Bar Stool Buying Guide - DezignSpace

Bar Stool Buying Guide

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When it comes to bar stools, you literally have thousands of choices, so selecting the right height, features, and material isn’t exactly straightforward. This guide will help walk you through the critical decisions you’ll need to make to narrow your options down to the perfect pick. Are you ready?

Here’s what you need to know to make your bar stools the best seat in the house: 😉


Bar Stools vs. Counter Stools

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There’s nothing more frustrating and awkward than sitting on a stool that isn’t the right fit. 😬 Too short, and you feel like a kid at the grown-up table, too high, and you’ve got bruised knees. Before you start checking out bar and counter seating options, you first want to measure the height of your bar or counter.

Measure your bar or counter from underneath the countertop to the floor. Once you have this number, you can select the appropriate stool height by subtracting 10-12″ from your counter height. Remember, you want to have plenty of space between the counter and your legs without having to sit too low. 


Counter stools are made for counter-height surfaces around 35-37″ high, with the average seat height of counter stools ranging from 24-27″ high. 

Bar-height counters sit at 41-43″ high, with bar stool heights ranging from 28-33″ high from seat to floor. 

Pro tip: Do you have family members or guests that come in a wide range of heights? Solution: Get an adjustable stool that can easily slide up or down to the right height. 


How Many Stools Should I Get?

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Knowing the height of your barstools is only half the battle. ⚔️ While it’s tempting to immediately try and get as much seating out of the space as you can, you really need to measure to determine how many stools are ideal. If you want comfort (i.e., not being elbowed when seated), you want to allow about 6 to 12″ between the edge of each stool. Bar stools also come in different widths (average 18-20″ without arms), so be sure to factor this in when determining how many stools will fit comfortably.

Key Features to Consider

Once you have your measurements and know what type of stool you need, you can start thinking about style and functionality. 



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Backless stools are a great small-space option because they can easily be tucked beneath the counter and won’t take up precious floor space when unused. But (and this is a BIG but!) they are much less comfortable to sit on for long periods. So, if this is your primary dining space, a backless style likely won’t provide the support you need. Stools with backs come in a few shapes and styles. Some have lower backs, only offering lumbar support, while others have full, high backs similar to dining chairs.

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Arm Rests

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Like dining chairs, you can select styles with and without armrests, and it really comes down to a matter of preference. Armrests look more formal and will provide added comfort, especially if you’re sitting for extended periods. However, stools with armrests are not so great for tight spaces!

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A swivel means that the seat can twist all the way around while the legs stay stationary. Bar stools with a swivel feature are especially great if you have an open kitchen/dining/living space, as they allow people to easily turn and face other parts of the room. 


Foot Rests

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Don’t want your feet dangling? Then consider a stool with a footrest. Some styles even have several bars to accommodate people of different heights. This feature will keep you and your guests more comfortable, particularly when sitting for a longer period of time.



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Stackable stools easily nestle into each other and are a great option if you don’t use your stools year-round and will store them away at the end of the season. A great feature for outdoor bar areas!


Style and Materials

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Once you decide which features are essential to you next, you’ll consider your stools’ design style and material. Important- you don’t want to pick a material that happens to align with your design style- you also want to consider your lifestyle needs and what materials will hold up to it. Think about comfort, durability, and cleanability in addition to style when making your material selection. 



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Metal may be less comfortable to sit on for long periods, but it’s incredibly durable and easy to clean!  A very kid-friendly option!! You can also add a cushion for added comfort. Metal stools suit Contemporary, Modern, Industrial, and Modern Farmhouse spaces.

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Wood is one of the most popular choices for bar stools as it is very durable and can fit across a wide range of design styles. A light, natural finish complements Coastal, Rustic, and Scandinavian design styles, while a dark stain will read Traditional. Of course, the shape of the stool will have a significant impact on which design style it’s best suited for. Since wood is a hard material, you may want to add a cushion for more comfort.

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A very on-trend material, rattan can give a Coastal or Bohemian vibe to a space. Lightweight yet sturdy, rattan holds up well over time and can also be used outdoors when weather-treated.

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Depending on the style of your bar stool, this material can make it look either very sophisticated or down-to-earth. Usually, leather stools will have metal legs, which gives a sleek, clean look. Although leather isn’t the easiest material to clean, it ages pretty well as it transforms scratches, scuffs, and spills into a charming patina. This material can suit nearly any design style, especially Mid-century Modern, Industrial, and Rustic spaces.

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An upholstered stool will have a more formal vibe and give your counter a pulled-together look. With a bit of cushioning, this is one of the more comfortable materials for a bar stool; however, it’s prone to stains and can be more difficult to clean, so it’s not exactly the most kid-friendly option. Upholstered stools have a pulled-together, formal vibe and perfectly suit Traditional and Transitional spaces.

Check Out These Links For a Few of Lisa’s Favs:


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Perfect for small spaces, this transparent material doesn’t add to the visual footprint of your counter area. It’s also effortless to clean; however, it’s not exactly the most comfortable material to sit on. Acrylic stools are perfect for Glam and Modern spaces.

Check Out These Links For a Few of Lisa’s Favs:

Do you have a question about what bar or counter stool height is right for your space? Let us know in the Clubhouse! We promise you’ll have your answer PLUS plenty of extra inspo in no time! 

By the way, have you checked this out yet? Which Tabletop is Totally You?

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