How to Build a Spectator Chair

Dennis Hartman

A spectator chair, sometimes called a billiards chair, is a tall chair with long legs and a low back. This type of chair is useful for events, such as billiards, where spectators in a rear row need to see over the heads of participants and other spectators, or for seating at a high kitchen island or breakfast bar. You can build a spectator chair out of basic materials to save money and customize the finished product.


Spectator chairs come in a range of styles, which makes settling on a basic design the first step in building one of your own. Some reflect the arts and crafts movement, employing simple geometric forms and exposed wood joints. Others are more ornate and feature hand-carved wood detailing. Simple mission oak spectator chairs fit with most styles of decor. Since spectator chairs often have cushioned seats, the choice of fabric is as important as the selection of wood and finish.

Planning and Preparation

One of the easiest ways to produce plans for a spectator chair is by adapting an existing set of plans for a basic side chair. Extend the legs by several inches and add a rail several inches above the ground. This wills strengthen the chair and provide the necessary height. It also creates a place for a user to rest feet while seated. A custom spectator chair can be built to your height so that you can get in and out easily but gain as much height as possible while seated.


Spectator chairs rely on simple carpentry construction techniques. Joints are typically made by carving tenons on the ends of sawn supports and drilling mortises into the vertical posts that form the chair's frame. Use wood glue and clamps to seal joints tightly. To build the seat, wrap a plywood plant and cushion or layer of foam batting in the fabric you select, then staple the excess fabric to the back of the plywood. Screw the cushion assembly into the frame of the chair from below.

Finishing and Care

The finish you use on a spectator chair depends on the type of wood and the look you want. Sanding and painting is an option if you want a colorful chair that matches your room's decor. Staining wood for a more natural look is another option. On both cases, finish the chair's frame before installing the seat to avoid accidentally dripping pigment onto the cushion. Wax and occasional cleaning with oil soap will keep your spectator chair protected from temperatures and moisture in the environment.