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How to Choose the Perfect Bar Stools – a Buyer’s Guide

If you’re after new stools to deck out your kitchen island or bar, read this buyer’s guide today

Houzz Australia Contributor. Former Chief Copy Editor of GoodHomes, India Magazine…. More

Breakfast bars are deservedly popular in modern kitchens… which inevitably begs the question, what stools should you pair with yours? Often more used than dining chairs, kitchen stools need to be sturdy, good looking and just the right height. And while the thought, ‘How difficult really is it to buy a few good bar stools?’ may have crossed your mind, there’s more to buying than meets the eye.

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Buy right
The best kitchen stools will represent a combination of design and comfort. And while it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the variety of designs available, you’ll need to carefully evaluate your requirements before zeroing in on your purchase. You see, the wrong stool could leave you feeling dissatisfied and uncomfortable. What’s worse is that you won’t see it coming until a few days after you’ve used your bar stools extensively. So, how do you make your purchase worthwhile?

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First things first
Bar stools vs kitchen stools: The only real difference between the two is height, since bar islands are higher than kitchen islands. Since height is the only differentiating factor, we will use the terms bar stools and kitchen stools interchangeably.

Browse bar stools in the Houzz Shop

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Measure up
Kitchen and bar stools will vary in height, so it’s crucial to evaluate the best height for your requirements first up.

Remember to always calculate a stool’s height from the floor to the seat and not the backrest. A good way to measure your kitchen stool’s height is to first measure the height of the kitchen bar. Calculate from the floor to the under-side of the bar, island or table. Now subtract 25-30 centimetres from this height and you have your ideal kitchen stool height.

Tip: When you’re out shopping, consider how the stools will sit under the island worktop when not in use. How much empty space would you consider having around each stool?

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Knowing your measurements in advance is a good way to narrow your options down significantly. Typically, you’re looking at island stools in the height range of 58-72 centimetres. Bar-height stools are taller and could range from 74-82 centimetres.

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Features worth considering
Adjustable height: These stools come with a hydraulic gas-lift mechanism to help you achieve a comfortable height when seated. Always remember to invest in a quality gas-lift stool that can withstand everyday use.

Swivel: With the swivel feature, you’ll be able to turn around, or move from side to side without moving the base of the stool. A swivel function is lovely to have while you enjoy a cocktail at your bar bench.

High back and footrest: If it’s comfort you’re after, a high-backed stool may be an investment worth considering. It’ll offer full back support and you’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of designs. For more comfort and ease of access, you may also want to consider a footrest.

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Spacing matters
Ideally you can decide how many bar stools will work for your kitchen bench or bar based on this measurement: at least 15 centimetres of space between each bar stool to sit and move comfortably without your arms touching your neighbours’.

Tip: Also remember to make note of your seat width. If your stool has arms, it will extend the width of your stool and by that reduce the number of stools you can have at your bar/kitchen island.

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What’s popular
Speaking about popular designs today Stina Eriksson, senior buyer at homewares company Zanui, says, “Overall the wooden tops continue to be strong and mixing natural materials (like rattan or mango wood) with a metal base is a great option in most kitchens”.

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Metallic accents are also popular this year. Think copper or metallic backless bar stools that are as rugged and solid as they look.

Tip: Also look for rubber pads underneath the stool’s legs to keep your floors protected from scratches.

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To keep in mind while shopping

  • While the preference is purely personal, you may want to keep in mind that round stools are likely to occupy more space than their square counterparts.
  • Always remember to review the materials of your stool to understand how sturdy and durable it is. A heavier stool isn’t automatically stronger.
  • Are you looking to save space? Is your bench area limited? If yes, you may want to go with swivel bar stools. Alternatively, backless bar stools are great too. Another option is wooden stools that you could fold and stow away when not in use.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget to match your bar stools with your kitchen décor. You don’t want clashing designs.

Tip: It’s a great idea to match the shade of wood on your kitchen bench with that on your bar stool. The look will spell cohesiveness in your kitchen.

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