Should Dining Chairs Have Armrests? An Answer to This Question Before You Buy Your Next Set

To have or not to have armrests, that is the question. It’s a matter of ergonomics, comfort and sociability. What's your preference?

Open plan kitchen diner with chairs round the table
(Image credit: Image: Brian Madden. Design: Custom Home Design by Nina Lichtenstein )

The dining room is a place to gather together your nearest and dearest to share meals, stories, and each other's company - occasions where everyone should be comfortably seated and able to enjoy the moment.

But when it comes to choosing dining chairs for your table, the question is do the dining chairs need armrests to provide the best outcome? It's a topic up for debate, and different designers have different opinions with the answer ultimately boiling down to preference and the ambience desired for your dining room.

So, how to decide if armrests are right for you? We asked designers to offer their guidance.

In full support

A round dining table with leather dining chairs around it

(Image credit: Robert Peterson. Design: Walter Studio Interior Design)

There’s no doubt about it, armrests do provide an additional support and comfort to diners, allowing them to relax and lean back into the chair at ease.

‘They’re ideal for long, leisurely gatherings and represent elegance and sophistication through their formal and refined appearance, this can elevate a dining room while also serving as a convenient resting place for arms and elbows,' Nina Lichenstein, founder of Custom Home Design by Nina Lichenstein says, making them the most comfortable dining chairs for all ages but especially children and elderly guests.

Bynn Esmond, founder and principal designer of Bynn Esmond Designs says she tends to select dining chairs with armrests for the host and hostess chairs: ‘It makes for a statement, and depending on their shape can be great conversation starters. They also provide support and a natural position for our arms to rest on.’ Resting your hands on the table can be portrayed as bad manners, so if this is relatable to you, armrests may be the solution.

What to consider

Contemporary fabric armchairs in grey and blue with armrests.

(Image credit: SenCreative. Design: Bynn Esmond Designs.)

There are some practicalities to consider when it comes to armrests which may be game changers depending on your individual case. Chairs with armrests may take up more space around the dining table, limiting seating capacity and making it difficult to squeeze in additional chairs for larger gatherings, which can be an important factor if you have a small dining room. There is also less flexibility for diners, in terms of restricting movement and sliding in and out of the chair once tucked in especially in compact areas.

In Nina’s opinion, the decision to include armrests on dining chairs ultimately depends on the intended use of the space and the preferences of the homeowners, ‘In formal dining rooms or settings where comfort and elegance are paramount, chairs with armrests can enhance the dining experience and create a sense of luxury and refinement,' she says. 'However, in more casual or contemporary spaces where flexibility and functionality are prioritized, armless dining chairs may be a better fit, allowing for easier movement and greater seating capacity.’

You’ll often find armrests in a more traditional setting, whereas they may not always complement the aesthetic of the dining table or room decor, particularly in modern or minimalist settings where clean lines and simplicity are preferred.

In sociable dining situations, where the focus is on conversation and connection, armless dining chairs may be the preferred option. ‘Armrests can create physical barriers between diners, inhibiting natural interaction and making it more difficult to engage in lively conversation across the table. Armless chairs, on the other hand, promote a sense of openness and accessibility, allowing guests to move freely and engage with each other more easily’, says Nina. This can be particularly beneficial for larger gatherings or informal meals where sociability and camaraderie are key.

3. Finding the solution

Dining room with wooden dining chairs and a large piece of art

(Image credit: Design by Lisa Staton)

By carefully considering the desired atmosphere, functionality, and aesthetic of the dining room, you can select the perfect dining chairs that enhance both comfort and sociability for gatherings to remember. Afterall, Liz Goldberg, founder and creative director of Carolynleona says, ‘Everyone’s needs differ, and function always comes first with seating!’

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.