Kitchen Bar Stools: Sitting in Style

More than just a chair: Kitchen bar stools aren't just for sitting down to eat at the counter. They can add a profound decorative statement to your kitchen while also providing a perfect place to relax and socialize in your home.

Although bar stools were originally designed for use in bars, as the name implies, these furniture pieces made their way to the kitchen fairly quickly when high countertops required taller chairs. In this idea guide, we want to help you make an informed decision when it comes to selecting the right stools for your kitchen.

Comfy and stylish: These creamy leather bar stools reflect the style of this kitchen nicely.
Comfy and stylish: These creamy leather bar stools reflect the style of this kitchen nicely. Designed by Woodale Designs.

Kitchen Bar Stool Styles

When choosing a bar stool, you should not only look at style and design, but also its purpose. Do they only provide seating for a quick breakfast or a chat in the kitchen, or are they meant for longer lunches and dinners? The time you and your guests are going to spend in the chairs should be a key factor in your decision. You will have to look at chairs with comfortable padding, foot rests and back rests. However, the chair should also suit your kitchen, which is why you will have several style options to choose from, with many different designs that will work well with your specific interior.

Retro & Vintage Bar Stools

Retro bar chairs can really draw the eye and create a focal point. They are usually available in bold colors and contain a lot of shiny chrome. Cherry red is an all-time favorite, but you also get them in pink, blue, purple and basically all the colors of the rainbow. These chairs are great if you have a funky, retro kitchen design or you are trying to recreate the 1950's diner look.

A Modern Take on a Retro Kitchen with Curved Red Cabinets, Chrome Accents, Retro Bar Stools
Some Like it Hot: A modern twist on a retro kitchen with curved red cabinets, stainless and chrome accents, and retro bar stools. [+] More Pictures
These chrome and black leather kitchen bar stools have a retro feel.
These chrome and black leather kitchen bar stools have a retro feel. See more of this kitchen on the Woodale Designs portfolio gallery.

Mediterranean & Rustic Bar Stools

If you have a rustic kitchen, with a lot of wood and country-style decor, your bar stools should match this look. A simple wooden design will work perfectly in such a kitchen but will not necessarily be comfortable unless you go for an upholstered seat. Leather chairs also work well with the rustic look, but instead of the slick, modern black or white leather, stick to the browns. Wicker is also a great material that adds to the rustic look and is surprisingly comfortable to sit on. Fabric seats are also fine, as long as the print is in muted colors and not too funky.

Rustic Bar Stool in a Log Home Kitchen
A rustic bar hand-made bar stool fits nicely in this log home kitchen. [+] More Pictures

Victorian, Wrought Iron, & Steampunk Bar Stools

Steampunk is a style that is gaining popularity and also making its way into our interiors, including kitchens. If you are going for the Steampunk look for your kitchen interior, go for chairs with ornate ball and claw feet. Anything with machine-like properties and an industrial look will also go well with a Steampunk kitchen. Wrought iron designs in a Victorian style are also very suitable.

Wrought iron bar stools with woven seats in an old world kitchen
Wrought iron bar stools with woven seats cast intriguing shadows in this old world kitchen. [+] More Pictures

Elegant & Traditional Bar Stools

If you have a more formal picture in mind and are simply looking for something elegant, black leather is always a good option. These chairs are both comfortable and stylish. There is also a wide range of very elegant upholstered chairs available, with stylish patterns. Faux suede is also a good choice and will blend in nicely with the rest of the kitchen interior.

Kitchen counter-height rattan bar stools in a dark tobacco finish with woven backrests and upholstered seats
These elegant counter-height bar stools feature a dark tobacco finish on rattan frames with woven backrests and upholstered seats. [+] More Pictures
These traditional golden-brown bar stools are a good match for a Tuscan kitchen
These traditional golden-brown bar stools are a good match for a Tuscan style kitchen such as this.

Modern & Contemporary Bar Stools

Contemporary kitchens are often small, which is why space saving bar chairs are quite popular. You can, for instance, install "floating" chairs that attach to the island and simply swivel out when used and can be folded back neatly afterward. Contemporary bar stool designs are usually minimalist, with flowing, curvy lines or very geometric shapes.

Classy and minimal modern kitchen bar stools
These modern kitchen bar stools are classy and minimal -- a great complement to this award-winning space by Designer Kitchens LA.
Blue bar stools provide a pop of color in this monochromatic kitchen
Blue bar stools provide a bold pop of color in this monochromatic kitchen (also created by Designer Kitchens LA).

Great contemporary designs are not hard to find; they are readily available from modern furniture stores such as UK-based Forrest Furnishing. Colors often include high-contrast black and white, bold colors, or beige and earthen tones.

Size and Space Considerations

Now that we've covered different bar stool styles, it's important to go over some functional basics about kitchen seating:

  1. How high should a kitchen bar stool be?
    For comfort, a stool's seat should be about 12 inches lower than the countertop surface. Since a typical bar counter is 42" high, use a standard bar stool with a 30" seat height. Single-level island countertops are normally 36" high and require 24" counter stools, while kitchen desks are usually 30" high with normal chairs at 18" seat height.
  2. How many bar stools will fit along your countertop?
    Most people prefer at least 2 feet of space to themselves when sitting for a meal, so a 6-foot island should comfortably seat three adults. Wider kitchen bar stools with arm rests will require more space, so only use the 2-feet-per-stool rule as a bare minimum when planning your seating arrangement, and be sure to measure for your own setup.
  3. What about shapes and features?
    Saddle seats, round stools, chair-backs, arm rests... these will all depend on both the style and comfort you're looking for. Keep in mind that rounded shapes take up less space and are easier to walk around; that goes for both the countertop shape and the bar stool itself.

Looking for more kitchen seating inspiration? Check out our gallery of Kitchen Islands, Kitchen Bar Stools, and Kitchen Chairs & Tables on Pinterest.

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