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Bar Stools

HOW TO PICK THE PERFECT BAR STOOLS

Those looking to procure personal style in the kitchen have their work cut out for them. Dominated by a facade of cabinets and a squadron of industrial appliances, kitchens don’t offer up many opportunities to make it personal. One exception? Bar stools. As one of the sole proprietors of kitchen style, bar stools have earned stalwart status in many decorators’ playbooks—not to mention, they've led many of them off the beaten path to secure the most one-of-a-kind models on the market.

Bar stools, generally used to make use of kitchen islands' cantilevered counters, aren’t a new addition persay, but they are one that have gained in popularity over the past two decades or so. Once regulated to downstairs rec room wet bars, bar stools are now de rigueur in virtually every kitchen. To keep up, bar stools have raised the bar stylistically. No longer will that staid wooden stool cut it. These days rattan barstools, brass barstools, and acrylic bar stools are all the rage.

If you’re on the hunt for a troupe of bar stools that will put an end to your family and guests bellying up the bar and give your kitchen a significant style boost, you can’t do much better than vintage and antique bar stools. But what counts as a premier perch in your kitchen? Is rattan too rouge? Or Lucite too luxe? To help, we’re breaking down the ins and outs of four best-loved bar stools, including rattan and wicker bar stools, Mid-Century Modern bar stools, Lucite bar stools, and Industrial bar stools.

Wicker & Rattan Bar Stools

Rattan and wicker bar stools can vary wildly, with some channeling connotations of beachy bohemia and others giving off a decidedly proper Parisian bistro air. Regardless of which style your wicker and rattan bar stools are conjuring up, they’re bound to impart a sense of relaxed refinement. Texture talks in any room, but it resounds especially loud in a monochromatic kitchen, making rattan and wicker bar stools a smart choice for anyone looking to bring some pizazz to an all-white kitchen. They shake-up the well-played schematic in a way that feels both unexpected and organic. Worth noting is that some vintage rattan bar stools, especially those models produced in the 1960s and 70s to lend conviviality to dank basement bars, can skew a bit bulky. Avoid rattan bar stools with bucket-style backs if you’re concerned about a particular model appearing too weighty and stick to designs that employ wrought iron legs and backs rather than tied bundles of steam-bent rattan.

Mid-Century Modern Bar Stools

There’s no set of defined traits that you’ll see in Mid-Century Modern bar stools adhering to, but chances are that those originally produced to satiate the masses feature gracefully tapered and splayed legs, while more avant-garde models showcase a show-stopping sense of sculpturality. Actual vintage Mid-Century Modern bar stools frequently feature color, making them ideal counterparts for stark, minimalist kitchens where an unexpected splash of color is imperative to stave off an austere aura. Those who might be timider about outfitting their island in authentic Mid-Century bar stools might best consider newer bar stool designs that pay homage to Mid-Century hallmarks, but render them in a neutral 21st century-approved material and hue. Some, like the bar stool version of Norman Cherner’s prolific Cherner Chair, merge the best of both worlds, offering authentic Mid-Century design partnered with pulled-back color and material.

Lucite Bar Stools

Even with the plethora of bar stool options on the market, it can still be tricky to locate a bar stool that’s truly elegant. Try upping that ask to something that’s elegant and pocket-book friendly and options become even more scarce. The one exception? Lucite bar stools. Almost as soon as acrylic was introduced in the 1960s, designers began using it to execute beguiling bar stools. Models from the 1960s and 70s tend to be more elaborate than modern day designs, with some of the most iconic examples showcasing T-shaped backs, cantilevered seats, and arched tubes forming eye-catching accents (pro tip: those looking for truly bar-setting examples from the era should key in the search term: "Charles Hollis Jones Bar Stools." While Lucite bar stools will accentuate just about any counter with aplomb, Lucite bar stools are an especially sage choice for those with custom kitchen islands that they wish to show off. Whether it be a specialized paint color, wood, or tile install, Lucite bar stools can preserve more than just a glimpse of it.

Industrial Bar Stools

Low stakes can sometimes translate to uninteresting, but that’s certainly not the case when it comes to industrial bar stools. Possessing a mutability that’s virtually unequaled, industrial bar stools can complement kitchens ranging from contemporary to traditional, and everything in between. Part of industrial bar stools’ appeal is their construction materials which rarely veer from wood and wrought iron, with sometimes a bit of leather or chrome thrown in for good measure. For those who feel that industrial bar stools may lack the oomph of more bespoke bar stools, it’s worth taking stock of the visual allure a row of industrial bar stools can create. Especially in instances where a large number of bar stools are needed, there are few bar stools that can pack stylistic prowess that industrial bar stools can while not feeling a bit like overkill.