How to Pair a Head and Side Dining Chairs

Pairing together head chairs and side chairs | Ballard DesignsIf you flip through our catalog, you’ll notice that many if not all of our dining rooms feature head chairs that coordinate but don’t match the side chair. We love this look because it brings drama and personality to a space. It also helps break up the dreaded ‘dining set’ which can feel dated. The only trouble is knowing which side chairs to pair with which head chairs.

We thought we’d walk you through the process and give you some of our favorite tips:

Casual head and side chairs come together in this dining room | Ballard Designs

1. Casual or Formal?

When pairing two chair styles together, think about whether the chairs have the same level of formality. In other words, don’t pair a stately wingback headchair with a wicker or woven chair. And by the same token, a casual head chair works best with equally casual side chairs. The actual style may differ, but it has a similar feel.

In the dining room above, we wanted a casual feel to go along with the vibrant color palette. Our Gramercy Dining Chair is upholstered in a burlap on the outside which lends the space a decidedly laid-back vibe. Similarly, our Rosalind and Dayna chairs both have the same casual look.

Side chairs that complement shape of head chairs | Ballard Designs

2. Think About Shapes

Now, we definitely don’t recommend the chair shapes match. Part of the fun is bringing in contrast! But think about having at least one common element between the two chairs. So if you have a head chair with a curvy silhouette, consider side chairs that also have rounded edges.
Black chair legs unite the head and side chair | Ballard Designs

3. Consider Materials

There should be some thread between the two chairs, and the material is a great way to weave that common thread. Maybe it’s a similar finish of the leg or perhaps it’s a similar metal color. In the dining room above, for example, our Marlene and Oval Louis chairs have very different shapes, so instead we chose black frames to unite the two.

Do you love this look as much as we do? Would you try it in your own home?

Browse all of our dining chairs or see our full guide for choosing dining room chairs.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    March 22, 2018

    Perfect timing! I’ve been pondering this idea for my new outdoor dining table. Any favorite chair combos for out there? Haven’t made any purchases yet, so I’m wide open to ideas!

    I’m a big fan of the blog and the podcast! 🙂

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      March 23, 2018

      So happy to hear that, Sarah! And glad you found this post helpful. Outside, I would follow the same rules — especially about finish/color and shape. I love using Suzanne Kasler’s Campaign Chair as a head chair, especially paired with her wicker side chairs. They have similar clean lines, but the campaign chair makes such a great, casual statement at the head of the table. I have four of those campaign chairs at my own house and love them!!

      I also love the idea of mixing our gray washed wicker dining chairs with our black metal chairs. The finishes are so similar, but you can play with different pieces.

      • Sarah

        March 25, 2018

        Thank you, Caroline! Love those campaign chairs!