Whether you're searching for the perfect seating for your kitchen island, home bar, standing desk, or a window with a view, finding counter and bar stools that provide the right height while checking all of your other boxes can be a tall order. If you're a sucker for high-top seating at restaurants and bars, you probably appreciate being able to easily transition from sitting to standing — an ideal setup for mingling.
Like shopping for a new sofa, choosing stools that fit your design aesthetic might seem easy, but can be surprisingly difficult. For expert guidance, we tapped Delyse Berry, cofounder of interiors and real estate firm Upstate Down. Berry specializes in sourcing home decor, furniture consultation, and creating strategic layouts, so she understands the importance of merging form and function for the ideal bar and counter stool.
What Is the Difference Between Counter and Bar Stools?
While these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, Berry points out there's a difference in height worth paying attention to. "Bar height stools are generally around 30 inches off the ground for a 42-inch bar height. Counter height stools are generally around 25 inches off the ground for a 36-inch counter," she tells POPSUGAR. It's important to get exact measurements for your counter and make sure the seat height of the stool is going to be comfortable for you.
How Much Space Is Required For Kitchen Island Stools?
There's nothing worse than having a cluttered walkway or seating that's squeezed so close together you can't move. Berry has a general rule of thumb for considering the space you'll need for kitchen island seating. "Typically, the working side of an island is a busy walkway and workspace. The stool side of an island should ideally be more open and have substantially more space behind it," says Berry. When sourcing bar and counter stools, she keeps in mind a specific formula: "We like to leave at least 48 inches of space between the back of kitchen island stools and any other furniture or structure. As a standard seating rule, you should have at least 24 inches of space for one seat and about 6 inches between stools."
What Should You Look For in a Counter or Bar Stool?
To narrow down the options, you'll want to first consider your budget. Deciding how much you want to spend will help you hone in on choices that are accessible. Functionality should also play a critical role. Do you need stools with swivel mechanisms? Do you have kids who need to be able to adjust their stools to reach the counter? If comfort is a high priority, you might want to look for stools with cushioned seats.
Berry also points out another big decision choice: choosing between going backless or opting for a back for extra support. "For a super minimal look or if the countertops are really show-stopping, we might go backless to really let the kitchen shine," she says. On the other hand, she points out that comfort isn't the only reason you might choose a stool with a back. "There are so many beautifully made stools; using one with a full back is a great opportunity to add texture and warmth to your kitchen," she says. "[Chair backs are] a great chance to add some curved shapes to a linear space," she says. When asked about her go-to materials, earthier options took the lead. "We love using leather, natural fibers, and linen," she says.
Read ahead to check out our 10 favorite bar and counter stools that range from stationary seats with ample back support to sleek swivel stools that belong in open-concept spaces.