If you're picking out a new dining room table set, you know that chairs don't always come with the table as a package. Sometimes you'll find sets of chairs that are meant to be paired up with a specific table even though the chairs are available separately, but it's not unusual to get to choose the style of chair you want. This can be daunting if you're in a furniture store that offers a lot of styles. But four basic considerations will help put you on track to find those perfect chairs.
You're actually not going to find arms on a lot of dining chairs, but this style does exist. From dorm-cafeteria style pub chairs with rounded wooden arms to minimalist styles with winged sides that form short arms, you'll get to see a great variation. But arms might not be the best for your table if you're trying to squeeze a lot of chairs into the dining room. The arms take up space and can make it more difficult for someone to push a chair back when the table is crowded -- the arms can bump into the arms of another chair and block movement. Plus, if you have relatives who are of a larger size, the arms could make sitting in the chairs uncomfortable.
One time when arms would be appropriate is if you have someone who needs assistance sitting down and standing up. He or she can use the arms for support. But do still keep the crowding and size issues in mind, here.
Sturdiness and Steadiness
You can find wooden and plastic chairs that are very light and easy to lift, and these are perfect for times when you have children trying to dine at the table because the children can move the chairs themselves. But these chairs might not hold a lot of weight and could break easily. Another issue is perception -- someone might think a lighter chair is weaker, even if it really isn't.
Chairs need to be steady, too. Modern, artsy chairs that look like they have very little holding them up may not be too welcome by people who prefer not to worry that the chair would suddenly break or fall over. Again, much of this is perception, but your dining room furniture should make people eager to be there, not ward them off.
Ease of Movement
This is a separate issue from chair weight. Do you want a chair on casters that will slide over a floor easily? That could be a blessing, but it could also make it harder for someone to use the chair. That aforementioned example of someone needing arms on a chair to help them sit and stand, for instance -- wheels could make the chair so unstable that it rolls back when the person tries to sit.
For hardwood floors, you may want to look at adding smooth anti-scratch pads to the undersides of the chair legs. These will protect your floors and let the chair glide more easily without casters. For carpeting, casters can get stuck in plush pile, but they can do well on a flat, low-to-no-pile carpet.
Padded or Not Padded
Padded chairs can be harder to clean because you can't remove the padding, and you might want to invest in removable chair covers. Unpadded chairs, though, can be uncomfortable, especially if the back has a lot of ridges or an odd curve to it. You can add cushions, however, to alleviate that issue. If cleaning is your main concern, then, go with unpadded with added pads, and if comfort is your main issue, look at padded with covers.
If you want to see lots of styles of chairs, go to furniture showrooms (such as Furniture Classics) and start comparing the different types of dining chairs you see. Visit a few stores and sit in the chairs -- don't rely solely on online catalogs -- to see how you feel.