Our home has a HUGE kitchen island that accommodates 5 counter stools with room left over. Our massive kitchen counter bar is one of my favorite features in our home. I often sit at the counter reading magazines, surfing a tablet or just chatting with my wife.
Our home is open concept so our long kitchen counter bar with stools is great when we have company over. We often congregate around the kitchen. My wife and I are like bartenders offering drinks and snacks while our guests enjoy their time at the counter.
If you have the space in your kitchen, I strongly recommend getting an island and buying counter or bar stools… chairs or somewhere to sit in the kitchen is nice touch if people tend to congregate there.
Bar and Counter Stools Really Can Make Your Room Look Better
Don’t buy just any old stool (just as you shouldn’t buy just any piece of furniture). Put some thought and research into it. When chosen well, your stools can ENHANCE your room’s décor.
To this end, we’ve organized this “Stool Buying Guide” in such a way so that you can methodically go through the different elements of a stool to put together a feature, design, style, material, and color set that’s right for you.
Also, each type of stool set out below includes an image of a stool serving as an example.
A. Bar Stools vs. Counter Stools
B. How to Choose the Right Stools for You
C. Stool Features
D. Stool Designs
E. Stool Styles
F. Stool Frames
G. Stool Seats
H. Stool Height
I. Stool Colors
J. How Much Should You Spend?
A. Bar Stools vs. Counter Stools
Technically, the only real difference is height. Bar counters are generally higher than kitchen counters.
However, in today’s interior design environment, this isn’t always the case. There are many 2-tiered kitchen islands resulting in a kitchen breakfast bar counter that’s as high as a typical bar counter.
The key is that you buy the right height of stool for the counter at which you wish to place them. One stool feature I like (which we don’t have) are adjustable stools. This way the stool can accommodate most people regardless of counter height.
FYI – Because the only significant difference between bar stools and counter stools is height, when setting out the types of stools below, we use the terms interchangeably.
Besides, the height difference is becoming more and more blurred as kitchen breakfast bars and counters do vary in height as well.
B. How to Choose the Right Stools for Your Counter Bar
The most important buying tip is to ensure you buy the right height for the particular counter at which they’ll be stationed.
The recommended stool-to-counter height formula is to ensure you have 9″ to 13″ from the top of the stool seat to the under-surface of the counter. This ensures there’s sufficient leg room.
The trouble with this formula is that some people require more leg room (like me) while other people less. Obviously this is why adjustable height stools are so popular.
C. Types of Bar Stools Features
The 2 features you need to consider when buying a stool of any kind are:
1. Adjustable Height
When buying an adjustable height stool, look at the range it adjusts to ensure it meets your needs. Typical ranges are 6 to 10 inches.
2. Swivel Capability
Swivel means the seat spins around. It’s definitely a nice feature. Unfortunately, our stools don’t swivel, but I wish they did.
This is a 4-legged swivel stool with wood frame and upholstered seat and back.
3. Adjustable & Swivel Stools
You can certainly buy combo adjustable and swivel stools.
Set of modern chrome frame adjustable and swivel stools.
4. Folding Stools
Some stools can fold up for easy and compact storage.
Amazon. Simple backless folding stool with cushioned seat.
D. Types of Bar Stools Design
Stool design refers to the design features of the stool. As with most types of furniture stools these days, you have many options. Consider the following stool design elements:
Modern chrome finished pedestal stool that adjusts up and down.
a. 4-Legged Stools
Wayfair. 4-legged wood-framed armless stool with off-white upholstered seat and back.
b. 3-Legged Stools
3-legged backless stool with round distressed seat.
There are a surprising number of common stool back options – from backless to various back designs. The following are pictures of common stool back options.
2. High Back
High back stool with chrome finished frame and upholstered seat and back.
3. Low Back
Low back height adjustable stool with chrome finished pedestal base.
4. Solid Back
Wood bar stool with a solid back and upholstered seat.
5. Mission Back
Wooden counter stool with Mission-style back and cushioned seat.
6. Cross Back
4-legged stool with a cross back design and cushioned upholstered seat.
