I’m moving into my brand-spanking new apartment in (fingers crossed) a matter of weeks; and while I have the majority of my shopping list locked down, the one thing I am really struggling to make a firm decision on is whether to buy upholstered or non-upholstered dining room chairs. There are arguments both for and against.
Upholstered do often look more ‘luxe’, there is an argument that they’ll be more comfortable on the derrière for those long post-dinner conversations but on the flip side if something gets spilled on them, they’re invariably going to be more tricky to clean. Having said that, I don’t have children and not planning on inviting any children over for dinner in the foreseeable future. I’d like to think my friends and relatives aren’t complete animals at the dinner table so…likelihood of spillages is low. But, accidents do happen. On the downside, I have found that upholstered are also typically more expensive, particularly when you start looking at designer materials and leathers.
Non-upholstered have the clear benefit of being wipe down; are usually a slightly cheaper alternative and if you wanted something soft on which to rest your back-side, can have seat pads and cushions added to them. Going non-upholstered means you won’t wear down seat cushioning and can get seat cushions or pads in whatever colour takes you fancy and change them as often as you like for a quick ‘refresh’. Changing upholstery colour is a much costlier problem.
I really am having a chair crisis. #firstworldproblems
So, what sort of designs am I thinking of going for?
It is probably best to share with you what I have decided on for a table first…
Say hello to the Marble Top Tulip Table.
Sadly, my budget won’t stretch to buying the ‘real deal’ table by Eero Saarinen but if you do find yourself with a spare £6,626 of cash to splash then get yourself over to The Conran Shop right away. I am not ashamed to say I’ll be going with a replica, for less than a tenth of the price (around £600). There are plenty of online retailers who offer faithful replicas of design classics. And anyway, who needs to know that it’s not truly designer? I won’t tell anyone if you don’t!
Even if a replica is a bit too much of a stretch on the purse strings, it is still possible to ‘get the look’. There are plenty of ‘tulip style’ tables around that you can pick up for under £200, like Habitat’s Lance table at £175 or IKEA’s Docksta table at £130. eBay is also a good place to look as you never know if there is someone in your area selling an item on your shopping list and you might pick up a bargain.
Time to talk chairs
I have spent more time than I care to admit trawling over Pinterest boards of “what chairs go with tulip tables”. I’ve come to decisions, made complete U-turns, gone back to my original decision only to then have a late contender thrown into the mix. Half the problem is that there is simply too much choice out there. It’s like when I walk into Accessorize. I end up walking out empty handed because floor to ceiling, on every wall I’m bamboozled with choice. My brain goes into overdrive. It can’t process all the options and I walk out empty handed simply because I am unable to make a decision. I think I know what it is that I want, and then something prettier rears it’s head and goes “pick me!”. There must be a psychological term for this level of indecisiveness! But the fact of the matter is, I need to make a decision or else I’m going to be eating my dinners on the floor for a long time to come.
The Beetle Chair by GamFratesi
I fell in love with this chair when I saw it on a Pinterest board and from that moment I made it my sole mission to track down the designer of this chair and a UK supplier. I was successful in accomplishing my mission; only to discover that the chair retails at an eye-watering £798 per piece. Damn me and my expensive taste! Yes, you read that right…£798. So the first thing I do is chuck some keywords into Google “Gubi Beetle Chair Replica”. Zilch. Not a thing. There are similar chairs out there, like the Safia from made.com which you can pick up for £179 a pair. I like them, but they’re not available in the ‘millennial’ blush pink that I so adore, plus they lack that beautiful curve where the back of the chair meets the seat which I am so captivated by with the design of The Beetle.
The Beetle speaks for itself in terms of beauty. Wouldn’t you agree?
If I had £2,500 to spend on 4 chairs, I wouldn’t even think twice but clearly, this is not a realistic contender.
The Beetle Chair Un-upholstered by GamFratesi
I was chuffed to bits when I saw that The Beetle Chair was available at a much lower price point, without the plush velvet.
