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Here’s How to Pick Bar Stools for Your Home

Picture this: You walk into a beautiful, posh bar. The lights are low. A pianist plays soft jazz on the stage. The bartender is wearing a cumberbund. But when you sit down on the bar stool, you’re dismayed – the bar comes all the way up to your chest, and the atmosphere is ruined, all because someone picked the wrong bar stools.

You can stand up and go to another bar, but at home, you need your kitchen counter and bar stools to work as intended. They need to be the right height, and comfortable enough for how you intend to use them. If you have kids, they need to be kid-friendly. They need to fit in with your decor, and they need to be the right width to fit at your counter or bar area. Here’s what you need to know to choose bar and kitchen stools that won’t make you feel like a child every time you sit down on one.

Measure Your Counter or Bar Height and Width

Size is one of the most important considerations when it comes to buying stools for your home bar or kitchen counter. The stools need to be the right height to leave you nine to 13 inches of legroom, while also leaving enough room between stools to comfortably get in and out of the seat without disturbing the person sitting next to you. If you choose swivel stools, you’ll need to leave more room between stools than you might otherwise, because there needs to be knee room for diners swiveling to the side.

You should measure the height of your kitchen or bar counter before you go stool shopping, so you can buy bar stools that are the right height for your counter. Measure the height of your counter and shop for stools that are nine to 13 inches shorter. Thirteen inches typically leaves enough leg room to cross and uncross your legs without hitting your knee. 

You should also measure the width of your counter, because you need to know how many stools you can realistically fit in the space. Sixteen- to 18-inch stools will need at least six inches, if not more, between each stool and between the stools on the end and the edge of the counter. Stools 19 to 22 inches wide will need at least eight to 11 inches of space between each stool and between the stools on the end and the end of the counter. You should also plan to leave more space between stools that swivel, even if they’re smaller.

Consider How You Plan to Use the Stools

The type of stools you buy will depend on how you plan to use them. If you don’t think you’ll be sitting on your stools for long periods, you don’t necessarily need stools with armrests, backs, and lots of padding. However, most people intend to sit in their stools at least long enough to eat a meal – and if you can see your kids sitting at the kitchen counter to do homework or your friends lingering over cocktails at your home bar, invest in more comfortable stools. Stools with a little padding are a lot more comfortable to sit on. Armrests and seat backs will also add a lot of comfort.

Get Kid-Friendly Seating

Kids generally need more padding in a seat to feel comfortable sitting in it for an extended period – the length of time it takes to do homework or eat a meal. Armrests and seat backs can be very grounding for small kids who have trouble sitting still. 

Kids also love swivel stools, but be advised that if you put swivel stools in your home, your kids will swivel on them. That could be bad news if the kids are banging the back of the stool against the counter repeatedly every time they sit down. Either buy stools with padded backrests, or skip the swivel stools altogether. And make sure your stools are easy to clean – choose leather, vinyl, or wipeable crypton fabric to guard against the spills and messes kids make.

Match the Stools to Your Decor

Bar stools and kitchen counter stools present a great opportunity to add some interest to your decor, but they shouldn’t clash too much. You can try juxtaposing styles, but make sure the colors harmonize with the rest of your decor. If you want to experiment, try experimenting with texture – leather, wicker, wood, and fabric all bring interesting textural elements into play.

A kitchen counter or home bar lined with barstools can be a cozy place for family meals, helping kids with homework, or entertaining friends. Make sure your bar stools are up to the job they’ll face, so you and your family can sit pretty for years to come.