My #1 Tip for Making a Dining Room Cozier Starts in the Living Room

published May 31, 2024
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Hear me out: Nothing beats banquette seating in a dining room or small breakfast nook. That’s because it’s like lounging on a sofa at your dinner table, and that makes for very comfortable meals and parties. But maybe you don’t have the space or budget to build out a custom bench. You could go the IKEA built-in hack route or just bring in a regular bench or a settee for seating. I’d argue, though, the easiest, cheapest option for making your dining table seating more comfy-cozy has been sitting in front of you all along: chair cushions and throw pillows. 

What is it about seat cushions and throw pillows that make them so prevalent in banquette setups but not paired with individual dining chairs that have wood, metal, polypropene, or even woven seagrass seat construction? I’m blaming minimalism. Decades ago (I’m thinking the ’80s and ’90s, but surely before) you’d see seat cushions and fancy flourishes gussying up everything, including even the most basic dining chairs. As the appetite for more streamlined silhouettes took over in the early aughts, though, chair pads and extra pillows fell by the wayside for the sake of simplicity. If you wanted more cushioning, you’d simply buy upholstered dining chairs (with their layer of cushy foam) or, at the very least, you’d find an option with upholstered seats. Of course, these kinds of chairs usually come with higher price tags. So, these days, if you don’t want to splurge, you just deal with dining chairs that aren’t that comfortable.

Credit: Erin Derby

Well, I’m here to tell you that you can have your seat and have it be comfy again, too, without spending a fortune. Just about any throw pillow you’d find at a home store can work for a dining chair; you just need to make sure it’s neither too small nor too big to fit your chair’s frame. To avoid the cost of going custom, stores like H&M Home and Anthropologie are stocking seat and chair cushions again in more and more colorways. Some of them are designed for outdoor use, as outdoor dining chair cushions never really fell out of favor for whatever reason. But anything designed to be outside will be even hardier than something for indoor use only. So in my book, that’s a win!

You could always buy an inexpensive chair pad and have it recovered in a fabric you love, too, if you want to dip your toes into a more bespoke on a budget vibe. Aside from the comfort factor, I’m also a fan of bringing in chair pads and living room throw cushions into dining rooms and kitchens simply because they’re another surface for color, pattern, and personality. They’re protective in that way, too; if they can be laundered, they’re all the better for shielding your chairs’ frames from stains and spills.   

Want a little bit of styling inspiration on how to make this look work for your home? I found some examples from our house tours. Get ready to bring a little coziness and color back into the dining room (by way of the living room) starting today. 

Soften Up a Shell Chair

Eames-style chairs are injection-molded for comfort, but, at the end of the day, they’re still hard plastic. A well-placed pillow can go a long way here. Bonus points if yours coordinates with your rug, as shown in this modern eating area.

Credit: Erin Derby

Look for Lumbars

Like the example above, this sweet setup proves the power pink pillows can have in perking up an otherwise neutral dining space. They’re on every chair here, versus just at the heads of the table, which adds an extra touch of coziness for all sitters. And instead of squares, these cushions are lumbar-shaped, which really deliver on back support. 

Pops of Pattern

These specific lumbars are styled more like chair pads, even though they don’t cover the entire surface of the seats. Guests can position them however they feel most comfortable when they’re over at your home for a dinner party or meal. 

Credit: Erin Derby

Sunny Seats

Your seat cushions or dining room throw pillows are a great place to add color and pattern to what can sometimes be a stuffy room — at least in the case of a formal dining area. I love the way these circular chair pads coordinate with the nearby IKEA cart and yellow wainscoting.