What You Need to Know About Traditional Bar Stools (Including How Tall They Are)


What You Need to Know About Traditional Bar Stools

Bar stools are sleek and elegant additions to any eat-in kitchen or dining space both commercial and residential. They signify a space to socialize while eating and/or drinking, therefore making for perfect additions to any entertainment space or a good addition to modernize a restaurant.

Traditional barstools typically run between 29-32 inches in height to accommodate comfortable seating at a 41-43 inch tall bar. However, in order to accommodate for custom and differing counter heights, the ideal height of the stool seat is 9-13 inches shorter than the countertop.

There are standard sizes for bar heights and stools, though with the rise in customization sometimes standard is not good enough. Thankfully, there are easy formulas for finding the perfect height of stool to pair with it anyway. Keep reading for more information regarding bar stools, heights, and more.

What are the Standard Heights for Bar Stools and Counters?

Barstools have different names to give a hint at how tall they are which can in turn help when selecting an appropriate stool to accommodate the bar’s countertop. This standard sizing helps streamline production for everything on and around the bar, whether that be for commercial or residential use.

These standard heights of bar stools and counter heights are as follows:

StoolStool HeightCounter Height
Table16-19 inches28-30 inches
Counter23-28 inches35-37 inches
Bar29-32 inches41-43 inches
Extra-Tall Bar44-47 inches44-46 inches

The different kinds of bar stools differ in height, which also means they will differ in comfort. A table height stool for example is going to be best for long periods of time spent sitting, whereas an extra-tall is perfect for a lot of movement and socializing between people sitting and standing as it puts their faces at the same height.

What are the Differences Between the Different Kinds of Bar Stools?

All bar stools are measured from floor to the seat. While many of them do not have backs, those that do are not counted in the height measurements. A counter is measured from the floor to the top of the counter, and the ideal height for the stool is 9-13 inches shorter than that. The kind of stool will make it clear what type of counter it is meant for in standard measurements.

Table Height

With a table height barstool, a typical adult can completely rest their feet on the floor. These stools are about the same size as a typical dining chair. At a height of 16-19 inches, they are ideal for counters and tables between 28-30 inches in height. This is a good choice if the plan is to have a lot of sitting for extended periods of time, such as during meals. These are very short and work well with standard tables rather than more of a bar style setup.

Counter Height

With a counter height barstool, a typical adult can rest their toes on the floor. These reach up to about standard kitchen counter height. At a height of 23-37 inches, these stools are ideal for counters 35-37 inches. This is a good choice for eat-in kitchens, islands, and open concept kitchens where there will need to be a lot of movement around them. Chances are, this is also the height someone is going to need for a home bar stool.

Bar Height

With a bar height barstool, a typical adult can rest their feet on the bottom rung of the stool. These stools are common against a typical bar. At a height of 29-32 inches, they make for good choices for counters around 41-43 inches. This is a standard height for areas with a lot of switching between sitting and standing and keeps the sitter’s face closer to the level of whoever is standing if not equal. Therefore, it is great in the service industry or against tall home countertops.

Extra-Tall Bar Height

With a typical extra-tall barstool, a typical adult is going to be sitting at eye-level with someone standing on the other side of the bar. At a height of 44-47 inches, they pair perfectly with a counter around 44-46 inches. These stools are the most ergonomic and are perfect for communicative settings where one person is sitting, and one is standing. They make for an easy switch between standing and sitting if there is a lot of movement and are also typically good to lean against.

What are the Different Styles of Bar Stools?

On top of there being different types of bar stools, they also have different styles. Knowing the style can help narrow down the search for the ideal stool for the intended space making more time for deciding on more aesthetic choices.

Backless

Backless bar stools are a simple, clean option for a minimal look. They are commonly made from metal, wood, and/or acrylic and therefore are best in areas where the plan is not to use them for extremely long periods of time. The lack of a back also makes them uncomfortable just because there is nothing to lean on but the bar, which results in slouching and poor posture.

With Arm Rests

A bar stool with arm rests is the ideal in situations where people are going to be seated for extended periods of time. These are typically larger and require more movement space around them to account for this. However, they make for excellent additions to shorter countertops or small spaces needing only a few stools.

Upholstered Seat

Upholstered seat bar stools are plush topped stools that make them a little more formal and stylish than a simple backless option without anything on it. They are more comfortable as well, but they do not hold up to a lot of use. They’re perfect for home use for eating meals, but they do not typically do well in high-traffic areas such as restaurants.

Swivel

Swivel bar stools are the ones that can turn at least from side to side without moving the chair itself. These are ideal in spaces where people are not going to be sitting for long due to their extreme range of motion, or for areas with a lot of socialization. Keep in mind a lot of these stools do come with a weight limit and the swivel can sometimes get jammed.

How is Bar Stool Height Measured?

Bar stools to not take into account any backing when measuring them and are merely floor to seat. However, that is not the only thing to take into consideration when measuring the space where a bar stool is planned.

Here are some things to keep in mind when measuring the space for a bar stool:

  • Measure on a flat surface from the floor to the seat
  • Add in 9-13 inches to account for ample leg room under the bar and comfortable arm positioning on the top
  • There should be at least 12 inches between the edges of the seats to ensure mobility
  • Wider seats need more space between each other or risk bumping into everything around
  • Stools with arm rests need more space between each other as well so people can get in and out easily

It’s simple enough to measure the space at the bar by just measuring from the top to the floor. Subtract the ideal 9-13 inches from that to find the ideal height of the stool. Alternatively, the name tells where it ideally can be placed such as table, counter, bar, or extra-tall bar.

