feature reinforced attachments like the corner blocking used here:
You can expect the above build elements, whether you choose a Colonial-inspired chair, a Mid-Century seat, or one of the other dining chair styles depicted in the chart to the right.
Dining Chair Materials
Similar to the dining table, a chair may utilize any variety of materials in its construction. The materials can impact the design and style of the chair, in addition to its functionality, comfort, and longevity. When seeking high-quality, stylish dining chairs, we suggest you keep an eye out for the following:
Overarching Types of Dining Chairs
Before getting into more specific design elements and dining chair styles, you should understand the most common types of chair designs you might consider for your table.
Arm chairs live at the head and foot of the table. As the name implies, an arm chair features armrests. From a design standpoint, arm chairs can either match side chairs or be completely unique based on your preferences. This type of chair offers the added comfort of giving guests a place to position their elbows (besides the table) and can feel more formal than its armless counterparts. However, the inclusion of arms adds to the chair's overall width (and sometimes its price tag), resulting in the option to sit less individuals around a table than if the chair had no arms.
Take note, many types of dining chairs offered by Countryside Amish Furniture can be ordered with or without arms as part of the many customization options we offer.
Similar to an arm chair, the side chair can feature any variety of building materials. In more casual dining settings, side chairs can be utilized for the entire table. In a more formal dining setting, consider adding arm chairs to the head and foot of the table.
One benefit the armless style of dining chair has over some other types is that it takes up less width per seat. In turn, you can sit more people around a table during larger gatherings, a topic we explore further in The Complete Guide to Dining Table Seating Capacity.
Parsons chairs are fully upholstered dining chairs featuring a tall, straight, and armless design. First emerging in the 1930s from the Parsons School of Design, this dining chair style became all the rage due to its chic, simple silhouette that feels fresh and contemporary, even today.
This type of chair is pretty versatile in its ability to be customized with linen, leather, or fabric upholstery. What's more, it can work with a variety of decor styles, from contemporary to Mid-Century to farmhouse. Utilize Parsons chairs alongside a table, or at the head or foot for a unique spin on the more traditional arm chair. To see this style of seat and similar designs, check out our Dining Sets With Upholstered Chairs.
Folding chairs do just that: fold. In most dining scenarios, this type of chairs are utilized as spare side chairs when additional seating is required. Folding chairs conveniently fold up to be stored away when not in use. Folding chairs are not typically utilized as part of everyday dining. However, as seen with the example below, this type of chair can indeed be quite stylish and high-quality.
Dining Chair Styles
Now that we’ve established basic types of seating, it’s time to dive into the various dining chair styles from which to choose. The aesthetic of the chairs you buy can set the tone for the space, overall. For example, if you pair a rugged industrial dining table with fully upholstered seats, the chairs’ softness provides balance and contrasting nuance. Pair a French Country dining table with French Country-styled chairs, and you further underscore the pastoral charms of the room.
Mission Style Dining Chairs
In pure Mission style, a kitchen chair is sturdy, straight, and strong. Our Parron Mission Chair is an excellent example of this style. Rails and aprons are simple and a slight arch is all the adornment these receive. Mission rails sometimes have multiple slats, but in this chair, a solid splat is formed instead. When a base stretcher is employed, some of the tension of weight bearing is distributed throughout the chair. The square leg is a Mission design element that keeps this chair true to the style.
Shaker Style Dining Chairs
Shaker style dining chairs are typically very simple. When adding a Contemporary two-tone, two-wood finish, however, our classic Shaker Aragon Fan Back Chair is both chic and simple. The broad top rail in this chair is Elm in Burnished Honey stain leading down to the fan back. Slats of the back and all darker pieces of this chair are Brown Maple. The steam bent slats are curved for superior lumbar support.When buying chairs, note if the description indicates period correct construction or lumbar support. Period correct pieces will have a straight back. The trademark detail of Shaker style is the splayed or saber leg. This curving identifier, juxtaposed against a straight apron, catches the eye and assists in eclectic design. When table and chair legs complement each other, you have a winning combination.