7. Ladder Back
White ladder-back stools.
8. Windsor Back
Wood swivel stool with Windsor back.
1. Has Arms
Amazon. Sturdy wooden bar stool with arms and upholstered back and seat.
Wood armless stool with a ladder back.
E. Types of Bar Stools Styles
Stool style refers to the design theme of the stool. Popular bar and counter stool styles include:
Modern stools are typically molded designs with pedestal bases. The following is a very popular and highly rated modern stool.
Modern adjustable stool with chrome finished pedestal and black upholstered seat and back.
Traditional backless stool with ornate legs and upholstered round seat.
Coastal stool style with rattan back and arms.
Pair of armless white cottage style stools with brown seats.
Rustic round backless stool.
Pair of tiki style stools with wood frames and twine seats.
Wood stool designed in the barrel style with square seat.
Basic saddle style stool with wood legs and black upholstered seat.
Retro / Mid-Century
Pair of retro stools with chrome-finished frame and round, black seats.
Pair of Scandinavian style wood saddle stools.
F. Types of Bar Stools Frame Material
Popular stool frame materials include wood (oak, walnut, cherry and pine), stainless steel, aluminum, wicker, rattan, and metal.
1. Oak Stool
Oak swivel stool with Windsor back.
2. Walnut Stool
Walnut saddle stool.
3. Cherry Stool
Cherry wood bar stool with upholstered back and seat.
4. Pine Stool
Pinewood backless saddle-style stool.
Metal framed armless stool with a metal back and cushioned seat.
G. Types of Bar Stools Seat Material
Stool seats are either upholstered (with cushion) or not. If not, the seat is typically the same materials as the frame.
Upholstered seat materials include:
1. Leather Back Stool
White leather counter stools with wood exposed wooden legs.
2. Leather Backless Stools
Backless leather-seat stools in the saddle-style with wooden legs.
3. Faux Leather
This ornate bar stool has a faux leather seat.
Kitchen counter stools with microfiber upholstered seat.
Modern adjustable stool with molded plastic seat and back with chrome finished pedestal base.
6. Wicker Seat Stool
. Wicker seat and back stool with wooden legs.
H. Standard Stool Heights
Stool height is important. Buy stools with approximately 9″ to 13″ inches of clearance between the stool seat and under-surface of the counter or bar. Because counter and bar heights are somewhat universal (they do range somewhat), the standard stool heights are:
Short: 16″ to 23″
Example of short stool with a height of 23 inches.
Counter Stool: 24″ to 27″
Example of standard counter height stool.
Bar: 28″ to 33″
Example of a bar height stool.
Tall: 34″ to 40″
Example of an extra tall stool.
I. Popular Stool Colors
When choosing a color for your stools, you must consider both the frame and seat color. Generally, the stool frame dictates the frame color, so usually people searching for different types of stool colors are really looking at the color of the seat. Popular stool seat colors are:
Modern white stool with chrome-finished pedestal base. This is an enormously popular modern stool. You can check out 35 white modern stools here
Pair of the black seat and back stools with chrome finished pedestal base. The upholstered areas are a tufted pattern. These stools are adjustable up and down.
Red upholstered armless counter stool with red back.
Modern green upholstered stool with chrome-finished pedestal base.
Modern orange upholstered adjustable height stool.
Set of modern purple molded adjustable stools.
Blue upholstered 4-legged stool with blue back and seat.
Grey kitchen counter stools with wood legs.
Multi-Colored Stool Set
There’s no rule stating every stool must be the same color. You can certainly buy different colored stools such as the set below.
3-stool set, each a different color – red, white and black.
J. How much should you spend on a stool?
You can buy inexpensive stools for under $50 or spend $1,000+ per stool. The range is huge. You can even have custom stools built for a greater cost.
It really depends on the room in which you’re placing the stools. If it’s a brand new, luxury kitchen, you don’t want to scrimp on your stools. While you don’t have to spend $1,000 per stool, you definitely want stools befitting your custom kitchen.
