Matching dining furniture sets are out, and a more personalized, collected look is in. How do we know? Well, when furniture stores start selling the mix-and-match approach themselves. At West Elm, if you look at one mid-century modern dining table online, you’ll see two suggestions for chairs to go with it. You’ll also see an Instagram stream of the table in real homes, in one shot paired with a bench, in another with Ikea chairs with metal legs. “I think people want things to feel more collected and eclectic,” says Samantha Friedman, an interior designer in Gaithersburg. “Most of my clients like to mix the old with the new.”
But when the options are endless, it can feel like staring down the toothpaste aisle: paralysis. Starting with the table, Friedman says to think about flexibility and quality, because today, we use dining tables for both family dinners and homework projects. Christiane Lemieux, founder of DwellStudio, advocates for shopping on eBay because you can get solid, long-lasting hardwood — “and they aren’t veneered, which can peel and chip over time.”
Jessica Probus, author of “Home Decor Cheat Sheets,” says to remember the numbers 36 and 24 when choosing the size of the table. You want 36 inches of space between the table and any other piece of furniture in the room, and 36 inches of rug around the edge of the table. Make sure there’s 24 inches of space for each person under the table, too. For dining chairs, make sure the wood stain matches the dining table or just use a different material, such as metal, leather, fabric or polycarbonate. Think about the legs, too; chair and table legs shouldn’t clash in style, and they shouldn’t get in one another’s physical way, either.
What’s left is the question of what to do about that matching furniture set from your parents: Is it time to toss it? Not necessarily. If you love the table, paint it and replace the chairs with updates. Or reupholster the chair cushions. Mix up what you already have.” Today, “there aren’t a lot of rules,” Lemieux says.
Lemieux loves the contrast of RH Modern’s formidable Arles Rectangular Dining Table ($2,795 to $4,795, rhmodern.com) with the copper-plated Real Good Chair from Blu Dot ($299, bludot.com), left. For another favorite chair that Lemieux would put with any table, look at the upholstered Beetle Chair ($999 to $1,569, danishdesignstore.com), right. It comes in fabric or leather, in just about any color you could imagine.
“I find most of my clients are willing to spend money on furniture, but they want to make sure it has multiple purposes,” Friedman says. Furniture must stand up to entertaining as well as kids’ art projects. Friedman likes the Compass Dining Table from CB2 ($399, cb2.com) because it is durable and easy to clean. She suggests pairing it with the polycarbonate Victoria-Style Ghost Dining Chair ($170 for two, emoderndecor.com), left, one of many reproductions of Philippe Starck’s Louis Ghost chair. For an alternative option, Friedman likes Zuo’s recycled-leather Modern Fashion Dining Chair ($590 for two, target.com), right.
DwellStudio’s Jagger Dining Table ($809, dwellstudio.com)takes the classic Parsons — in which the top and legs are the same width — and gives it a prism-shaped leg and olive ash burl veneer. The result is anything but meek, so Lemieux recommends pairing it with a chair strong enough to suit, such as Eero Saarinen’s Executive Armless Chair in Basalt fabric and light walnut legs ($1,277, modernplanet.com), left, or CB2’s Roadhouse Black Leather Chair ($249, cb2.com), right.
“If the table is more traditional,” says Probus, “you can get away with an upholstered chair, things that might have nailheads around them.” Probus, an editor for BuzzFeed’s lifestyle and editorial section, picked out Pottery Barn’s Benchwright Fixed Dining Table ($1,499, potterybarn.com) and suggests adding Inspire’s Parson Chair ($325, wayfair.com), left. For a funky upholstered option, look at the springlike, painterly Clarisse Portter Upholstered Dining Chair ($340 for two, worldmarket.com), right.
Lemieux’s recent book, “The Finer Things: Timeless Furniture, Textiles and Details,” is about selecting home goods that are durable and beautiful enough to last beyond a few years. One way to do this is to buy pieces that have been designer standbys for decades. Saarinen’s Oval Dining Table ($5,233 to $13,658, dwr.com), for example, was designed in 1956 and is still a favorite spotted often in magazines. For seating, go with something organic-looking to offset the man-made base of the table, something like Hans Wegner’s CH24 Wishbone Chair ($595, hivemodern.com), left, designed in 1949. For a more affordable chair option, Lemieux likes a hardwood mid-century style — we think the poplar Lena Mid-Century Dining Armchair ($199, westelm.com), right, is a good fit.
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