Make Room at the Table for Everyone

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One of the joys of Thanksgiving and the holidays is packing your home full of people you love. One of the challenges can be finding a spot for everyone to sit around your table. Don’t shrink your guest list to fit your dining set – use my three favorite tricks for fitting more folks around the table without compromising the overall awesome look of your dining area.

  1. Add contrasting host chairs.

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The days of having all your dining chairs match is long gone. Now, we are free to curate unique configurations of chairs around our tables. I’m thrilled about this, because it allows you to select seating options that are the best fit for your family’s functions. One of my favorite looks? Putting unexpected chairs at the head and food of the table.

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Whether you want to shift your existing dining chairs around to fit more people in for a big dinner party, or you just want to give your dining grouping a fresh, updated look, put a pair of wingback chairs at the head and foot of your table. I am crazy about this look, and we show it a lot at Nell Hill’s. The wingback chairs can be a permanent part of your dining configuration. Or, you can borrow them from your living room when you have dinner guests.

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As you’ll see from all these photos from Nell Hill’s Briarcliff, we like to stir together different materials when we create dining configurations. Here we used bamboo chairs as the host and hostess seats, a nice contrast at this casual table. Add a pop of color with a cushion or pillow, like we did here.

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Check out these unique host and hostess chairs – leather seats and plaid fabric backs. Love! Scout around your home for a pair of chairs you could put at the ends of your table for your next party. I’ve even used little benches at the head and foot of my table to seat two people there, not one.


  1. Slide in a bench.

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Benches are fabulous when you’re entertaining a group because they allow you to seat a lot more folks than you can with chairs. Have little people coming for dinner? You can fit several on a bench! This gorgeous cane backed bench, with its soft seat cushion and velvet pillows, looks formal, even though it’s an informal piece of furniture.

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Benches come in a wide variety of styles, from modern to traditional, casual to formal, so you’re sure to find one that fits your décor and price range. I fell for this fabulous bench, with its contemporary detailing and rich wood.

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If your dining space is casual, here’s the bench for you! It’s a great partner for this farm table and ideal for a family, since you can wipe up spills in a snap. Check out the cubbies below the seat. I can see this piece in a mud room or entry space to store shoes, backpacks, sports gear, you name it.


  1. Use a mix of side chairs.

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When you buy a dining set, the chairs are usually the first thing to wear out. They get all the wear and tear, so, depending upon the quality of the furniture, the legs can break or fabric soil. Instead of replacing the whole set, just mix in a few new chairs that complement the look of your table and the remaining chairs.

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At this table, we twirled together a wild assortment of chairs: Two wingback host chairs covered in luxurious velvet, a casual cane bench popped up with pillows and these formal English side chairs with classic rush seats. As long as everything harmonizes, you can use a host of seating options at one table!

No matter how you line your table with seats, the most important thing is to make sure there is a spot for everyone so the party is merry!

Next Week … Join me at Innisfree, my cottage by the lake, to see how I warm up my snug little spaces for the coming winter months.