Do Bar Stools Have a Standard Width?

Along with a standard height, all bar stools have a standard seat width. Taller and larger stools have the widest widths as that looks more natural and stable when they’re placed at a bar or counter that is also taller. However, this also takes up valuable space which can result in less seating than initially planned for.

These standard widths are:

  • 15 inches
  • 17 inches
  • 21 inches

These widths are regardless of shape and material and account for the seat only, not any arms or backing. Additionally, no matter what shape or height the stool is, they should always have between 12 inches and 18 inches of knee space under the counter to maximize comfort.

How Far Apart Should Bar Stools Be Placed?

Bar stools too close or too far apart can really change the perception of the room. Too close and they will make the room look and feel cramped, whereas them too far apart will make the room feel lonely and empty. However, at ideal placements, the bar stools can make the place feel cozy and comfortable.

This ideal is around 12 inches apart from the furthest edge of each of the seats. Give a little bit more of a buffer for wider seats or those with arms. This gives ideal room for getting up without knocking against someone while also giving room to swivel and talk to those seated to the side.

Are Kitchen Barstools Standard Height?

Kitchen barstools can be of standard height, though that standard might differ in name. A typical counter is roughly 35-37 inches tall, and therefore their stools are typically 23-28 inches tall from floor to seat. These stools are typically referred to as counter height.

On the other hand, a typical bar stool is 29-32 inches from floor to seat to accommodate for a counter height of 41-43 inches. Therefore, unless a kitchen island is above the standard counter height and ranges at something closer to a bar height, the standard size of a kitchen barstool is going to be shorter than that of a typical barstool, unless the kitchen counter is equipped with a raised workshop height for an eat-in bar.

How Tall are Bar Stools for Kitchen Islands?

Kitchen islands are typically the same height as the counter. They are like this to be ideal for additional food preparation or standing workstations. Therefore, they are also usually around 35-37 inches, which means that the stools selected for use at them should be about 23-28 inches as with all counter height stools.

If the kitchen island is custom or not standard in height, measure it from top to floor and then subtract 9-13 inches in order to find the ideal height of the stool to pair with it. 

What is the Typical Height of a Breakfast Bar?

A breakfast bar, also sometimes called a breakfast nook, is a part of the kitchen that has a raised counter and seating to be used for eating light meals such as breakfast or snacks. Sometimes the raised counter is separate, while other times it’s raised on the opposite side of the standard sized preparation counter.

Typical heights for a breakfast bar include:

  • 30 inches
  • 36 inches
  • 42 inches

While a breakfast bar that is 42 inches tall is most typical, depending on the overall layout of the space, they can also be the same height as the rest of the counters just with a little more overhang to accommodate knee space whilst sitting. Remember to subtract 9-13 inches from the countertop to the seat of the stool when selecting one for the breakfast bar.

How Many Stools Can Fit at a Bar?

It depends on the length of the bar and the width of the stools as to how many can comfortably fit at one. However, it is easy to measure to get a good idea of how many to place at the bar.

Follow these steps to find out how many stools can comfortably fit at a bar:

  1. Measure the usable length of the countertop or the bar
  2. Divide that measurement per stool
    • For small stools: divide by 21 inches per stool
    • For larger stools with swivels and arms: divide by 24 inches per stool
    • For very large stools: divide by 24 inches per stool, but consider adding additional space if needed

Keep in mind that there will need to be around a foot of space on either side of the bar stools to accommodate for movement, both getting on and off of the stool as well as moving arms while eating and drinking. Any less may end up cramped, though it is up to individual preferences and sizing of the stools. Smaller stools might be able to get away with 6 inches of space between them especially if there isn’t a lot of planned movement.

How to Make Bar Stools Taller

If for some reason a bar stool needs to be made taller, such as pairing with a non-standard bar height, there are a few ways to make the stool taller so that it can accommodate the space comfortably.

First of all, there are pre-made furniture leg extenders available for purchase. These are typically tube-shaped pieces that lock onto the bottom legs with clamps, snaps, or screws and come with spacers to be inserted to adjust the height. Since it is attached to the legs, this way is safe and portable.

If there are crossbars on the stool, height extenders can be made with PVC piping by following these steps:

  1. Select PVC piping in the smallest diameter possible to comfortably contain the leg
  2. Measure from the stool crossbars to the floor
  3. Make the PVC piping the length from the crossbars to the floor plus however many inches of extension needed
  4. (Optional) Secure the piping with strong glue, clamps, or screws
  5. (Optional) Add furniture pads to the bottom of the piping to prevent scratching the floor

Making this style of extender typically is not very portable unless it has been secured well. The PVC piping also must be cut to be perfectly level, otherwise it poses a significant safety risk.

Conclusion

Bar stools make for chic additions to a bar or kitchen space, immediately making it something that people can socialize around, eat at, and generally entertain company with. Additionally, they also make for sleek additions to restaurants, adding a touch of flair and giving for good socialization space. 

Typically, a bar and the stools are going to be of a standard height which coincides with their names. Table height stools are meant for tables, counter height for counters, bar height for bars, and extra-tall bar height for tall bars. Having appropriately sized and styled stools to go with the intended space allows for maximum comfort. However, there is also a rise in custom sizing so it’s best to measure from 9-13 inches from the bar to find the best height for the stool.

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