On the flip side, if you have a casual family room in the basement done on the cheap and you wish to keep the budget low, there’s no reason to spend an arm and a leg on stools in a basic room design. After all, $600 stools won’t take a room from okay to spectacular.
Set a stool budget commensurate with the design and importance of the particular room.
TIP: Some bar and counter stools are sold in sets. Obviously, this can result in a lower cost per stool. It’s unusual to buy just one stool.
K. Frequently Asked Questions
How tall are bar stools?
Bar stools are typically between 28 and 30 inches tall. The seat height of a bar stool is important so that you can be sure that your guests will be comfortable sitting at your bar.
How are bar stools measured?
Bar stools are typically measured from the floor to the top of the seat. However, some bar stools will have a backrest that adds to the overall height of the stool. In that case, the height of the bar stool would be measured from the floor to the top of the backrest.
What size bar stools do I need?
The size of the bar stools you need will depend on the size of your bar or counter. If you have a small space, you may want to consider using counter stools instead of bar stools. Counter stools are typically shorter than bar stools and can be tucked under the counter when not in use.
What size bar stools for a 34-inch, 35-inch, 36-inch, or 42-inch counter?
In general, you will want to choose a stool seat that lands 10-12 inches below the counter. This will give you enough room to sit comfortably without your legs being cramped up under the counter.
How many bar stools for a 7-foot or 8-foot island?
It is generally recommended to have one bar stool for every two feet of counter space. So, for a 7-foot island, you would need at least three bar stools.
You will want to leave about 12-18 inches of space between each bar stool so that your guests will have enough room to move around.
How many bar stools for an 8-foot, 9-foot, or 10-foot bar?
For an 8-foot bar, you will need at least four bar stools. For a 9-foot bar, you will need at least five bar stools. And for a 10-foot bar, you will need at least six bar stools.
Again, you will want to leave about 12-18 inches of space between each bar stool so that your guests will have enough room to move around.
How many bar stools for a 5-foot island?
The general rule of thumb is to have one bar stool for every two feet of counter space. So, for a 5-foot island, you would need at least two bar stools.
Remember to leave about 12-18 inches of space between each bar stool so your guests will not feel over-crowded.
How many bar stools do I need?
This depends on a couple of factors. First, you need to decide how many people you want to be able to sit at your bar or counter. Second, you need to take into account the size of your bar or counter.
If, when you follow the seating rule of 1 bar stool per 2 feet, you find that you don’t have enough space at your bar for all the chairs, you might consider getting counter stools instead.
Counter stools are shorter than bar stools and can be tucked under the counter when not in use, freeing up valuable space.
How much space between bar stools?
Typically, you’ll want to leave about a foot to a foot and a half between each bar stool. This will give your guests plenty of room to move around, grab snacks, and not feel crowded.
Can you mix and match bar stools?
Yes, absolutely! In fact, many people choose to mix and match their bar stools to add interest and variety to their space. Just be sure that if you are mixing and matching, you choose bar stools that are similar in style so they don’t clash.
For example, if you have a more traditional space, you might choose to mix and match different shades of wood. Or, if you have a more modern space, you might choose to mix and match different metals.
Are bar-stools bad for your back?
This is a common concern, but there is no need to worry. If you choose the right bar stool, it can actually be good for your back.
When choosing a bar stool, be sure to look for one with a backrest. This will support your spine and help to keep you comfortable while sitting.
Can you shorten bar stools?
Yes, bar stools can be shortened. Some models are adjustable. For models that are not adjustable, you can make a DIY project out of them.
This is a relatively easy process that can be done with a saw. Just be sure to measure twice before cutting so you don’t accidentally make the stool too short.
What kind of paint to use on bar stools?
For indoor bar stools, you can use any kind of paint you like. For outdoor bar stools, however, it is best to use paint that is made for outdoor furniture. This will ensure that your paint job lasts longer and doesn’t chip or fade in the sunlight.
Do bar stools have backs?
Not all bar stools have backs, but many do. Having a back on your stool can provide extra support and comfort. If you choose a stool without a back, be sure to choose one that is comfortable to sit in without the support of a backrest.
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