Ask Design Mom: Seating for Thanksgiving Dinner

Question:
Dear Design Mom, We recently renovated a 100 year old dentist’s office in a small Indiana town for use as a second/weekend home. The house has a fabulous porch that is glass on three sides and brick on the fourth. We are planning to use this area as a room to host large dinner parties. For Thanksgiving, we need to seat around 23 people. My husband made two large tables using metal sawhorses and wooden boards. They look great! My problem is seating!! Every chair I see that has a style I love is way too expensive to purchase in such large numbers. Do you have any ideas of creative affordable seating?  I’d love to keep it around $20 – $30 dollars per person. The style is sort of eclectic industrial — if there is such a thing. Thanks! — Amy V.

Answer:
Wow, Amy! Sounds like Thanksgiving is going to fantastic. When I need a large number of chairs, I love renting them. In fact, the last time I arranged seating for Thanksgiving, I asked the rental place to show me their most vintage looking option and they brought out some beautifully aged wood and metal folding chairs (that they were sort of embarrassed about, but that I loved!), and I rented them for $2 each. They were even delivered and picked up for free.

I know you’re looking for something to own, not to rent, but until you find those perfect chairs, renting might be a great option. As far as hunting down those perfect chairs go, I would suggest 3 things:

1) Call the oldest schools and churches in town and find out if they ever have surplus sales.
2) Watch ebay and craigslist like a hawk.
3) Speak with a couple of your favorite antique shops. Tell them what you’re looking for and the price range and quantity you’d like. When they’re on buying trips, they might spot the perfect chairs.

Lastly, maybe you can take some inspiration from the haybale seating at this lovely backyard wedding.

What about you, Dear Readers? Where would you hunt for “eclectic industrial” chairs?

41 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom: Seating for Thanksgiving Dinner”

  1. i would make sure that whatever chair you get be either stackable or foldable if you are planning to own them. otherwise, where would you put all of those 23 chairs?!

    1. I am loving how so many people so readily offered up suggestions so cool :)
      Blair LOL love the hay bale seating idea
      Love those silver stacking chairs Anu!

  2. If it were me, I would start hunting on Craigslist. You may not find your chairs right away, but if you are diligent about checking the postings in your area(s), you won’t believe what pops up. We bought a floor model antique (working) radio last week. The month prior to that we bought a mahogany sleigh bed quite cheaply from a couple who was moving to another state.

    Sigh, I sure love Craig and his List.

  3. I wonder if you might ask a chair rental place if they had a group of older chairs they’d be willing to sell. They’d be more likely to have a large quantity of a style you loved than an antique store would, at least.

  4. I live in Indianapolis, and purchased a bunch of antique, all-wood chairs from a guy in Irvington (suburb of Indy) off of craigslist. I think he owns City Cafe. He purchased close to 100 of these chairs from some sort of school auction for his restaurant. May still have them!

    Definitely look into the public auctions. There are some real gems.

  5. Second the public auctions. My mom has a huge set of great folding wooden chairs from the 1950’s, bought at an auction, for about $10 each. I also wanted to suggest checking out the hotel closeout stores. While they can be hard to hunt down outside of large cities, if you find one they’re usually full of amazing deals. Folding chairs or easily stacked dining chairs are just the type of thing they would have.

  6. I scored at a community college surplus sale–beautiful wooden chairs for $2 each. It really does pay to call any community, trade school, or university in your area to find out about surplus sales.

  7. The idea of haybails in an industrial setting with beautiful blankets and linen over them sounds so perfect for Thanksgiving I think! I know I’d be excited to be attending. My mother in law recently purchased 200 really decent looking chairs (maybe a bit plain, but still nice looking) at World Market. If you don’t have one locally, they are online too.

    1. I didn’t have access to World Market in New York, but I have one here in Denver only 10 minutes away. We buy all our glassware there. And it’s such a fun place to find cool imported stocking stuffers.

  8. Purdue University has a salvage place, and there are always old wooden school chairs there. Not sure if that is close to you or not, but thought I’d give you the heads up.

  9. I am so inspired by all of these ideas! I have to check out these public and university surplus places!!

    I like the bench idea, too…especially if you can use them elsewhere in your house when not in use for dining…at the foot of a bed, as a luggage stand in a guest room, porch coffee table…etc.

    The only thought I had was that if you find ones you aren’t thrilled with, whether new or vintage, and yo don’t have time to paint 23 entire chairs, you could just paint the lower halves of all the chair legs (same or different) a fun color…orange for fall? silver or gold? plain white or black? I saw this…on here, maybe, Gabby? or maybe on apartment therapy. It looks like the chairs were partially dipped in paint.

  10. Amy-I wish you were a little closer because our town’s auction (held the last Friday of every month) always has the best deals on antique chairs. Sometimes they need a little work, but most are okay with a wipe-down, then they’re ready to go. At the last sale, I bought three chairs for $7 TOTAL. Each is different and when grouped together (with all my other chairs) the look is beautifully eclectic and a little rustic. I think if you really purpose between now and say, November 20th, to comb Craigslist and rummage sales and your neighbor’s curbs on trash day, you could come up with an amazing collection! Think of it as “T-Day Chair Challenge 2010” and put your game face on. You can do it! And by the way-I’m so glad you reminded us how lovely an al fresco Thanksgiving can be. I just learned that I’m hosting about as many people as you are and your sawhorse solution will be my saving grace. Any ideas on where everyone will sleep? :)

  11. I didn’t read ALL the great comments, so this may have been mentioned — but, I’d just start buying any ole chair I liked and have a variety collection of chairs. The storage maybe the problem – but, if not – what fun. I bet your guests would claim “their” chair and then discuss the benefits of choice.

  12. I’d try salvage yards or Habitat for Humanity. Google Architectural Salvage and Deconstruction or Habitat for Humanity Improvement Outlets.

  13. um. i have no advice about chairs. all i’m wondering is where are the pictures of those tables your husband made???? I need a big table that is easy to construct (sorry Gabby, I don’t have a handy nephew over the age of 3).

  14. i’m leery of the bales of hay only because if i had to sit on them it would make for a not-so-great thanksgiving result! i’m allergic to hay in a major way (beware, host of the thanksgiving get together of seating allergies! ha).

    i’m totally looking up that public surplus idea! i really think that the renting idea is stellar because thanksgiving is next week, and you’d have to be a quick purchaser to go for buying something soon. (and having it stick around)

  15. Wow! I love all the great suggestions. I don’t have any pictures of the awesome tables my husband made, but can tell you he just used the galvanized steel looking sawhorses you can buy at any big box hardware store. He bought the boards at a lumber yard. He used 3 wide. I can’t remember the width of each – maybe 8 – 12 inches. We didn’t have them planed perfectly as we wanted a more rustic look. We did stain them, though. We just used fasteners to attach them together on the underside and then screwed them into the ready made holes on the sawhorses. EASY! The table is the perfect height when finished, plus we can take them outside if we want.
    I don’t need to worry about storage for the chairs as they can stay in this room around the table year round. However, I may look into metal folding chairs and make some sort of cover. I’m thinking burlap or linen!!! I’m still pondering all the options.

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