Bevies aside, one of the best parts of the bar experience has to be feeling just a little bit fly perched on the edge of a bar stool. Lucky for us, open concepts are all the rage and it’s never been easier to factor in a bar stool or two at home. To aid you in your quest for locating the perfect bar stool, we’ve created our ultimate bar stool buying guide, breaking down everything you need to consider, from seat height to back height, to the all-important question: to swivel or not to swivel.

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Photo by Brad Knipstein

Question 1: Counter or Bar Height?

Before you let yourself loose in the bar stool wilderness, make sure to measure your counter first. The most important measurement: height! You don’t want to end up with a bar stool too high or too low. Note that there is a difference in height between counter stools and bar stools, so always check the dimensions of a product before buying. For more general measuring tips (how tall?, how many bar stools fit at my counter?), check out our Everything to Know About Counter Stools guide. If all of the deets start to make your head spin, adjustable height counter stools are always a safe bet.

Photo by Katie Charlotte

Question 2: Swivel or Stationary?

When it comes to swivel, it’s really all a matter of personal preference. Some people love a good swivel for both its function and glamour-factor, while others like the solidarity that a stationary seat offers. A swivel bar stool does mean there’s less of a need to pull it in and out from the counter—just hop on and spin in!—making it much easier on your floors. A word to the wise about swivels, however: you’ll need more space between swivel stools so no one crashes into each other while ~swiveling~.

Photo by Sarah Dorio / Design by Betsy Burnham

Question 3: Back or Backless?

Backless bar stools create an uninterrupted field of vision and can offer the cleanest look, but they can sometimes come at the expense of comfort. Relaxing is often out of the question with backless bar stools (posture at the ready!), making them best for islands that serve as breakfast and lunch spots, but not full-on dinner tables. At the same time, if you’re going for a bar stool with a back, remember that you’ll mostly be seeing these from behind. So make sure you’re good with the way the proportions and shape of your bar stools’ back. For a happy medium, many modern bar stools often have a short back, ideal for providing lumbar support while still retaining that minimal look.

Question 4: Upholstered or Non-Upholstered?

Being member of the kitchen line-up, your bar stools are likely to bear witness to their fair share of spills and splatters. Given that’s the case, you’re going to want to take upholstery (or a lack of it) into serious consideration. For the truly maintenance-adverse, un-upholstered bar stools in materials like wood, metal, or plastic may be the best bet, offering wipeable surfaces that clean up in a snap. On the other hand, upholstered bar stools are unquestionably more inviting, encouraging guests to linger long after a meal has wrapped. If you’re on the fence about either, you might consider leather upholstery. It boasts all the richness of fabric, but none of the stain-catchiness.

Photo by Matthew Millman / Design by Chole Warner

Question 5: What About the Details?

You’re probably on the edge of your seat thinking about all of the beautiful bar stools to be had out there, but before you go, don’t forget about the little details that will make your bar stools real successes! No matter what style you choose, making sure that your bar stools have gliders or felt pads to keep them from scratching up your floors is a must. Another detail to think about: the bottom cross bar. Dangling feet tend to only be fun for so long, so if you’re planning on using your bar stools extensively, you’ll want something sturdy for your feet to rest on. Generally, metal is a good way to go, as anything else can get beat up, chipped, or scuffed over time.

Lead image photo by Matthew Millman / Design by Chole Warner

August 15, 2019

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