Classic Style Dining Chairs
At Countryside, we use our Classic Dining Chair category quite broadly. Traditional, Early American, and even some Old World dining chairs land within this style. The distinctive characteristic of many of our Classic dining chairs is the turned leg. Using a lathe, these beautiful works of art are handmade with the precision and artistry for which our Amish craftsmen are known. Dimensions of an arm chair typically account for the distance from the outer edges of each arm. Sitting space will typically be what is measured for the side chair.
Queen Anne Style Dining Chairs
Queen Anne Style has traditionally meant ornate, made of Cherry, and stained dark with a hint of red. Countryside's Queen Victoria Dining Chair certainly fits that description and is pictured with a fabric upholstered seat. The cresting top rail is quite detailed and the ear is handcrafted to join properly with the rest of the stile. Frequently the entire chair back is carved as a single piece. The elaborate back splat fits into the shoe which is part of the seat structure. A scalloped apron is common in Victorian, Queen Anne, and French Country chairs as are the front cabriole-shaped legs and pad feet. A bonus feature of the Regal's front legs is a reeded design that further elevates this formal dining chair.
Contemporary Style Dining Chairs
An example of a contemporary-styled dining chair is our Waterbury Dining Chair. Shown in two-tone and two woods, this chair fits in nicely with our collection of Contemporary Dining Chairs. A little more petite with fewer parts to connect, our Contemporary chairs are typically quite simple and elegant. The back features a waving detail that makes it truly Contemporary. This type of chair pairs nicely with Shaker or modern style dining tables.
French Country Style Dining Chairs
French Country Style embodies both the simple pastoral French influence and the over the top Louis Phillipe style of furniture. Here our Lanier French Country Ladder Back Chairs features a French Country take on a ladder back chair employing the cresting rail common to Queen Anne dining chairs. Cabriole legs and a scrolling apron add to the charm of this solid wood chair which also features a base stretcher. Pictured here is a rush seat which is a woven grass seat that is making a comeback. Not every chair has a rush seat available, but the life expectancy of this type of seat is roughly 20-30 years. Our solid wood chairs, however, are built to become heirlooms and should last for several lifetimes.
Arts and Crafts or Craftsman Style Dining Chairs
Arts and Crafts or Craftsman style furniture is as varied as any style. Here at Countryside, it is closely related to Mission, Shaker, and Contemporary styles with simple lines and clean presentation. The fundamental difference is the common use of geometric cutouts, Quartersawn White Oak, and extremely structured design. Our Eastwood Arts and Crafts Dining Chair perfectly embodies a pure example of this style.
Modern Style Dining Chairs
Modern kitchen and dining chairs can update the look of any dining set. The best modern dining chairs consist of a combination of high-quality craftsmanship and forward-thinking design that easily adapts to special occasion entertaining or everyday, casual use. Multi-step stain colors range from natural to dark and wood chairs may or may not have arms depending on which variety you choose. The legs are usually straight and without adornments as opposed to curved or carved. Modern dining chairs may have a more petite profile, and oftentimes include upholstered seats.
Farmhouse Style Dining Chairs
Side or arm chairs with farmhouse style are available in various hardwoods and rustic finish options. If going for a cottage-style theme, Farmhouse Dining Chairs are as functional as they are beautiful. Choose from diverse style options including classic farmhouse ladderbacks, simple and modern, or even rustic and industrial. All would make a beautiful addition to any of our dining tables, while mixing and matching dining room chairs creates a wonderfully custom look.
Dining Chair Design Elements
Once you’ve determined the style of dining chair you want, any number of design elements will provide the visual aesthetic, function, or comfort you want from your seating.
Ladder Back Chairs
Our Early American Colonist Ladder Back Chair is a period-perfect replica of the common Shaker ladder back chair. These chairs are often tall and narrow and work very well in kitchens or restaurants. Note that any painted dining room chair you see in Countryside's online gallery will likely be in Brown Maple. This wood is smooth and is the best option for painting.
