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How to Mix + Match Your Dining Tables and Chairs

Tradition dictates that a dining room be furnished with a matching table and chairs. But for something more personal, stylish, and playful opt for a mixed set. New chairs, for example, can give an existing table a fresh new look and telegraph a bold and distinctive design sensibility.

We turned to Jeff Schlarb, founder of the San Francisco design and staging firm Green Couch Interior Design, for his expertise at mixing not only diverse materials but also modern and traditional forms. A natural wood table paired with hot pink acrylic chairs; an airy plywood-and-metal table grounded with chunky felt seating — as Schlarb reveals, the mix-and-match possibilities are endless.

"Matchy McMatcherson has no place in our design world!"

YLiving: When should someone consider mixing tables and chairs rather matching?

Jeff Schlarb: Matching is less important than an overall pulled-together aesthetic. Mixing a dining table and dining chairs from different eras, different finishes, and different styles can help create an approachable elegance that is calming and articulate.

In our own family home we have a beautiful vintage farm table punctuated by industrial iron chairs with wool hide seat throws. The idea of six different eccentric, vintage chairs intrigues me. However, to balance the eclecticism, I would need to see continuity in the upholstery, artwork, and a knockout console to boot.

YV: What effect does a mix-and-match approach achieve?

JS: Whenever we design a room, we want two things to happen in a room: to create interesting content through furniture styles, shapes, textures, finishes, and artistic mediums. And to provide an overall balance and pleasantness that just feels good. If you select cataloged set choices, you'll likely not get there. A mixed approach, done successfully, will make people stop and consider all of the decisions and materials being combined — much like a great art piece will collect viewer's attention, probing their curiosity. Matchy McMatcherson has no place in our design world!

Butterfly Dining Table V.I.P. Chair PCHseries Dining Table Area51 Chair

YV: Are there any material pairings that you think mix particularly well together?

JS: I love combining wood with acrylic. The PCHseries Dining Table looks great with the colorful Area51 Chair. I also love mixing metals in a room, such as brushed brass legs on a sofa next to a satin nickel coffee table. It's a new and interesting way to bring brilliance into a space.

YV: Please suggest a few pairings of tables and chairs that you think would work well in a dining space.

JS: I like the Reef Dining Table, a unique take on the Saarinen table; it has a really sexy curve that mimics a surfer's posture. I'd pair it with a set of Standard Chairs by Jean Prouvé in white metal and light wood. It's a unique and classy combination.

The V.I.P. Chair from Moooi is off the chain! I love the heavy feel of the exaggerated legs, and the felt upholstery combines wonderfully with the bent plywood and marble table top of the Butterfly Table.

Reef Dining TableStandard Chair

JS: The Tour Table by Gae Aulenti is so unusual. It reminds me of Katina Huston's artwork. It's hard to find a dining chair to go along with this, but I'd select the Moulin Chair with Armrests. They are upholstered with enough massing to counter the fragility of the bicycle spokes, glass, and hardware.

Here's a fantastic combination: The hard, chunky Berkeley Dining Table combined with the soft yet structured Wicket Side Chair's upholstery and tufted details. You can further the depth of this design by customizing the fabric, using a trim piece or contrasting welt.

YV: What about the something like Kartell's Masters chair?

JS: We are really fond of this chair at our studio. It pairs perfectly with an elegant, refined contemporary wood table like the Astor.

YV: What would you combine with an Eames fiberglass or plastic side chair?

JS: These chairs need more massing and oomph than a glass and metal table affords. I'd opt for the Sigma Drive Extension Table — or the Clarges Dining Table, whose metalwork and large lacquered top complement the chair nicely.

Wicket Side ChairBerkeley Dining Table
Saarinen Tulip Table and Executive Chair

YV: What about tables — what kind of chair would you pair with say, the Lily Dining Table?

JS: With its streamlined base, the Tulip chair is a great solution for a leggy dining table like the Lily.

YV: How about the Saarinen Tulip Table?

JS: Pairing the wooden-legged Saarinen Executive Chair may be somewhat predictable, but isn't it quite nice? This is great design.

YV: And the Fan Table from Tom Dixon?

JS: This table’s dark base complements the dark Smoke Dining Chair. It’s a beautiful way to bring unexpected yet complementary shapes together to enjoy one another and the overall dialogue.

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