At £289 a piece, this is a smidge over the upper limit of what I was willing to spend on dining room chairs. I had set myself a total budget of £1,000, but I had always said to myself when it came to furnishing my apartment I would blend key designer pieces with more reasonably priced ‘high street’ finds. If this means being the proud owner of a set of Beetle Chairs, I may just be willing to stretch. There is the option to compromise on the colour of the chair legs and opt for a black metal leg to lower the price; plus when buying 4 of the same colour through Cimmerman they offer a further reduction bringing each chair in at £219 a piece – well within budget and delivering a saving of £280.
What else could I buy for £280?
West Elm has this week just launched some new arrivals, and when I clicked through on the email that had landed in my inbox, I found something that was exactly what I had been looking for. It was love at first sight with this round rug. At £299, the what I would save on choosing black instead of brass chair legs would mean that the rug practically pays for itself. But brass is so pretty!
The Beetle (un-upholstered) would be an indulgence, but at least I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone throwing curry sauce or red wine over an expensive upholstery. This is definitely a contender and is also available in a soft grey plastic as well as my favourite shade of muted pink. If I wanted to soften it up, then I would pair this chair with a sheepskin seat pad like this one from Graham & Green.
I discovered this chair when I was searching for dining tables; before I had made the firm decision to go with the Tulip Table. The Orb Chair which first grabbed my attention was upholstered in a dusty pink with antiqued brass legs, but when I contacted West Elm UK to ask why I couldn’t find them on their website, they came back and told me that the pink chairs were only available in the US. That annoyed me.
The Orb chair in their ‘yarn-dyed linen weave’ retails at £249 a piece, which is exactly within budget. John Lewis has, in the last few months, started to stock West Elm products in stores and online; they offer a leather version of The Orb chair in a light grey they call ‘cement’, but that will set you back £399 a piece.
The Orb is a beautiful chair and definitely a strong contender in the upholstered category.
This chair was for a very long time my front-runner, and it is still a strong contender. It is the cheapest of all contenders which is, of course, a draw. What I find though is when I look at it in photos, I love it but then when I actually touch it and feel it, I fall out of love slightly with it. For £159 a piece, I don’t really want to feel mold lines on the legs for example. Aesthetically, I think it is a really interesting chair.
The Master’s Chair is a nod to three of Kartell’s most iconic designers and their most iconic chair designs. It blends the lines and silhouettes of The Serie 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen, the Tulip Armchair by Eero Saarinen and the Eiffel Chair by Charles Eames into one beautiful piece.
I am planning on having white walls in my apartment, so there is something very clean, modern and stylish about pairing white chairs with a white table. Will white stay brilliant white for long? That is the question! Although as I’m going for the marble top, a grey or a black Masters chair would also look great and I wouldn’t have to worry about scuffs and oily finger marks on the pristine white as much. Like the un-upholstered Beetle chair, I would pair these with a seat pad, perhaps this velvet cushion from H&M home – a real bargain at £8.99 each.
This is such a beautiful chair and really appeals to my love of Scandi design. Danish designer Hans J Wegner (1914-2007) features twice in my shortlist of chairs. He trained as a cabinet-maker before attending the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts, where he later lectured from 1946 to 1953. The Royal Society of Arts, London, made him an Honorary Royal Designers for Industry in 1959. The chair itself was designed in 1949 as one of the first models created especially for Carl Hansen & Son and has been in production since 1950. The CH24 was the last in a series of chairs Wegner designed based on inspiration from antique Chinese armchairs.
You thought The Beetle was expensive… depending on the type and finish of wood and choice of seat material, one of these chairs will set you back anywhere between £544 to a whopping £1,055 each for original designer pieces. The cheapest combination on Skandium being Beech, Soaped finish with Natural Pepper Cord and the most expensive being a Walnut in either Clear Lacquered or Oiled finish with Black Pepper Cord. Clearly, these sorts of prices are well beyond the reach of most people, but it is still possible to get the design for a fraction of the cost by researching faithful replica suppliers.
The difficulty with choosing this design is then deciding from the abundance of wood colours, finishes an type of cord. Just too much choice! I do think they look super scandi, super stylish…and with a sheepskin throw super hygge!
Stay tuned to find out how the Dining Dilemma gets resolved!