Not everybody has chairs in their kitchen. But if you have a family, and plan to eat in your kitchen rather than in a formal dining room (or have everyone eating off their laps in the living room watching TV), it’s a good idea to have a table and suitable chairs that serve this purpose.
But what should you consider when you buy kitchen chairs?
Do you buy a dining set with matching table and chairs? What materials should the chairs be made from? If you want upholstered chairs, what materials are likely to work in your kitchen, for you and your family?
You need to answer these questions even before you decide on the size of your table and number of chairs. Then once you know what you are looking for, you can find items that are suitable within your budget.
What Constitutes a Kitchen Chair?
Unless yours is an extra large kitchen, with spare space for a sofa or an easy chair or two, kitchen chairs are essentially seats with a back that are intended for one person. And they are constructed so that the seat is a suitable height for use at a table. They don’t normally have arms, although kitchen chairs with arms are available.
While you might search for “kitchen chair” on the Internet when looking for kitchen furniture, the truth is that chairs are not made specifically for kitchen use. Unless the kitchen is specifically the domain of servants (which does happen, though not as frequently as it did in colonial times), you’ll be choosing from items that would be just as at home in the dining room of your home. Sure they may be a bit plainer and more practical than the dining room suite that you’ve chosen, but if you are locating a table and chairs in the kitchen, these will generally be intended for everyday use.
If the kitchen is intended primarily for your hired help, then chances are a table and chairs, if included in the layout, would be totally utilitarian. But that is no excuse for them to be cheap-looking.
Different Types of Kitchen Chair
Kitchen chairs may be made from wood, metal or plastic, and within each of these categories there are many different variations and styles. All types are available in designs that include or exclude some type of upholstery. More often than not, it is only the seat and back that is upholstered; sometimes just the seat. Often just a section of the back is upholstered or padded, although both leather and fabric upholstered kitchen chairs might be totally covered, or they might just feature legs that are bare wood (or metal).
There was a time when plastic chairs were very popular for kitchen use. The type chosen was generally the same as those so frequently used on patios. But while they are easy to wipe clean (all you need is a damp cloth), some colors will fade or change color (white tends to yellow) when exposed to UV light. For comfort many people use cushions with plastic chairs. Those mass produced for this purpose are generally made of foam that is covered with relatively low quality fabric. While you can wash them, they won’t last a very long time, and you are likely to find yourself replacing them after a couple of years of everyday use.
Today there are some quite attractive and more unusual plastic kitchen chairs, for instance those that are molded to include the seat, back and arms. A good example of this type of design is Baxton Studio Fiorenza armchairs that have attractive modern wooden “Eiffel” legs.
Metal chairs range from old fashioned, folding café chairs, which work particularly well in small spaces, to intricately-crafted mild steel chairs that feature upholstered leather seats, as well as some gorgeous retro designs. There are also metal frame chairs that are totally covered with leather which, while a more expensive upholstery option, is relatively easy to keep clean and maintain. The beauty of well-cared for leather is that the older it gets, the more beautiful it looks.
When it comes to wood, there are so many different designs it’s difficult to identify any particular kitchen-chair look. First off you have a choice of wood types – pine, oak, walnut, beech, to name just a handful. Then there’s the design which ranges from simple Windsor chairs and American Colonial press-back chairs, to ultra-modern upholstered styles – more than you could even begin to imagine.
Many people opt for upholstered kitchen chairs because they are generally more comfortable to sit on. They also tend to look considerably more attractive than chairs that have loose cushions to sit on. However, while upholstery looks like a million dollars when it is new, be sure that the material you choose is suitable for a room where steam, grease, food, drink, and ordinary day-to-day grime will – without any doubt – take its toll over time. Vinyl is probably the easiest material to wipe clean, and it has the visual advantage of looking a lot like leather. But there is no doubt that leather will last considerably longer than even the best quality vinyl, and while maintenance is necessary (you need to regularly clean and condition leather), it won’t crack like some vinyl tends to. Fabric upholstery is the least suitable for kitchen chairs, particularly if you have children and animals. You could opt for a dark color, and a fabric that is patterned (it won’t show the dirt as much), but it is relatively difficult to clean spillages successfully.
At the end of the day, your decision of which type to buy will depend on:
- what appeals to you,
- what suits the style and look of your interior (specifically your kitchen),
- your budget,
- how easy the chairs are to clean and maintain.
Something to remember is that it isn’t always the expensive items that last and continue to look good over time. If kitchen chairs are difficult to keep clean, they will begin to look tired and worn long before they should. This is one of the most important things to consider when buying kitchen chairs.