Tap into the art of eclecticism by foregoing formal furniture “sets” to create your own chic collection.

The central living area features an open-plan kitchen, living space, and deck with views of Louttit Bay. To maximize energy savings, the house has a ducted reverse air cycle system from Fujitsu.

Years ago, formal dining rooms were a must in most homes—it was the main place for entertaining family and friends. Today, thanks to the often desired open-concept layouts, which usually combine dining, living, and kitchen areas, that view has drastically changed. 

If you do have a dining room—or even just a dining room table—and want to give it a less formal, more youthful vibe, mixing chairs is a great way to achieve that. Below, we’re sharing six simple ways to get started.

1) Same Chairs, Different Colors 

Piet Hein Eek's wooden chairs add a touch of color to the monochromatic Amsterdram apartment of Hunter Hindman and Shelby Carr.

A quick way to infuse a casual vibe while also maintaining style is to use the same chair but in different, complementary colors. This can be quite easy to do if you’re purchasing a new set of chairs, particularly if they’re contemporary in style and are painted wood, powder-coated steel, or have a plastic or fabric seat. 

Above the dining room’s Hodgson & Barker Antiques table—found on eBay—are ceramic pendant lights from Hand & Eye Studio. The architect acquired the wood chairs secondhand.

Upholstering the seats of chairs in a different color is another way to infuse unique style.

Photo: Damian Russell

2) Same Color, Different Chairs 

The couple's changes to the space were mostly decorative. They built the custom bench in the dining area, which holds a litter box for their cat on one end and storage space on the other. The table was purchased at The Source in Brooklyn and the wall hanging is from CB2.

Despite the different silhouettes of the chairs at this dining room table, the white palette unites them all and creates a more casual look.

Photo by Philip Ficks. Prop styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd.

Alternately, another option that creates the same relaxed-but-curated vibe is to find different chairs all in the same color. This can even be a fun, easy DIY project, as you can collect wooden chairs from garage sales—or your own basement—and then paint them all a single bright color. 

3) Highlight the Host  

The dining table in the Suttles and Shah residence made from two old Mexican doors.

If you’re not ready to full commit on different colors, start small and simply swap the seating at the head and foot of your table. Whether it’s an entirely different chair or simply one with a varied upholstery, this change is guaranteed to add a touch of drama to your table while still maintaining balance.

Photo: Brent Humphreys

If you’re not keen on having each piece be a different color or style, another way to integrate mismatched chairs is to place emphasis on the seats at the opposite ends of the table—i.e. where the hosts usually sit—by making them distinct from the others.

This is an easy option if you already have a set of chairs, but don’t have enough for a larger table or when extra guests come. Using two types of chairs gives just enough variation to keep a cohesive feel at the table, while adding visual interest through a contrast of color, texture, shape, or size. 

4) Mix Retro and Contemporary

Walnut panels and touches of bright red warm up the minimalist space, which the owners wanted to be “clean, eclectic, and modern.” The pendant is Big Bang by Foscarini.

Walnut panels and touches of bright colors warm up the minimalist space, which the owners wanted to be “clean, eclectic, and modern.” The pendant is Big Bang by Foscarini.

Photo: Trevor Tondro

Mixing the styles of chairs you place around the table is yet another way to add easy personality to your dining area. This can create a dramatic sense of visual interest, especially if the shapes are contrasting. For instance, consider curvy midcentury, modern chairs with others that are a bit more rigid with straight lines, like a traditional spindle-back wooden chair. 

5) Add in a Bench

Throughout the house, Curtiss mixed natural materials with industrial ones. Downstairs, fir and cedar wood on the doors and open-joisted ceiling balance the colder, industrial feel of the concrete floor and steel staircase railing. In the dining room, a pendant lamp from RLM Lighting hangs above a table that combines Cherner table legs with a new white laminate top. The yellow chairs are by Tolix.

In the dining room above, a pendant lamp from RLM Lighting hangs above a table that combines Cherner table legs with a new white laminate top. The yellow chairs are by Tolix and balance beautifully with the informal feel of the wooden bench.

Photo: Joe Fletcher

When in doubt, you can always lose the chairs and use benches. Not only will this option offer a stylish, informal feel, but it will also provide great flexibility with less space. 

While you’ll probably end up with chairs for the shorter ends of the table, if you want to unite the benches and chairs—and make them a bit more comfortable—consider adding cushions or a throw blanket that use the same fabric. 

6) Find Unity in Materials 

Adding wood floors to the home proved to be a challenge, both in terms of approval and execution. Since the flat is located in a historic mansion block, the license to alter it was very strict. Once approved, floating oak parquet floors were installed above a high-performance acoustic system to offer sound insulation for the neighbor below. The open dining room exemplifies the clients’ wish for a “fun yet minimalist” home. A copper Habitat pendant lamp hangs above a solid oak dining table fabricated by INTERIOR-iD. A whimsical mustard sofa pops against the blue Tabu veneer wall.

 The open dining room exemplifies a clients’ wish for a “fun yet minimalist” home. A copper Habitat pendant lamp hangs above a solid oak dining table fabricated by INTERIOR-iD. A whimsical mustard sofa pops against the blue Tabu veneer wall. Rather than competing, each piece brings a sense of tactility and warmth to the table, ultimately creating a unified look.

Photo: Alexander James

Sometimes, the best way to bring together various styles and shapes is not through contrast or the use of the same colors, but by a unified textural sensibility. For example, polished concrete, rough-hewn wood, and blackened steel might seem like they wouldn’t work together, yet their subtle tones and matte finishes act as a complement to each other. 

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