Make Mismatched Chairs Work at a Dining Table: Expert Advice

Mismatched Dining Chair
You’re not alone if you’re looking for something more interesting than matching dining chairs. Using mismatched chairs at the dining table is super trendy right now! And it’s not just a passing phase — it’s a time-tested interior designer trick that adds personality and drama to the dining room.

Capturing the eclectic beauty of mismatched dining chairs is about finding the right balance between contrast and cohesion. And when you get it right, this look creates a professional polish that’s hard to beat.

For this guide, we asked the experts to give us some tips on how to master the mismatched chairs trend. So, keep reading to find out how to create a stylishly mismatched dining area in any home.

Why Mismatched Chairs at a Dining Table Can Look Great

Mismatched chairs create character and style in a space. They also make it easy to subtly include different colors and patterns to liven and brighten the room, all without adding paint, wallpaper shopping, or artwork.

“Mismatched chairs are engaging, visually appealing, and can make a space look more sophisticated and pulled together,” said Heather Mastrangeli.

As a bonus, the combination of patterns and styles you use allows something as simple as dining chairs can become instant talking pieces. Dining room designs tend to contain just a few items — a table, chairs, and maybe a buffet — so mismatched chairs help create a more exciting space that allows each different chair to shine.

6 Pro Tips for Mismatching Chairs at a Dining Table

With matching chairs, it’s usually as easy as picking the set that goes with your dining set. Or, if you’re feeling creative, you might choose a matching set of chairs slightly different from the one that goes with the dining table. But that’s about it.

It’s a bit different with mismatching chairs at a dining table. You have to navigate different colors, materials, and designs to create the perfect balance between matchy-matchy and overwhelming.

Here are six pro tips to help you pick the best-mismatched dining room chairs for your home decor.

1. Choose a Style

“Choose a style or theme before you start mixing and matching. And don’t mix styles. For example, a clear plastic chair with Scandinavian wood chairs just looks ghastly,” said Becc Burgmann.

Go with the flow of your space — the chairs don’t have to match your table, but they should connect with other elements like your style, textures, and color scheme.

For example, if you have a farmhouse-style dining space, you might choose linen-covered chairs in different colors, pairing oatmeal chairs with a couple of charcoal grey chairs. Or you could place grey linen chairs at the ends of the table, a wooden bench seat on one side, and oatmeal linen chairs on the other.

“You can also try using the same chair style but in different colors. This approach creates a mismatched look that feels more coordinated and thoughtful instead of purely eclectic,” added Robin DeCapua.

2. Choose a Set of End Chairs

Unless you have a round dining table, you’ll use end chairs at the head of the table on either side to help frame the dining area. These end chairs should ideally match or be similar to create a cohesive look. And while the end chairs can stand out from the rest with a larger size, you’ll still want everything to have an appropriate seat height for the dining table.

Mismatched Dining Chairs
This setup using a bench with classic dining chairs and slipcovered end chairs (credit: The Inside by Havenly)

“Put the bigger, more grand dining chairs on either end of the table,” recommends Becc Burgmann. “For example, you could choose two high-back wingback-style chairs and put them on the ends as statement pieces. And choose smaller side chairs to go between them. For example, select chairs in the same style without armrests.”

“Put the bigger, more grand dining chairs on either end of the table."

As another example, Danielle Walish recommends mixing The Inside’s Classic Dining Chairs in Talc Linen with two Slipcovered Dining Chairs at the end of the table.

3. Balance the Colors

Balance the colors evenly around the table and match them to the palette of your dining room for a harmonious aesthetic. And if your living room or kitchen is visible from the dining area, you’ll also want to consider the colors you’ve used there.

