Looking to boost your kitchen’s cool factor? Bar stools are among your best bets. Whether you opt for a set of bar stools with couture-like details or a sleek pair with striking architecture, bar stools can be a transformative ingredient in any kitchen. If you’re in the market for bar stools for sale, don’t hesitate to set your sights on high style—literally and figuratively. In particular, vintage and retro-inspired bar stools are prime for adding a stylistic lift. To get you inspired, we’re spotlighting some of the most popular bar stool styles and highlighting the types of kitchens in which they look best. We guarantee with pretty perches like these, you might forget about your dining table and chairs altogether!

Photo by Brad Knipstein

Are Bar Stools with Backs Better than Backless Bar Stools?

Whether you can get behind backless bar stools or not is all a matter of personal preference. Many homeowners prefer stools with backs for the comfort and support they provide. In addition, stools with backs can add a sense of formality, transforming a casual island into a proper dining table of sorts. With that said, backed stools tend to cost more than those without backs. If you’re not planning to use your stools as much more than a place to land for a quick breakfast or snack, backless bar stools might be a more cost-effective option in the long run. 

7 Popular Bar Stool Styles

Design by Denise McGaha Interiors / Photo by Stephen Karlisch

Total Transparency

Whether you’re hoping to hone in on a monochrome aesthetic or you’re working to furnish a visually small space, acrylic bar stools can be an effective choice. Lucite bar stools can also be an inspired way to work in a bar stool with a back if you’re hoping to keep an island crafted of a specimen stone or exotic wood unobstructed. If you’re looking for vintage Lucite bar stools, consider seeking out the designs of Charles Hollis Jones. The undisputed godfather of Lucite was particularly fond of using the medium for bar stools throughout the 60s and 70s. If Jones’s designs skew too Palm Springs modern for your tastes, consider Kartell’s Ghost stools designed by Phillipe Starck or Lucite Z bar stools. Both evoke a more minimalist aesthetic.

Design by CWB Architects / Photo by Rachael Stollar

Industrial Revolution

Early drafting chairs and swivel stools have provided most of the inspiration for today’s industrial bar stools. In modern times, industrial stools are popular because of their mutability. They’re relatively easy to intermix with a wide variety of styles, including the ever-popular farmhouse aesthetic. Simple construction and relatively low-cost construction materials mean these stools usually wear a modest price tag, especially when newly made. Add all of that up, and industrial stools can be an excellent choice for newly-minted apartment dwellers who are looking for a bar stool style that can pivot easily from one apartment to the next. If you’re concerned about a wood seat being uncomfortable, look for seats with supportive grooving, similar to tractor seats.

Design by Mendelson Group / Photo by Eric Piasecki

The Danish is in the Details

When it comes to sculptural seating, nobody does it like the Danes, and bar stools are no exception. Danish Modern bar stools are perfect for not just Mid-Century-inspired interiors, but any contemporary interiors that favor clean lines and a fresh palette. Erik Buch’s Model 61 stools might be the ultimate example of Danish Modern stools. Sculptural splayed pencil legs and an upholstered circular seat just slightly bent to form a hint of a back make the stool a certified work of art. Don’t be fooled thinking Buch’s seat is the only Danish design worth seeking out, however. Teal and jute-wrapped stools were common in the era and have since been reproduced by many modern-day makers. Use alongside pastels to usher in a quiet coastal aura.

Design by Dane Austin Design / Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Retro Redux

Casual counters call for relaxed-feeling bar stools. Diner-inspired stools, whether wrapped in vinyl or sheathed in chrome, always make for a casual, yet inspired-feeling pick. Many retro bar stools showcase a unique mix of styles, including Art Deco, Bauhaus, and atomic elements. This intermix makes them ideal for interiors where you might be looking to integrate a playful thematic element. The majority of diner stools are unmarked, but if you’re looking for makers to serve as jumping-off points, try Chromcraft, Burke, and Frederick Weinberg. Chromcraft and Burke created primarily bucket-style stools, while Frederick Weinberg produced atomic-syle, iron hairpin stools.

Design by Denise McGaha Interiors / Photo by Stephen Karlisch

Plush Hour

Whether you opt for backless stools or bar stools with backs, upholstered stools are in a league of their own when it comes to comfort. For kitchens that feel like a fortress of hard edges, upholstered stools can provide a visual softness. Enhance the softness by opting for a style without legs. Upholstered pillars, as seen in the kitchen above designed by Denise McGaha Interiors, help architect an aura of comfort not often seen in the kitchen. Just like upholstered dining chairs, upholstered stools come with a list of caveats. You’ll want to go the route of Crypton or Sunbrella fabrics if you’ll be using upholstered stools on the regular, or if you have kiddos.

Design by Megan Gorelick Interiors / Photo by Rachel McGinn Photography

Round About

You’ll notice that many bar stools with backs have a rounded back. The reason is two-fold. For one, a rounded back offers more support, which is of extra importance when you’re seated on stilts. Secondly, a rounded back can offset the plethora of right angles that populate most kitchens. Barrel back stools are the epitome of wrap-around backs. Undeniably luxurious-looking, barrel-back stools transform kitchen islands from casual hang-out spots to proper eating areas. Barrel back stools are especially apt if you’re looking to make a glamorous statement. Look for cantilever designs that hail to the iconic tub seats of Milo Baughman, or look for backs wrapped in cane or rattan for a coastal vibe.

Photo courtesy of Cat French

Mad About Bamboo

Bamboo bar stools have been having a moment for a few years now, and it’s easy to see why. While upholstered and wood stools sometimes run the risk of feeling cumbersome and blocky, bamboo lends a graceful edge. Bamboo stools had a moment in the Mid 20th century, too, so if you’re looking for vintage bamboo designs, you’ll find no shortage of options. Vintage designs from brands like Ficks Reed and McGuire Furniture can feel remarkably modern-day, while designs from Paul Frankl are perfect for capturing a retro tiki mood. For fans of Franco Albini’s ubiquitous “lobster pot” ottomans, bar stools in the same style are also available.

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Lead design by Mendelson Group / Photo by Eric Piasecki


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March 31, 2022

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