What is a Side Chair VS Dining Chair?

 ‘Side chair’ is a term that frequently gets confused with its sibling the dining chair, and it’s easy to see why, as both have a few things in common.

However, in this article, we’ll be providing a breakdown of the definitions of each, so that you can decide which is the best one for your dining room. 

What is a side chair?

In its simplest definition, a side chair is a chair without arms. 

Side chairs are often used in the dining room as additional dining table seating, as its armless silhouette makes it ideal for this purpose. 

Side chairs tend to be sleek enough to fit in and around small or difficult spaces such as nooks and table corners.

Traditional side chairs had wooden frames, and sometimes featured upholstered backs and seats, but the legs, even today, are nearly always made of wood.

Side chairs can vary in size depending on how much space you have to work with, which is why it’s important to check measurements before you buy. 

Side chairs are a type of dining chair, though they differ from armchairs as the former are armless and are positioned on the sides of a rectangular table as additional seating, whereas armchairs are reserved for those sitting at the ‘heads’ of the tables. 

Can side chairs be used as dining chairs?

Absolutely - this is the main purpose of a side chair. While they were traditionally positioned on the sides of a rectangular dining table for additional guests, in more casual dining rooms today you may find side chairs at the head of the table as well. 

So you can either use side chairs alongside armchairs at your dining table, or opt for a modern twist and stick solely to side chairs.

To match or not to match? 

This is a common question that gets asked in regards to side chairs, and there’s no real right or wrong answer. 

Those looking to achieve a more sophisticated dining room set-up may wish to stick to a set of matching side chairs, which will give a more core-traditional or core modern appeal. 

On the other hand, some people wish to mix and match side chairs to achieve a more relaxed and rustic vibe that’s somewhere between vintage and modern.

It’s entirely your decision. 

Types of Side Chairs

There are many different side chairs out there, from the stackable, folding kinds of side chairs to the heavy wood varieties. 

Which style you go for will depend on how you intend to use your side chairs. 

If you’re looking for a temporary option for additional guests or family members, you may wish to select a foldable, lightweight side chair that can be stored away when not in use. These are cheaper and may be made from sheet metal rather than wood. 

If you’re looking for a permanent option that will remain at your dining table day to day, you may wish for something more heavy-duty that ties in with the rest of your decor. 

For this, you’ll want to invest in something long-lasting that will stand up to daily wear and tear, while also matching your room’s aesthetics. 

Narrow down your choice even further by selecting a specific type of side chair. 

There are three main styles to choose from: 


The high-back features an extended back which makes a statement and provides great back support, too. These chairs are ideal for formal dining events.


Parsons dining chairs are characterized by their clean lines and simple design. They typically have wood legs with a fully upholstered seat and back, and often feature button detailing.  These provide great comfort and have a stylish, modern appeal. 


Windsor chairs are traditional and sturdy due to their English heritage, and they are great for achieving that rustic ‘farmhouse’ aesthetic. They typically feature a semicircular back supported by thin rods and spindle legs. In the past, they would be made solely of wood, but today Windsor chairs can be found in a variety of materials for a more modern look. 

To upholster or not to upholster? 

As well as types of side chairs, you may be looking for a particular style. 

Upholstered seat 

A side chair with an upholstered seat and wood back and legs provides a perfect balance between durability, comfort, and practicality, and is perfect for achieving that rustic, country cottage aesthetic. 


A fully upholstered side chair with a hidden wood frame is the traditional answer to the side chair and may be less favorable to those looking for a modern option, as the base is usually skirted or sewn to blocked legs.

Upholstered back and seat 

If you’re looking for a side chair that prioritizes comfort, one with an upholstered back and seat may be the best choice for you, as these are usually used by people who spend a lot of time in their dining rooms.

These chairs differ from the all-upholstered design, as an open wood base allows for more legroom, while the padded seat and back provides comfort to your sit bones and supports your back.

All wood 

Simple and timeless, an all-wood side chair is practical and hardwearing. They’re also easy to clean, so they’re great if you have kids. However, they’re not the most comfortable due to the lack of upholstery, but if you use your dining table for mealtimes alone, this shouldn’t be a big issue. 

Final Verdict 

Side chairs are a great addition to your dining table, whether you wish to place them at the sides of your table with armchairs at the head, or use them as your main dining chairs. 

Today, side chairs are more than just a side piece, and come in a range of materials and designs, from convenient folding styles that are great for providing additional seating, to plush, upholstered side chairs that can add a luxurious feel to your dining room.