Published on April 17, 2019

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Courtesy of Legacy Records

A great restaurant offers more than just exceptional food. Beyond effortlessly arranged watermelon radish salads, perfectly grilled arctic char, and crisp Grüner Veltliner, there are multiple sensory elements that make a meal memorable: dimmed lighting, dainty stemware, curated playlists, and yes—the perfect dining chair.

Not all restaurateurs agree on what this elusive seating ideal is, though: “Ultimate comfort and restaurant dining do not necessarily go together,” argues Laurence Edelman, the chef and owner of the West Village landmark Left Bank. “There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, but at a certain point, it can lead to being downright antisocial. A restaurant is a public space, and the seats should be designed to foster alertness and engagement.”

Hospitality experts go to great lengths to achieve a certain comfort level for their guests, and their criteria often expand to other areas (durability, structure, and style are often top of mind). These seasoned restaurateurs scour furniture fairs, antique marketplaces, architectural resources, and even other restaurants in search of the best dining chairs. Here, we asked six of them to share their favorite designs.

If you’re a utilitarian at heart…

“On 1st Dibs, I recently came across Galvanitas, a company that has manufactured school and stadium furniture since 1934. Its classic S.16 chair is timeless, incredibly durable, and comes in several colors and finishes. We recently used them in our newest Boqueria location in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC, and the subtle pops of color add a ton of personality to the space.” — Matthew Tannenbaum, design director, Boqueria

If you look for comfort above all…

“I live near Union Square in Manhattan, so ABC Carpet & Home is my go-to for dining chairs.

“When evaluating a chair, I always take into consideration a lot of things besides its look. What is the height of the chair? The clearance to the table? How does it support your back? I look for a chair that’s comfortable but not a lounge chair.” — Ryan Hardy, executive chef and partner, Delicious Hospitality Group

If you have minimalist sensibilities…

“If I could choose any chair for my next restaurant project, I would use the Seoto-EX Arm Chair from OOKKUU. In Japanese, ‘seoto’ refers to the sound of a shallow creek, and this collection is named for the soft but memorable impressions of the special carving techniques that accentuate the images of nature in the wood.” — Sidong Lang, partner, New Practice Studio

If you have a wild side…

“We have a handful of Louis XV armchairs, which have been painted and upholstered with jaguar-print fabric. They look great and are very comfortable, but are also large and expensive. We try to use them at the least desirable tables so the takers feel the love.” — Edelman

If you relish in long dinner parties…

“I love the Stellar Works Rén Dining Chair designed by Space Copenhagen, which can be found in 11 Howard’s library in NYC. It has great proportions and just the right amount of cushion.” — Tannenbaum

If you’re an art collector…

“I would love to mix Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne’s sculptural pieces like the ginkgo chair with other more functional chairs. I like the couple’s work because they masterfully blurred the boundary between fine and decorative arts. This piece fits in and contributes to the ambiance in restaurant settings, which seek aesthetic sophistication.” — Xuhui Zhang, director of real estate development and architectural design, Junzi

If you love a color moment…

“If I could choose any chair for my next restaurant project, I would choose the beet-hued Eames Chairs against the weather-stoned walls at La Colline du Colombier. This chair is one of the most striking and memorable design moments to my restaurant eye.” — Hardy

If you secretly wish you lived in Paris…

“Chairs, while obviously important, are not my biggest concern as far as restaurant design goes. But if money were no object, I’d definitely go with a quality version of a French rattan bistro chair with arms. They’re indestructible and look better with wear. They’re the chairs in the dream restaurant that exists in my head.” — Edelman

If you prefer your French style with a tropical twist…

“I read a lot of decor and design magazines, and every year I go to the Maison & Objet show for inspiration. For a modern twist on the classic French rattan bistro chair, I love this Lena chair from Bloomingville. It’s great for both comfort and design.” — Cedric Cadin, owner, La Cafette

If you value a design classic…

“I often browse through Instagram and Pinterest for initial inspiration, but my current favorite chairs among all my projects are the ones Tang Hotpot uses. The mid-century, Scandinavian-style chair was designed by Hans Wegner.” — Lang

If you’d rather splurge on a seat with a pedigree…

“Usually, you see Pierre Jeanneret chairs as statement pieces in small quantities or on display in a gallery. It would be fun to go crazy without any budget limitations and source vintage versions of these chairs from all over the world.” — Tannenbaum

 

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