Style: Think out of the box for dining room seating

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

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.

Contrasting host chairs

The days of having to have 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 foot of the table.

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. 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.

We like to stir together different materials when we create dining configurations. A set of bamboo chairs used as the host and hostess seats is a nice contrast at a casual table. Add a pop of color with a cushion or pillow.

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.

Slide in a bench

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! A gorgeous cane-backed bench, with its soft seat cushion and velvet pillows, looks formal, even though it’s an informal piece of furniture.

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 decor and price range.

Use mix of side chairs

When you buy a dining set, the chairs are usually the first thing to go. 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. As long as everything harmonizes, you can use a host of seating options at one table.

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

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at