Bow Back Chairs
Bow Back Chairs may fit into a number of style categories, but the common trait is the steam bent bow of the back. Our Magnussen Dining Chair, for instance, has a carved Queen Anne back splat, a smooth Contemporary base, and spindles in the bow back which is typically Classic or Traditional. These chairs are extremely versatile, but the stile is, obviously, not continuous. Most bow back chairs will feature a stretcher base for durability. Paddle back chairs, dowel back chairs, arrow back chairs, and feather back chairs are all bow back chairs. High and low versions of these types merely indicate the height of the chair back. Further, you will find "bent" in front of many chairs which means the paddles, arrows, or feathers have been steam bent to provide lumbar support. If that is not in the name, the chair is probably very straight and period correct.
Windsor Chairs are a very specific type of bow back chair. Our Wakefield Sheaf Back Dining Chairs are period-perfect. Colonial era furnishings frequently use this style element. Spindles in the bow back and turned legs in the base further the Early American theme. Arrow feet that nearly come to a point complete this solid wood replication.
Sheaf Back Chairs
Sheaf back chairs are very Traditional kitchen and dining chairs. The spindles in the back of the chair are steam bent and appear to be wrapped in a piece of wood to resemble bundled wheat.
Press Back Chairs
Press Back Chairs are typically Traditional, Early American chairs that feature a pressed image on the top rail. Pictured above is a wheat press back. This image is actually a pressing from a steel plate and not a carving, hence the name.
Wing back chairs are typically characterized by high backs, winged sides, and wooden legs. Rooted in practicality and a stylish addition to libraries, dining rooms, or formal living rooms for centuries, the wingback chair is a classic worth revisiting for today’s home. Whether used as an accent seat or to complete your custom dining set, wing back chairs, such as the Alice Upholstered Accent Chair, are sure to make a statement.
Slat Back Chairs
The slat back chair is one of the most traditional types of chair backs. Very true of both mission and shaker styling, this classic design features a rectilinear form and several vertical slats. The slatted look is timeless and is often found in casual dining rooms or kitchen nooks. The Hurley Dining Chair has thin slats with arts and crafts-inspired styling.
Cross Back Chairs
Graceful and contemporary, the cross back dining chair (also known as the X-back chair) is simple, modern, and neutral. This versatile design allows it to work in a variety of room styles. Not only for the dining room, this type of chair looks nice in a home office or as an accent piece throughout the home. Available with or without arms, the Arona X-Back Chair is a timeless example of this distinct style.
Splat Back Chairs
Splat Back Chairs, characterized by a vertical central element of a chair back, are found in nearly any style ranging from classic Queen Anne to modern and contemporary designs. The single splat can be very simple or extremely decorative. Our Jacobsen French Country Chair has this design and is elegant and sophisticated.
Other categories of our chairs are continuing to grow. Period correct cage and comb back chairs, for instance are being introduced in Countryside's online gallery. Folding chairs are also a new offering that takes our favorite chairs and makes them easier to store. If you have a chair you would like us to make into a folding chair, we can often accommodate you. We are constantly adding new products to our dining and kitchen chair lines, so check back with us frequently to see what's new at Countryside Amish Furniture.
Purchase Your Next Set of Dining Room Chairs From Countryside Amish Furniture
Now that you’re an expert on dining chair styles and types, you’re ready to make an informed purchase about which seating types will best serve your home’s functional and decorative needs. So why buy from Countryside Amish Furniture?
- We offer generous customization capabilities, including the choice of hardwood itself. Your ability to personalize the dining chairs go well beyond simply choosing the style. Select the specific North American hardwood and stain to coordinate with other furniture pieces in your home. What’s more, for many of the different dining chair styles we offer, we enable you to choose whether to include a bare seat or cushions upholstered with a full range of fabrics or leathers.
- Our Amish artisans will build beautiful, robust seating that will stand the test of time. No matter whether you choose a contemporary or traditional style, your ideal dining chairs will be built with attention to detail and expert-level woodworking techniques.
- Our team is here to help you every step of the way. Torn between two different styles of dining chairs? Not sure which stain best matches your space? Use our live chat feature to talk directly with a team member who can provide both answers and ideas. We aim to help you find the stylish furniture of your dreams, and we’re willing to work hard to make it happen.