Eating in front of the TV is bad for health and family life. Interior designer Jamie Hempsall looks at the  importance of the right dining chair.

Barely a week seems to go by without reports on the obesity and poor dining habits of the nation. A healthy eating plan focuses us on the correct foods, but it has been shown that where we eat can also impact on how much we consume and how healthy our choices are.

Over recent decades the formal dining room has fallen out of favour, but a dedicated eating area within your kitchen or a corner of your sitting room (with the TV turned off!) creates the perfect place for considered consumption. Dietary benefits aside, grouping the family around a dining table can also promote greater social interaction and generally be a more pleasurable experience.

Wherever you establish your dining area, your chairs are vitally important as no one lingers on uncomfortable seats.. You can economise on a table (or plan to upgrade it later), but investment in comfortable and attractive chairs will reap rewards.

Test a chair the same way that you would a bed. Sit on it for a reasonable period to confirm the seat is an appropriate size and has enough padding. You also need to test the back of the chair gives enough support and is not too straight. The better the sitting position the longer people will want to spend around your table.

Lime Green Chairs (£495; – 0208 518 5443)

Ensure that you are not swayed by design over function. Some more modern designs (even the iconic ones) are beautiful to look at, but can be hard and slippery to sit upon. Without that welcoming comfort you are really wasting your money.

You also need to consider the seated height of your diners in relation to the actual table. Ensure you measure the table height and have this with you when you are choosing your dining chairs. Ideally, when seated at a table your average diner should find the top of the table just below chest height to give a comfortable dining position.

Bespoke Leather Faced Oyster Chair (from £375; – 01775 712 111)

You can add height for smaller diners by investing in some proper dining chair cushions – your local upholsterer should be able to template from an existing chair and suggest suitable fillings to meet your requirements.  Similarly, you want to have enough leg clearance to ensure knees can fit comfortably under the table top.

Sailor Chair (£495; – 01434 240 304)

If you are looking at dining chairs with arms then ensure that they can clear the base of the table, to allow you to pull the chair close enough to dine comfortably.

Budget should not be a barrier to either comfort or style. However, given that you want your dining chairs to have plenty of use think of them as a long term investment (and spend a little more accordingly); it is usually well worth it.



Research by organisations such as the University of Birmingham has found that the more you focus on the flavour, texture and appearance of your food, the more full you are likely to feel at the end of your meal. This in turn should help reduce the chances of you snacking afterwards.

So moving your eating habits away from external distractions such as the television and ensuring that you have dedicated dining area in your home could help in a quest for healthier dining and dieting.


Jamie Hempsall, BIID, is a multi-award winning interior designer.