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Dining room chair

Plain, functional and designed specifically for Parliament House.

A wooden chair with cherry red leather seat cushion and back, and square legs with protective brass caps on the base of each leg.

These chairs were designed for the dining room of Parliament House in a plain, functional style. Made of Queensland maple, which is sometimes referred to as 'silkwood', they feature an upholstered seat and back, and the small pyramids along the top rail used by diners to grasp and draw the chair away from the table are the only decorative embellishment. 

The order for the chairs was so large their fabrication was handled by six firms – Myer Emporium Pty Ltd, W H Rocke and Co, Anthony Hordern and Sons, Beard Watson & Co, Bebarfalds Ltd and A Pengelly and Co.

This is just one of the 267 dining chairs in our collection designed specifically by the Architects Department of the Federal Capital Commission – a group of draftsmen led by principal architect John Smith Murdoch. 

When the newly-built chairs arrived, they were dispatched to the dining and recreation rooms used by parliamentarians, guests and staff in the south wing of Parliament House – collectively known as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. 


The dining chairs were used for Royal visits, State Receptions and formal dinners.

The chairs were immediately pressed into service for the State Luncheon on the day the building was officially opened, 9 May 1927, when the Duke and Duchess of York and guests enjoyed a three-course lunch prepared by the Parliament House chefs.

This technical drawing for the dining room chairs shows three views of the chairs – front, side and top – with the measurements shown in imperial measurements (ie, feet and inches). The plan also provides the details of the top rail and a chair leg. The subject matter of the drawing, the source and the drawing number, scale and processing are noted along the base of the plan.

Technical drawing of the dining room chairs for Parliament House prepared by the Architects Department, Federal Capital Commission, 1926.

This black and white photograph looks along the length of the high-ceilinged Members’ Dining Room at Parliament House. Northern light floods in from windows and French doors on the right-hand wall. Rows of rectangular dining tables surrounded by hundreds of dining chairs span the width of the crowded room and on the left-hand wall is a timber servery.

Hundreds of dining chairs were handcrafted for the Members' Dining Rooms and other areas in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms, 1927. Photograph by William J Mildenhall/National Archives of Australia: A3560, 3423

The Refreshment Rooms and these dining chairs also hosted other Royal visits, State Receptions and formal dinners including the State Banquet in 1954 for the Royal tour and the 50th birthday celebration for Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in 1980. 

This black and white photograph shows a section of a dining table in the Members’ Dining Room with national flags hanging in the background. General Douglas MacArthur is seated at the head of the table with a microphone in front of him; he is between Deputy Leader of the ALP Frank Forde and Prime Minister John Curtin.  Other politicians are seated at the table which is set with white linen, silverware, glassware, crockery and flower arrangements. Uniformed waiters and waitresses stand behind the diners.

US General Douglas MacArthur, centre in a light-coloured uniform, visited Parliament House on 26 March 1942 for meetings and stayed on for a meal in the Members’ Dining Room. Photograph courtesy of Joy Hoffman /Museum of Australian Democracy Collection

This black and white photograph captures the moment before a dinner  celebrating the 50th anniversary of Federation in the Members’ Dining Room at Parliament House. Small dining tables seating two to four guests are set up in the foreground with white linen tablecloths and napkins, silverware, crockery, bread rolls, floral arrangements and menus. In the background are tiered tables laden with food and crockery and topped with ice sculptures, centrepieces and floral arrangements. In the midground, 23 members

Commonwealth Parliamentary Refreshment Room staff before a dinner celebrating 50 years since Federation in the Members’ Dining Room, 1951. Photograph courtesy of Joan Frost /Museum of Australian Democracy Collection

In this professional colour photograph, Gary Punch MP and Senator John Stone are seated at a dining table in the Members’ Dining Room midway through lunch. The table is laid with silverware, glassware and a floral arrangement. Gary Punch is wearing a dark suit with white shirt and striped tie. Senator Stone is similarly attired but in a brown suit and he is wearing glasses. In the background other politicians are dining and light is pouring in from high windows and French doors.

What are the Refreshment Rooms in Parliament House?

The Refreshment Rooms were designed to provide everyday in-house dining and recreation facilities, a critical function in the early years when there were very few other dining options for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff close to Parliament House. They also provided some measure of comfort in compensation for long hours of work and lengthy periods away from home.