How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools
03/10 Design Tips

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

Our simple, step by step guide

Picking bar stools and counter stools can be easier said than done, and we get a lot of questions about how to do it right.

There are a lot of guides out there on how to choose the right height and style of bar stools and counter stools. But, in our opinion, the hardest part about picking bar stools and counter stools isn’t measuring, but knowing what will work well in your kitchen.

So, we decided to spill a few of our secrets to create a simple, step-by-step guide with tips from our design team!

Here is our guide to picking the right bar stools and counter stools:

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

From our Crestview House.

Step No. 1: Pick your height

First, let’s cover the basics. One of the most frequently-asked questions we hear is:

“What is the difference between counter stools and bar stools?”

Counter stools are used under countertops, measuring at a standard of 34-39 inches, and bar stools are used under bars, measuring at a standard of 42 inches. The standard counter stool height is 24-29 inches tall, allowing it to fit directly underneath the countertop. The standard barstool height is 29-32 inches.

Although, of course, there are exceptions, typically, any bar stools or counter stools at standard heights should fit under any bars or countertops at standard heights.

Once you measure your countertop or bar, double check the measurements of the stool you are looking at to make sure it falls under the standard sizing.

Counter stool favorites:

Terrence Counter Stool
Reggie Counter Stool
Moore Counter Stool

Bar stool favorites:

Jasper Bar Stool
Bennett Bar Stool
Ensley Bar Stool
How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools
How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

Step No. 2: Consider function

When we’re picking bar stools or counter stools for our clients, we always talk to them about function.

“Think about how you will use the stools in your home. If our client wants more flexibility, we use a swivel stool or a backless stool. If they’re prioritizing comfort, we look at stools with arms or upholstery.” – Kelsie Lindley, designer.

There are many reasons to choose one type of stool over another. Some of our clients with little kids want to avoid swivel or backless stools, while others want to be able to move them throughout their home for multiple uses. Whatever your reasoning, make sure you love the function of your stools just as much as you love how they look! After all, chances are you’ll be using them every day!

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

From our SM Ranch House.

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools
How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

Swivel stool favorites

Where form meets function
McGee & Co.
Johan Counter Stool
Industrial Adjustable Metal Base
McGee & Co.
Kirby Counter Stool

Step No. 3: Choose your style

Although this is the most fun part, it can also be the trickiest. Like so much in interior design, there are countless ways to think about the “right” way to do something. When it comes to choosing bar stools or counter stools, that couldn’t be more true.

What works well is so dependent on the style of your kitchen. It’s hard to put our finger on what we “always do,” when picking bar stools and counter stools, (or anything for that matter) but here are a few things our design team recommends:

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

From our Cabin on the Lake.

Style tip: Try juxtaposing styles

We are all about a good dichotomy, especially when it comes to kitchen design.

“In a lot of instances, we contrast more traditional spaces with modern pieces. Of course, there are cases where we’ll do a traditional stool in a traditional kitchen, but we love the way different styles balance each other out to create interest. Say, for example, your kitchen is traditional in shape, style, and elements; adding a modern, iron stool can change the entire space.” – Kelsie Lindley, designer.

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools
How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

Style tip: Add texture 

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but texture is crucial in creating interest! We love to put an unexpected twist on the usual, and bar stools and counter stools provide the perfect opportunity to bring an interesting element to the kitchen.

How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools
How To Pick Bar Stools & Counter Stools

Textural bar and counter stool picks

Dimension adding favorites
McGee & Co.
Greely Counter Stool
Woven Counter Height Barstool
McGee & Co.
Ava Seagrass Counter Stool
McGee & Co.
Kersley Counter Stool
Show Comments
Studio McGee
  1. Curious what your advice is when you have the kitchen and dining room next to each other in an open space. How do you go about picking the stools and dining chairs since they will be so close to each other?

    1. Hi Adriana, great question! Check back tomorrow for a few tips about blending stools and dining chairs. 🙂

  2. I am really struggling with finding any stool that is comfortable. With so few storefronts in our area, it’s been a real challenge. It seems like the entire industry is moving online, but how can you buy furniture that you haven’t actually dat on? Any advice there? And thanks for this writeup too as it was really helpful.

  3. Whenever I see too many chairs so close together, it feels like the space can’t breathe. How much space should be between the chairs so that you don’t have to squeeze into your seat and don’t feel claustrophobic. It actually makes me feel anxious. I feel like even though a space might fit 4 chairs, 3 chairs might work better with room to maneuver.

    1. Hi Ann! Great question, we feel the same way! Our designers recommend leaving at anywhere from 4-6 inches between each stool base. Maybe more, but never less. 🙂

    2. Hi Ann. I’m a kitchen designer. I typically try to leave 24" per person. It can go a little less if the typical users are little (kids 😉 ). A little more is nice but yes, trying to fit too many stools and people into a space is uncomfortable to eat & socialize at and, yes, looks too crowded.

  4. I have white wishbones with woven seats at the kitchen table/banquet just adjacent to my island. I need new counter stools and currently we have upholstered (with a back) stools for comfort, however they are a lot to maintain with kids. Looking for something wipeable, yet comfy and must have a back.

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