Kitchen Counter Chairs
What the right chair design can do for your kitchen.
The kitchen bar stool is one of modern society’s greatest brainwaves, in our book – right along with the open plan dining-room-kitchen-combo and its trademark island that’s become the hallmark of so many contemporary homes. Because no, we can’t always get all the family members together around the dining room table at the same time. And no, most of us don’t live in a world where our resident butler shows our guests ‘to the drawing room, ladies and gents?’ while our private chef disappears behind closed doors to prepare some delectable appetizers.
But yes, we still value the idea of inviting others into our lives and bringing our families and friends together around a centre of warmth and nourishment. It may just be a simple piece of furniture, but the kitchen bar stool is an emblem of something important – a way to stay connected and be part of each other’s space in the midst of our crazy, multi-tasking lifestyles, even if it’s just for a couple of ten minute stretches in the day.
Ok, maybe you didn’t need convincing. Maybe you’re ready to invest in the perfect bar stools for your kitchen (or upgrade your old ones), but wondering what practicalities you need to consider, and what will be the ideal style to match your décor and truly bring the heart of your home to life. If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Where do you start with choosing the right bar stool for your kitchen?
There’s always a few different factors you need to think about when adding to your home furniture, and it usually comes down to prioritising between brains, brawn and beauty. When it comes to kitchen bar stools, you’ll want to put function first – you don’t want something beautiful but useless that just takes up valuable high-traffic space in your kitchen. Secondly, you want to pick chairs that are going to have the brawn to stand up to constant use and abuse – they’re probably going to see more action than any other seating in your house. Finally, you can get to the fun part of deciding which style speaks your love lingo, but only as long as those beauties deliver on brains and brawn too!
Brains – bar stool practicalities to marry form and function
When you’re thinking about what kind of kitchen bar stools to buy, the first question is how do you envision this communal space being used? Do you see your kitchen being the major hangout zone of the home, or catering to more of a ‘drive-through’ experience? This will affect some of the key design choices you need to make around functionality and comfort.
Backrests vs. backless stools
You’ll want to go for stools with backrests if your family uses them as a primary work or nosh spot, or if you’ve got the kind of friends who have full refrigerator rights and may as well own a set of house keys. On the other hand, if your kitchen’s more of a stop ‘n go to grab a quick bite or coffee break, a backless stool will be fine – plus they can be easily tucked away under the counter to free up the space if need be. Backless stools also go well with a minimalist look. Of course, if you’ve got kids of the small and wriggly variety, you may want to stick to the (relative) safety of backrests (and you should of course be aware that the chair will be treated as a jungle gym either way).
What’s the right stool height?
This is probably the most common question around kitchen bar stools, and a crucial one. Just to clarify, we’re referring to seat height. Get it wrong, and you might as well revert to ‘standing room only.’ If you’ve been wondering if there’s a difference between a bar stool and a counter stool, you’re not alone. The term "bar stool" or "bar chair" is used rather broadly and it makes things a little confusing. Bar stools or chairs in fact come in three different seat heights, but the easiest way to decide on what seat height is the right height is to look at what counter / table height it will be used with.
Nook Stools or Chairs – Range between 40 to 50cm high, and are designed for the kitchen nooks or dining table height of approximately 75cm.
Counter Bar Stools or Chairs - Range between 60 to 70cm high, and are designed for the standard kitchen counter height of approximately 90cm.
Tall Bar Stools or Chairs – Range between 75 to 85cm high, these stools are made for bar-style counters that are a step higher than the average kitchen counter top, also referred to as cocktail or pub-style tables with a height of 110cm to 120cm.
Of course, you can do away with most of the math by buying adjustable height bar stools, which come in super handy if you move to a new home with different counter heights.
To swivel or not to swivel…
A swivel feature on a bar stool is definitely a fun and practical feature that lets you have more intimate conversations, keep an eye on what’s happening around the room and make a quick and painless exit when all that coffee you’ve been chatting over calls for an emergency pee break. Plus, get in touch with your inner 5-year old as you spin for endless minutes on your personal mini-roundabout (it’s totally therapeutic). Just beware of having the swivel feature combined with armrests, particularly if you have kids – bruised elbows and banged up countertops will not thank you.
Forget not the footrest
This is pretty much a non-negotiable when it comes to bar stools. Just try sitting on one without them…after half an hour of your feet restlessly searching for solace, you will begin to feel the slow onset of madness eating away at the back of your brain… you just don’t wanna go there.
Brawn – choosing a chair that will hold up its side of the bargain
Another place you don’t want to go is to the rubbish dump with your kitchen stools after only a year or two of use. If you’re putting in all the effort of choosing a stool that fits your family and social life, then it’s worth buying quality that will last beyond the first fifty swivels, rocks, and bum impressions.
Beauty – choosing a bar stool design that speaks your home lingo
Once you know what you’re looking for in terms of brains and brawn, you’re ready to find your style groove. As with most design decisions, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you’ll have a wealth of options to choose from to mesh with your home palate – from the popular warm and natural vibes of wood and leather, to the chic homeliness of wicker, to the contemporary tones of metal, plastic, and polymer.
Our advice? Follow your instincts and stick to the basic principle of choosing a common element that connects your stools to your décor in some way – whether it’s a shared colour, material, design accent, or even just the overall level of formality – you can’t go far wrong.
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