How to Choose Bar Stools

How to Choose Bar Stools (Ultimate Buying Guide)

There are a number of different factors to take into account when shopping for a bar stool. First, you need to decide what it is you are looking for. What type of bar is it? Do you need breakfast bar stools, kitchen bar stools, or drink bar stools? 

If you are looking for stools upon which you are planning to be seated for a lengthy amount of time, perhaps it would be wise to shop for cushioned or backed barstools instead of hard wooden bar stools. 

However, if you are looking for something sleek and contemporary, well-designed metal bar stools are sometimes the way to go. Perhaps you want your guests to be able to face each other while sitting at your bar? Investing in swivel bar stools might not be a bad idea then.

Bar stools and counter stools come at countless styles, shapes, sizes, finishes, fabrics, and prices. After selecting the size required and the quantity needed, there are still many decisions to be made. Here are a few tips to help with the selection process.

Location

Bar stools can be found at home. They’re in the kitchen countertop, island, or breakfast bar. They are in the media room at the bar where you entertain your friends. Bar stools are outside by the pool, in your own exotic backyard paradise—or part of that little vacation spot you can’t wait to visit again. They are at roadside diners, family eateries, and at your favorite restaurant.

Materials

Bar stools can be made from wood, metal, bamboo, rattan, and combinations of materials. Cushions can be soft leather, nostalgic vinyl, or a variety of stain-resistant fabrics.

Styles

Bar stools can be backless for simplicity or modeled with backs for extra support. There are some options with modern appeal and fantastic, retro models with shiny chrome tube frames. These memory-joggers have to swivel, cushy vinyl-covered seats in the brightest, boldest colors you’ve seen. 

Bar stools can be floor mounted for extra stability, or lightweight enough for the room to room mobility. They can match the surrounding furniture, or smartly contrast for a bold effect. They offer places to prop your feet—the rungs on models with multiple legs, or mounted footrests on the single support leg of the floor-mounted varieties. Bar stools come in varying heights; average heights are 24”, 26” and 30,” but they are also available in extra tall 34” and 36” heights.

Colors

Think about the look you are going for before setting out to buy a stool. Do you want something sleek and modern or a diner/retro look? What about the seat? Do you want one that swivels or is stationary? Will children be using the stools? 

If so, consider styles that feature easy wipe-up for spills. You need to also decide if you want a bar stool with a back or a padded seat. All of these preferences are important components to our buying guide.

No one wants shopping to be an overwhelming, indecisive nightmare. Read through the suggestions offered in this simple buying guide. Make sure you do all of your bar stool homework before shopping for stools. This will make for a much more relaxing, enjoyable shopping experience.

Price

Another important factor to consider when shopping for the right stool is the price. While it may be tempting to buy the newest and trendiest bar stool, you need to make sure it is within your budget to buy. Take into account how many counter stools you will need and consider how often they will be used. The more often you use them, the more often they will need repair and upkeep, and the more you need, the more your overall cost will end up being.

Determining the Right Height

Once you know the general effect you want to achieve, make sure you precisely measure the countertop or surface, leaving enough clearance space in between for leg comfort. Keep in mind that regular kitchen and dining room chairs are usually only 18” to 19”; but most kitchen tables are only 28” to 30” high. 

The average kitchen counter is 36” to 39”, requiring a 24” to 26” bar stool. Taller stools are needed for 40” to 43” counters; you’ll need one that is 30”. And for extra tall counters and surfaces, 46” to 50”, use the extra tall 34” or 36” bar stool. An easy-to-remember tip—you’ll need 9” to 12” between the top of the bar stool’s seat and the surface of the countertop.

Bar stools have been part of the home and social culture for a long time. Because they perform their function so perfectly, people will continue to appreciate them for years to come.

What size do you need?

18-inch stools are designed to be used at 30″ counter height, table or desk. This stool is commonly used at a bathroom vanity or make-up table.

18-in barstools

24 and 26 inch stools are relatively new in the market place. They have been developed specifically for the kitchen counter in homes, where there is no longer a place or space for the conventional table and chairs. These stools are designed to be used at counter height of 36″ – 39″.

24-in barstools

30-inch stools are designed for bar counters that are 42″ – 45″ in height. This stool size is also suitable when being used in a family room around a pool table or shuffleboard.

30-in barstools

34-inch stools are a custom size stool, most would not need this height in a barstool. This stool is designed specifically for a bar which is 48″ in height.

If you are buying numerous stools remember to measure the length of the counter or bar. Once you decide if you would like wood or metal you may want to decide whether to choose stools with or without arms. 

In small areas consider purchasing stools without the arms to provide additional space. For optimum comfort allow 21 inches between small stools and at least 24 inches between larger stools that have arms or a swivel mechanism.

How many stools do you need?

Length of Counter or Bar Measure the usable length of the countertop or bar.

The general rule is 21″ per stool for a small stool and 24″ for larger stools with swivels

and arms. Some very large stools may require more than 24″.

Determine the options you want.

  • Swivel or Stationary
  • Wooden or Metal Frames
  • Backs or Backless
  • Arms or Armless
  • Upholstered or Solid Seats

Select several designs that meet your decorating desires.

Wood Species – Oak, Maple, Cherry, etc

Dozens of staining options.

Cloth, Vinyl, Leather, etc.

Typically, better-made products have longer life expectancies, better warranties, and higher prices. Some manufacturers and dealers offer custom options (usually at an upgrade cost). Check this carefully if you need custom finish, fabric, or size. Some companies will use customers’ own material for upholstery.

When comparing products find out as much as possible about the materials used. For Example: If purchasing a leather-upholstered stool, is all the leather or just the seat? If purchasing an oak stool, are the pieces solid oak or smaller pieces glued together and then cut?