When hosting for the holidays and beyond, extra seating is easily overlooked, says Aleah Valley, an event planner in Seattle. But if you plan your seating as well as you plan your food, Valley says, "your guests will feel appreciated and welcome, that they aren't just an afterthought that you dusted off an old chair from your garage for."
Do a dry run, she suggests: Check to see whether you have enough chairs for the number of guests around your table without being crowded. And if you do need folding chairs, we have some tips for that, too, from Valley, a shop owner in Boston, the co-founder of Chairish, a blogger and a designer. They all agree that scale is important. Any chair that's small and narrow might make guests feel as if they "drew the short straw," Austin designer Avery Cox says. And make sure it's sturdy, Cox adds: "I'm not a fan of the folding-chair wobble."
As co-founder of a wedding-planning business in Seattle, Valley & Co. Events, Valley knows how to elevate folding chairs beyond their utilitarian selves. To dress up something basic such as the Fritz Style folding chair ($49.99, chairsdirectseating.com), which she describes as "comfy, with nice padding and very portable," she adds easy decorations. "A really simple way to jazz up chairs would be to take a handful of herbs and tie them with twine on the back of the chair with a name tag," she says. "Even if it's just a few people, going that extra mile helps make your guests feel welcome."
At the vintage furniture marketplace Chairish (chairish.com), traditional wood folding chairs with a "schoolhouse look and feel" go fast, notes Anna Brockway, and she's seen an uptick in Lucite, too. The co-founder and chief marketing officer of Chairish can't help but recommend going vintage, but she also likes the Lucent folding chair from Wisteria ($229, wisteria.com) because of the way the material goes with all styles and maintains a sophisticated and contemporary look.
"Over time, folding chairs are an investment that is worth it and something you can use for not only your events, but for friends who may need the help," says Michiel Perry, founder of Black Southern Belle, outside Charleston, S.C. "What better hostess gift than bringing the folding chairs?" She says a bamboo folding chair, such as the American Champion bamboo folding chair ($38.44, amazon.com), is a "perfect addition to your entertaining arsenal."
When looking for chairs, Jill Goldberg, the owner and principal designer of Hudson Interior Designs and the store Hudson in Boston, says that comfort is the No. 1 priority, "considering that your guests might be sitting down for a few hours — or more if the food and company is good." Her pick is the Nisse folding chair from Ikea ($14.99, ikea.com). Have four on hand if you have a smaller space, eight if you have the storage, she says. It also comes in orange and, for an additional $10, white , and it can even be hung on a hook.
A folding chair doesn't have to be ugly, Cox says. She likes the popular ballroom folding chairs in fruitwood from Ballard Designs ($299 for two, ballarddesigns.com). "You would never even know these chairs were folding," she says. "I love this faux bamboo design, and the fruitwood finish works well with most design styles." Cox dresses up her folding chairs with draped textiles or sheepskin on the back.
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