How to choose the right bar & counter stool

How to choose the right bar & counter stool

Whether you’re looking to perch peacefully in a brekky nook or live large with an at-home bar, bar stools offer you endless casual eating, drinking and general sitting opportunities. But before you jump right into setting up your flexible seating space, there are a few things you need to know about how to choose the right bar and counter stool. Read on for our complete bar stool buying guide.

How to choose the right bar stool

It’s not rocket science, but it definitely poses its challenges! When picking out bar stools, you’ll need to take into account a few different measurements and select a style you’re into. We’ve put together a bar stool buying guide to make it easy to choose the right stool for your home.

1. Measure your counter height

When it comes to bar stools, the colour, style and feature choices are endless. The only real consideration you’ll have to factor in is the height of your counter or bar space. In Australia, residential kitchen counters and commercial bars have standardised measurements, which are:

. 90cm for the kitchen bench
. 105cm for a commercial bar

That being said, anything old or DIY’d may have different measurements, so it’s best to grab the measuring tape just in case. Tall tables, kitchen islands and dining tables also all have varying heights. 

Take height by measuring from the floor to the underside of the counter or bench. The height of your kitchen counter, for example, will determine how tall your counter height bar stools should be. 

2. Determine the ideal bar stool height

Once you’ve figured out how high your counter or bar is, you’re in the best position to choose a height for your bar stool. How high a bar stool should be will come down to counter height, the surface’s intended purpose, and personal preference.

As a general guide, most people prefer between 20 and 30cm clearance between the top of a seating surface and the underside of a table, bench or counter. Remember that counter height is measured to the base of the surface, while bar stool height usually refers to the distance between the ground and the top of the seat. So, if your kitchen counter is 85cm tall, look for a bar stool that’s around 60cm high. This should enable you to comfortably rest your elbows on your kitchen or dining surface, allowing you to eat, drink or work with ease. 

When working outside of these guidelines, keep in mind that you may lose some functionality of your counter, bar or bench if your stool is either too low or too high. 

3. Consider bar stool size

From large, cushioned and backed bar stools to sleek and minimalist designs, there are bar stools in a whole range of sizes to suit any space. Some may prefer a larger bar stool with more sitting room for comfort, while others may opt for a few narrow stools for a more minimalist aesthetic. Your decision will come down to personal preference. 

You’ll also need to consider the size of your seating area before settling on bar stools. Keep in mind that chairs will ideally have 60cm of space between them to allow each person to move comfortably. In a 2m wide area, you may be able to fit three smaller sized stools, but only two larger seats.

4. Pick your bar stool colour, comfort and other features

With height and size covered off, all there’s left to do is to get shopping! Select the material, style, shape and colour of your stools and place them by the kitchen counter, bar, island or table. Here’s a quick guide for all your styling options.

Bar stool materials

Whether it’s polished stainless steel or decorative rattan, your options for bar stool materials are plenty. Match the style of the rest of your furniture or change it up by choosing bar stools in a different material. Here are some common bar stool materials:

. Timber
. Metal
. Rattan or wicker
. Fabric
. Leather
. Plastic or polyresin

Bar stool decor style

Dreaming of a casual Scandi dining space? Or is mid-century style more up your alley? Spruce up your bar or kitchen counter space with bar stools in your choice of decor style. Here are just a few styles to get you inspired:

. Art deco
. Contemporary
. Mid-century modern
. Boho
. Coastal
. Farmhouse
. Hamptons
. Industrial
. Retro
. Scandinavian

Bar stool shapes

Referring to the shape of the seat, bar stools come in a small variety of shapes to suit any preference and style. We’ve listed some common shapes for bar stools:

. Round
. Square
. Rectangular
. Abstract

Other bar stool features

From plush, tall backrests to bar stools with gas lifts, there are many bar and counter stool features to factor into your buying decision. Here are a few questions to ask throughout the buying process:

. Do I want a backrest?
. What colour do I prefer?
. With arms or armless?
. Does it need to be stackable?
. Is adjustable height/gas lift important to me?
. Do I need it to swivel?

If you’re buying bar stools for the home, the decision to include or exclude these features will come down to personal preference, but it’s a little more tricky in a commercial setting. The ability to adjust the height of the stool may be important in a restaurant or bar, where patrons may have vastly different heights. If you’ll be using it in a business environment, make sure your stool is commercial grade and designed to stand regular use. 

Whether you’re outfitting a kitchen bench, dive bar or casual workspace, this bar stool buying guide should help you pick the right piece (or more likely pieces) for your space.

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