Even before you start browsing for counter stools or bar stools, take note of the height of the counter or bar where you plan to use them. Get this number by measuring from the floor to the top of the counter.
Most bars and counters fall within standard height ranges. Standard kitchen counters are 36 inches high, and standard residential bars are 42 inches. Standard counter stools and standard bar stools are designed for these heights. However, actual counters and bars can range several inches taller or shorter, so always measure.
Once you have the exact height of your bar or counter, look for a bar stool that's approximately 10 inches shorter. Measure the height of a stool from the floor to the top of the seat; this leaves enough room to sit comfortably with legs crossed.
Another measurement you need is the length of your counter or bar. Combined with the width of your chosen stools, this measurement determines how many stools will fit comfortably in your space so people can get in and out of their seats easily. For 16-18-inch seats, leave 6 inches between chairs. For seats 18 inches or wider, or if the stool has arms or swivels, leave 8-10 inches.
Bar Stool Features
Now that you know how many bar stools you need and what their height should be, you can start the fun part -- choosing the style.
Stools backs vary, and the type of back has a large impact on the look and feel of the stool:
No back: You can slide backless stools under the counter, but they are less comfortable for long periods of sitting.
Back with a lip for support: The lip section can be barely there or up to mid-back.
Fullback: These are the most comfortable, especially for sitting a long time.
Stool style is also influenced by the presence or absence of arms, whether the seat or back is padded, and whether the stool is stationary or swivels.
Take a look at your overall design theme where the stools will be, and decide whether you want to match or contrast. Popular decor styles include:
Contemporary/Modern: Look for metal elements, low to mid-height backs and padding for comfort.
Traditional: These stools are generally made of wood. If they're for a bar, backless with padding is classic. For a dining counter, stools with fullbacks and arms, much like traditional dining chairs, are a good choice.
Industrial: This style focuses on industrial materials such as metal and plastic, and industrial bar stools often have swivel seats.
Transitional/Casual: These stools are usually backless or with a lip back. They have a minimalist vibe with little padding and are often made of wood. This is a great choice for small spaces where the kitchen counter also serves as a breakfast bar.
When you're armed with the proper measurements and a sense of the style you want for your space, bar stool shopping becomes simple and easy.