This interior designer's trick is the best way to make a dining table feel minimalist – and look good from every angle

I love this idea for avoiding fussy table set-ups, and it's even super practical if you've got an open plan dining space

a dining table with stools
(Image credit: Design Assembly)

When you're choosing chairs to go with your new dining table, you run the risk of an interior design phenomenon I refer to as 'chair jumble'. It can occur when you're trying to squeeze too many chairs around a table, and especially with round or oval tables where it isn't so clearly obvious how many chairs it should have. 

The problem it causes is more visual than practical, though you should really allow for a certain amount of elbow room per chair anyway in a dining room. Suddenly your dining table looks busy – and endless sea of chair arms and legs so that you lose the beauty of both your carefully selected dining chairs and even your dining table behind this inscrutable wall of furniture. 

From an interior stylist's perspective, I'd simply edit down the number of chairs to take the photograph of this particular dining space, but in real life, if you've got a certain number of chairs you have to fit around the table, how do you avoid 'chair jumble' and achieve your minimalist dream?

The answer is simple. Stools. 

Why include stools around your dining table? 

a dining table with stools around

(Image credit: Design Assembly LA)

From a visual perspective, what stools lack in back support and arms, they make up for in being less-intrusive sculptural forms.' 

'I love using stools for dining sets as they are so versatile in both form and function,' says Lauren Moore, interior designer and founder of Design Assembly. In her own home, choosing stools also meant that her painstakingly-sourced dining table could take centerstage. 'When I found that vintage travertine dining table, I knew that I didn't want to obstruct it in any way,' Lauren tells us. 'I love beautiful dining chairs but felt they would be too competing here. The table was one of my favorite pieces in the project, and I wanted the shape and texture to really be the focal point of the dining space.'  

a dining table with ottoman seating

(Image credit: Lo Miller. Design: Lauren Woods Interiors. Styling: Me & Mo)

For a similar reason, Lauren Woods, founder of Lauren Woods Interiors, specified ottoman seating on one side of the dining table to reduce the visual bulk that would otherwise block views through the large glass windows. 'One of the reasons for implementing ottomans on the one side of the table is that the view out the window overlooks an incredible outdoor kitchen, swimming pool, hot tub, sport court and courtyard,' Lauren explains. 'By lowering the seating on this side of the table, we were able to take in more of that amazing backyard.'

Are stools really practical for a dining table?

a dining table with stool seating

(Image credit: Design Assembly LA)

There are pros and cons to choosing stool seating, mot of which point to a hybrid of dining chairs and stools being the best bet. 

Let's start with the pros. 'I have found that using stools in a smaller space around the dining table rather than chairs allows for a more free-flowing and versatile environment as they are easy to move, can be carried into the living room for extra seating with a small footprint, or used as a side table,' Lauren Moore tells us. 'I love having guests over and that means my chairs and other furniture gets moved often to accommodate flow and extra seating around the living room or in the kitchen after dinner.'

For Lauren Woods, it's an idea that worked well for this family home, especially because the dining table sits adjacent to the kitchen. 'It stemmed from the fact that these clients have a large family, so I wanted to create spacious flexible seating that could be used for sitting at the table, but also as perch for turning around to face the kitchen, giving them the ability to interact in both directions,' Lauren explains. 

a kitchen diner with a view to a backyard

(Image credit: Lo Miller. Design: Lauren Woods Interiors. Styling: Me & Mo)

On the flip side of the coin, stool seating is generally less ergonomic and comfortable for sitting at for long periods of time, meaning you'll find people scrambling for the dining chairs or banquette seating with back support when you host a dinner party. 

This may just mean it's suited more to your casual dining spaces, and if you have younger children, they become the perfect designated seating for them to sit at during family dinners. 

'One other downside to this style of seating could be that they are hefty or difficult to move,' Lauren Woods explains in relation to her choice of a more ottoman-style. 'To combat this, we actually had these items custom made with a washable slip cover over a frame that has a nice solid weight but that could easily be moved by one grown adult.'

3 of the best dining table stools 

Luke Arthur Wells
Freelancer writer

Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast.