Bar stools are fun and functional pieces of furniture that can be found in many rooms of the house, including a kitchen, bar, or game room. Once just simple wooden stools, they now come in hundreds of appealing designs. However, the purchase of a bar stool involves more than just selecting a style. A good-looking bar stool that doesn’t fit your table or counter isn’t of much use. Here are a few guidelines for selecting for the perfect bar stool.


Choosing the right bar stool starts with measuring. You’ll want to take detailed measurements of your table or counter’s height, width, and depth.

Bar heights average between 40″-42″H. If your surface falls in this range, you’ll want a stool that has a 30″ seat height. Counter height surfaces are generally 36″H, and accommodate a stool with a 24″-26″ seat height. If your table, bar, or counter doesn’t fall into these parameters, we suggest allowing 10″-13″ between the bottom of your table or counter and the top of the bar stool seat.

In addition to ensuring you’ll have enough legroom, you’ll want allow for adequate elbow room. For optimal comfort, we recommend spacing of 26″-30″ from the centers of each seat. If the stool has arms or turns on a swivel, you’ll need more room, preferably at least 30″ from the centers of each seat.

Placement and Use

The location and frequency of use has an impact on quality of stools you should consider.

For instance, a kitchen stool should be durably crafted to withstand the rigors of daily use, and the upholstery should be treated for stain resistance. If you plan on using a bar stool in a sunny spot, metal stools or higher-quality wooden ones made of kiln-dried hardwoods will better withstand changes in heat, light, and humidity.


Bar stools come in a myriad of styles, from old-world pub to contemporary café and tropical resort. You can buy pieces that blend seamlessly with a current space, or you can use them as an exclamation point in your decor. The shape and materials of the frame and seat, along with the finish, impact the look of the stool.Here are some considerations:

Wood: Quality can vary greatly with wooden stools. The best frames are made from kiln-dried hardwoods for durability, with cornerblocking for additional strength. Most often, wooden designs are more traditional, bringing old-world sophistication to a room. Finishes run from dark to light, and can be matched with complementary upholstery or cushions to fit your style.

Metal: Metal stools are sturdy and long lasting. Their styling usually leans towards contemporary, but many now are available with more transitional looks. Finishes range from shiny stainless steel to subdued antiqued brass or brushed nickel.

Upholstery: A cushioned seat provides utmost comfort and adds character to a stool. Whether made of fabric or leather, bar stool upholstery should be easy to clean and maintain. Leather, microfiber, and polyester typically offer more stain-resistance, an important factor around food and beverages.

Swivel? Backless? Arms?

Swivel Mechanism: Swivel stools have a turning range of 180°-360° that makes them generally easier to get on and off. They also enable one to effortlessly turn towards others or to another area when desired. Better swivels will automatically return to the front-facing position, maintaining a neat and tidy look. Keep in mind that swivel stools require more spacing and sometimes can present a challenge for older guests or small children.

Backless: Backless bar stools require less space and are lighter in weight, making them easier to move. Tucked away, they provide an uncluttered sightline in a room. Without a back, they offer less support, so they are best used in areas where people won’t be sitting for extended periods of time. They’re also ideal for counters with less depth or overhang.

Arms: Arms offer additional comfort, support, and style, but they also take up additional space, so you’ll want to make sure they can fit along and under your table or countertop.

Bar stools serve both a decorative and a practical function. Taking time to measure and consider other factors before you buy will ensure that you will be comfortable with your purchase for years to come.