What Distance Should I Leave Between My Dining Chairs?

The day has come and your will is written and all must attend your illustrious dinner party to find their standing.  Everyone has bought themselves a new outfit with a price tag to match their expectations.  Depending on how things shape out, someone may be face first in a soup bowl.

Well, hopefully not.  More likely, you’re just having a normal dinner party, maybe a few friends over, or just trying to inject a bit more formality in your life by actually eating at the dining table.  Whatever your reason, you realised you don’t know how far apart these dining chairs should be and that’s a problem.


Get your tape measure out and sit the end dead in the centre of the seat.  From there, measure 24 inches or 61 centimetres (you can see why we put inches first) and wherever that point is, is where the centre of the next chair should be.  This should give you plenty of room as long as you’re not working with particularly oversized chairs.  

If you are working with oversized chairs, try to give at least 6 inches between the chairs so that people can comfortably move in and out from the table.  Try not to go over 36 inches between chair centres, as it will create too much distance between guests.

Eyeballing It

Maybe you don’t have a tape measure or don’t feel like getting it out.  How do you quickly judge the distance?


Many people didn’t bother practising the etiquette of keeping their elbows to themselves while eating and even if you did, you can assume some of your guests didn’t.  This makes for a good measurement though.  Sit down on the chair and think, “if someone was beside me and we were both pretending to be chickens, would we be hitting each other?”  That’s your gauge and adjust accordingly.

The Child Problem

Messy child at table

When you’ve got kids, get measuring those little arms and add a few centimetres.  This is crucial placement for dinner times with young children that haven’t quite got a handle on the manners thing.  Luckily, most kids at this point have little arms so they’re not on opposite sides of the room unless things get really bad.  

Keep them a single arm’s distance (taken from the longest armed child) and that way you can spot the lean before the hit.  You do have to stay aware; this gap creates the perfect placement for a dog that will happily partake in stealthy food theft.

Not all children need to follow the arm guide.  Don’t be afraid to upgrade your kids to big kid seating distance when you can trust them to behave at the table.

The Corner Chair

Bad and naughty children get the corner chair.  The corner chair serves no other purpose than punishment for the sitter and all adjacent to it.  The corner chair placement is always encroaching on other’s space.  It does not fit.  

You only set the chair here out of desperation and next time you should invite fewer guests.  Do not set the corner chair.

Which is, more often than not, a stool anyway.

Distance from the Wall

Chairs aren’t your only issue, there’s the dreaded wall.  Someone has to walk between that wall and those chairs and they need plenty of room otherwise it’ll be a disaster.  Your ideal here is a minimum of 90 cm, allowing diners to pull their chair out, sit on it, and for you to pass by behind them.  If you have the luxury of a larger dining room, don’t be afraid to exceed this to provide the comfortable walking space you need.

But My Room Is Too Small

The modern world is cruel and the dining room is tiny.  The best thing you can do for your tiny dining room is getting a round dining table.  Those shaved off corners are going to give you a little more space to work with, freeing you from the confines of no corner chairs.  

Your guest can back their chair into the corner of the room and it’s no problem.  Avoid oversized chairs, avoid chairs with arms and minimise what you can to maximise the space.

Now How Do I Sit My Guests

The guests have arrived and it’s vitally important that they are seated correctly.  As the host, you will be head of the table, your co-host will sit opposite you at the other end of the table.  

If you have a guest of honour, they will sit on your right.  If you do not, your favourite of the bunch is now the guest of honour so that you can chat with them.  That’s all pretty simple, so what about the rest?

It’s recommended that the best conversationalists sit at the centre of the table, allowing them to talk and be heard by everyone.  This helps keep the conversation alive and stops one end of the table from being quieter than the other.  No one wants to feel left out.

If any of your guests have brought young children, make sure the children can sit beside at least one of their parents and be prepared for the parents to switch seats depending on which of them their child prefers.  It’s also best to make sure children have easy access out of the room in case they need to go to the facilities with a parent in tow.  

They may also just feel the need to wander or go play, so having them close to the door to come and go as they please will save them from causing too much disruption to the other guests.  If there are enough younger guests, it may be worthwhile to set up a mini dining table in a living room or playroom so that they can relax and interact with each other more casually.

Now that you know how to setup your dining room, why not head over and take our style quiz now, and get instant recommendations matching your style and budget.