In addition, try to balance the colors used between the mismatched chairs. Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Multiple chair colors: Using multiple chair colors can look modern and fun. For example, choose charcoal end chairs with alternating navy and oatmeal chairs down the sides. For this look, we recommend mixing the different color chairs to create balance instead of grouping the colors.
  • Matching colors: “If you want a pulled-together look that ties your mismatched chairs together, try using chairs of all the same color in different styles,” recommended Robin DeCapua.
  • Pop of color: For a pop of color, try sticking with one pattern or color for the side chairs and then adding a bold pop of color for the two ends. For example, you might use vintage chairs with ivory upholstery down the sides and a pair with bold blue upholstery at the ends.

4. Pick a Material

“When mixing dining chairs, I always make sure there is one aspect that matches,” Heather Mastrangeli told Living Cozy. “For example, this could be the metal or wood finish on the legs with different colored upholstery on the seats.”

To continue with Heather’s example, you might pick a wood finish that matches the dining table to create a cohesive aesthetic. Or you could go in a different direction and experiment with mismatched finishes and matching upholstery.

The most important thing is to find a material or finish you love to tie the look together. You can still be creative with pairings, but don’t forget to think about how you want to unify your dining area.

5. Don’t Add Too Much

“Creativity is fantastic, but try to avoid getting too creative,” advises Lucy Small. “Opposing styles just don’t work. So, for example, don’t use acrylic ultra-modern chairs if you have a rustic table. Or vice versa. And if your items don’t match, make sure they’re at least neighbors when it comes to style.”

In addition, try to avoid overcrowding the table with too many chairs — when in doubt, most experts recommend using fewer chairs. And if you need more seating, a bench can be a good option, allowing additional people to sit around the table when necessary.

Using too many chairs too close together can make the whole space seem smaller. And when they’re mismatched, this effect can make the room feel busy or chaotic, too.

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6. Look at the Legs

One of the easiest ways to make your dining area look creative is by mismatching the legs of the chairs and table. This trick creates instant visual contrast without the need to pick several different colors, patterns, or styles.

“Dining tables come in chunky, pedestal, trestle, and narrow leg styles, to name a few. And chairs also come in several leg styles,” explained Robin DeCapua. “A good rule of thumb here is opposites attract. For example, don’t pull hairpin-leg chairs up to a hairpin-leg table if you want an eclectic mix.”

This rule applies even if you don’t want the leg finishes to match. For example, if you plan to alternate black and white leg finishes in a mid-century modern space, it might look best if they all have tapered, angled legs.


Do the Dining Tables and Chairs Have to Match?

“No, the dining table and chairs don’t have to match, but they should complement each other,” said Heather Mastrangeli.

While your mismatched chairs don’t need to match the dining table, though, they should match something. For example, you can mix your dining chairs with other elements in the room, such as the color scheme or decor style. This approach is perfect for letting statement tables shine.

How Much Space Should There be Between Dining Chairs?

The ideal amount of space between dining chairs depends on the type of chairs you use and whether your dining area is formal or casual. For example, in informal dining areas with armless chairs, you’ll usually want at least 20-24” between each chair.

In contrast, holiday dinners and formal dining spaces with larger chairs or chairs with arms can call for as much as 30” between each one.

Don’t forget to keep about 36” behind the dining chairs for an accessible walkway and room to pull the chair out. This is necessary for both casual and formal dining areas.

If you don’t have room for this much space between each chair, try placing a bench along one or both sides of the table. Benches can accommodate more people when needed while leaving plenty of room the rest of the time.

Meet the Experts

Living Cozy works to bring you expert advice for all things home. For this article, we asked the pros for tips on breathing life into your dining table with mismatched chairs — you’ll hear from the following industry experts and professional designers:

Written by
Shelby Golding
Shelby Golding is a Colorado-based writer/editor with over a decade of experience. She has a college education in interior design and enjoys woodworking in her free time.
Shelby Golding
Written by
Shelby Golding
Shelby Golding is a Colorado-based writer/editor with over a decade of experience. She has a college education in interior design and enjoys woodworking in her free time.
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On Living Cozy, you'll find advice and insights from furniture and interior design experts to help make your house a home.