Stand tall: raising the bar on kitchen stools

Real talk: hanging out, having a drink and eating at a kitchen counter or island is just better than being in a dining room. Something about raised kitchen stools at a counter or cozy breakfast bar makes people feel relaxed, so the social atmosphere is casual, intimate and way more fun than at a more formal dining table. It’s also easy to clean and serve, a major space saver, and this set-up lets cooks interact with family or guests while still keeping meal prep on schedule.

A kitchen stool that’s got your back?

If you’re planning to fill the stools in your kitchen with a prep team, it might be better to opt for a counter stool with no back for easier movement. These also work better for smaller kitchens where space is at a premium, since they can be used to grab a quick cup of coffee, then tucked away under the edge of the island, bar or counter to save space. An industrial-inspired wood and metal stool is both functional and very of-the-moment, striking a balance between work time and playtime while offering a strong, modern aesthetic.

For entertaining, a loungey bar stool with a broad back and deep seat is a laidback option that guests can sink into. An upholstered bar stool will be comfier if you’re planning to serve full-length meals at your counter, and opting for something in a leather finish adds a more upscale vibe. Just make sure it gels with everything else that’s happening in the room visually, because unlike a low counter stool that’s out-of-sight when it’s out-of-use, bar and counter stools with backs will stand out as central elements of a kitchen’s décor.

To swivel or not to swivel

In a large space, swivel-top bar stools occupy more space, but they also create flexibility, letting guests pivot to face the action in the room. So, if your kitchen’s party central, this is a great option — swivel stools have schmoozy sociability built in. More stationary seating also has its advantages, though — they’re often a little more polished-looking and mesh more easily into other rooms’ décor if you sometimes need your kitchen stools to do double duty elsewhere in the house, and they’re a lot more stable for small kids.

For balance, you definitely want to make sure to choose a seat with a foot bar or rest — it adds a lot, comfort-wise and improves a kitchen stool’s ergonomics for pretty much anyone shorter than the average pro-NBA player (which is to say, pretty much everyone).

Height Matters

Remember to leave room between your stools — calculate the stool width plus at least 5” (12 cm), plus a bit if the stool swivels. To ensure comfort and legroom for bar stools in Canada, you want to leave about 9” to 12” (that’s 23 to 30 cm) between the seat and table surface. In general, a standard kitchen counter lands at 36” (91 cm), so a counter stool height of 24” (61 cm) is about right (bars are slightly taller — add 6 inches or 15 cm to both heights). There’s an illustrated guide to calculating a stool’s height here. Too much information? Go for an adjustable stool, which lets you tweak the height as needed.

Counter seating is a kitchen space game-changer, so get ready to enjoy a whole new way to share your space.

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