How To Choose The Right Bar Stools

I've been specing new stools for a few different projects lately and it has been time consuming. Finding the right stools at an affordable price can be challenging because there are so many factors to consider, including height, style and comfort. Given this, I thought it might be helpful to share a quick guide to help you find the best stools for your kitchen.

I love these Cherner counter stools. They look striking in this kitchen; great scale, style and height. 


There are four heights: short, counter, bar, and tall. To determine which height you need, measure the height of your counter. Keep in mind that you need between 9" - 12" between the seat and the counter.  Here is an easy guide to find the ideal bar stool height:

Short or Chair Height:  

A casual alternative for dining tables or breakfast nooks.
Surface height: 28-30 inchesSeat height: 16-23 inches

Counter Height:  

Designed for kitchen islands or home bars.
Surface height: 35-39 inchesSeat height: 24-27 inches
Bar Height:  

A taller bar-top option that you'll find in most restaurants.
Surface height: 41-43 inchesSeat height: 28-33 inches

Tall Height:  

The go-to choice for high surfaces.
Surface height: 44-47 inchesSeat height: 34-40 inches

Short/Chair stool heights are generally 18" from floor to seat. Use with a table or counter that is 36"-39" in height.

Counter stool heights are generally 24"-27" from floor to seat. Use with a table or counter that is 35"-39" in height.

Bar stool heights are generally 28"-30" or 33" from floor to seat. Use with a table or counter that is 41"-43" in height.

Tall height is 34"-40" inches from floor to seat. Use with a surface that is 44"-47" in height.


It is equally important to leave enough space between the stools for people to eat and socialize without bumping elbows and to allow maximum comfort. Here are a few rules of thumb you might find helpful:

Distance Between Stools

An easy way to determine the distance between stools that I use is to measure 26" to 30" from the center of one stool to another. Since bar stool widths can vary, I find this way to be the most accurate. You want to leave enough breathing room between the stools once they are all in place.

If you choose stools that swivel and/or have arms, you will need to add a bit more space between stools.

These bar stools are perfectly spaced. If you choose upholstered stools you may not be able to fit as many stools for comfortable seating. These linen and iron pipe counter stools are Furniture Classics.

Legroom Between Stool and Countertop

Leave 9" - 12" between the stool seat and the underside of the surface so people will be able to sit comfortably.


When determining the right stool for your kitchen there are many different styles to choose from; to help you determine the style and comfort of stool that will ultimately work in your kitchen, consider these questions:

Do you want to make a design statement or do you want more discreet seating?

Do you want to match or layer materials in your kitchen?

Will the stools you really want work in the space you have?

What type of stool will work best: backless, half back, full back or upholstered?

What is most important: is comfort king or is it all about the looks? Do you need swivel or stationary? Do you need the height to be adjustable?

Tip: Regardless of what the style is, staying mindful of scale is always important, not just with regard to the space they sit in, but also in context with other furnishings.


If your stools are in a busy or narrow corridor or you don't want a look that overwhelms your island, consider choosing backless seating that can be easily tucked under the counter.

This style of bar stool is one of the most universal designs. It is both light and industrial and the wood seat is considered to be comfortable.

Metal bar stools breathe a little fresh air into spaces by introducing a contrasting material and texture. They're ideal if you want to layer materials in your kitchen and they can be found in various styles, including full back.

Tolix Bar Stool

These wooden bar stools add contrast and an element of warmth to this white kitchen. The stained seats tie together the warm wood trim on the island, hood and open shelves.

If your stools will be used where food is served, consider a low-maintenance material such as metal, wood or leather. 

If you choose upholstered stools, look for a microfiber that will wipe clean. Or, choose cushions that you can swap out.

If you love to entertain and want something more lounge-worthy, choose a broad-backed stool with deep seating. 

If you want a back, but prefer to retain a little openness, consider a bar stool with an open splat which takes up minimal visual space. This stool is Wegner.

These backless white metal bar stools add a coastal feel. This stool comes in several different colors and 24" or 36" heights. See below for the link.

If space is limited, or if you prefer a non-cluttered look, consider simple, unembellished stools that stow under the bar top.

Whether the style of your kitchen is contemporary, farmhouse, traditional, or rustic, you can find a stool that complements your look. If you treat the counter as more of a place for snacks and chatting while cooking, having a full back isn't quite as important, or for a streamlined or contemporary look, a low back stool would look nice.

The last tip: There is no need to be too matchy-matchy.  If your dining room is adjacent to your kitchen, it's not necessary to match the style of seating. And if you already have a lot of wood, try mixing it up with metal stools.

Here are a few ideas to get the look:

Smart and Sleek Stool - Short


Lompoc Stools - Wayfair - $43 - $50

Beachcrest Home Kirkwood Bar Stool - Wayfair $50
Calligaris Ice 31.5" Bar Stool - Wayfair
Design Tree Home 25" Bar Stool - Wayfair $324
Breakwater Bay Rum Point Bar Stool - Wayfair $243

Do you still need an idea? Here is some handy information from Ballard Designs to help you:

I hope this quick guide with tips and ideas will help you choose the right bar stools for your space.

Have a great weekend!


Photo credits: 1&2 Kristin Jackson with Hunted Interior/ 3 / 4&5 Caitlin Creer Interiors - Instagram / 6 Barclay Butera Interiors - custom / 7 Kim Macumber Interiors / 8 Capitol City Homes / 9&10 Eclectic Kitchen Design / 11 - Houzz / 12 Sita Montgomery Interiors / 13 / 14 CVI Designs / 15 Kim Scodro Interiors / 16 Nancy Serafini Interior Design / 17 Jennifer Robin Interiors / 18 unknown / 19 Sita Montgomery Interiors


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