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Rules for Picking Barstools (+78 Favorite Picks for All Height & Back Needs)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: target’s new see it in your space feature (+ 50 new product favorites)

Each week we have a meeting to review the past week’s most popular posts. It’s naturally important for us to see what hit (always exciting to see) and what realllly missed (not as fun but very important to know what you all are responded to). Most of the time we aren’t that surprised. BUT sometimes we get an interesting surprise star. This informative but otherwise simple post has been that star for weeks now! People want to know about all about bar stools. So we decided that if this was a post people wanted then we wanted to make it THE MOST useful. With that said we updated some photos (to keep it interesting:)) and gave you A TON of new stools to choose from. So let’s just say it’s “half-new”. Enjoy!

You might remember that below photo from a post Emily did earlier last summer about finding her dream dining room chairs. Well, something to come out of that post that we weren’t expecting was your reaction to the pairing of her vintage Cherner chairs and her existing Hedgehouse barstools. The TDLR feedback? They don’t work together. Hard stop. In fact, there was a 21-comment thread built off of the first comment of the day alone (not to mention the plethora of other standalone “ditch the barstools” snippets amongst the 242 total comments). Noted. So what now? She mentioned in that post that she’s gearing up to tinker with her LA home, so stay tuned for more updates at an EHD blog near you (2020 Updated: It’s really happening), but it prompted us to do a little “window shopping” for barstools to see what’s out there right now.

photo by veronica crawford | from: my updated LA dining room + my dream chairs (kinda)

A few things to keep in mind if you’re on the hunt for barstools for yourself:

If you’re looking for kid-friendly options, you’ll want something that’s a bit heavier and really solid. Imagine a little person clawing their way up a flimsy little barstool… a disaster waiting to happen. Look for something around 12 to 15 pounds. Anything too heavy and those tiny muscles won’t be able to move the chair to get into it, but anything lighter, and it would be a tipping hazard. If you have full-grown people in your house, heavier is usually better for sturdiness and stability in general. Another key feature to keep in mind with kids is to try to get something with a back and with a swivel (which could help with the in-and-out on a heavier stool). Though I totally get that an awesome vintage version (you know, like these from Chairish) might be stylistically enticing, you might want to ignore their siren call if pint-sized marinara handprints are of concern.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the reveal of the mountain house kitchen

At the mountain house, Emily struggled with finding a barstool for her island that satisfied her form and function desires, and landed on these from Industry West that work both for long-sitting-tush-comfort and kid-friendly-ness.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the reveal of the mountain house kitchen

On the other side of the kitchen on the peninsula, she used these from Article. Because they are used less often than the ones at the island, there was less of a concern for long-term comfort (though luckily, the cushioned seat on these happen to be nice for a good amount of sitting time).

Basically, think about what you’re looking to accomplish and how often your stools will be used (and by who). If you see yourself and your family using your bar stools every day (or say, it’s the only dining seating in your home because you don’t have a stand-alone dining area), something with a back and a cushion that’s easy enough to pull out and push back is what you’re going to want to look for. But if they are more a “visual space filler” that might get a perch from a kitchen visitor here and there, maybe keeping your pick more streamlined and architectural is the way to go. Up to you. You’re the boss, applesauce.

photo by alexandra ribar | from: an exclusive house tour from (design girl crush) leanne ford

That being said, there ARE some “rules” (well, more need-to-knows, really) to consider on your shopping journey. Fact: Stools typically come in two heights—counter-height and bar-height, but…how do you know what you actually need in your own home? Whether you’re pairing them with a taller table or adding them to an island, here is a quick “cheat sheet” to know what to use when:

Barstool Buying Guide Cheat Sheet

If your counter/table (the bottom of it, not the top, since it’s really about where the leg can comfortably fit) is…

  • roughly 35-37 inches high, you’ll want to go with a counter-height barstool that is typically anywhere from 23 to 28 inches floor to seat.
  • anywhere between 41-43 inches high, a bar-height stool is what you need, which runs from 29 to 32 inches floor to seat.
  • anything above 44 inches (likely something custom), this falls into the “extra tall” category of barstool, with a 33- to 36-inch floor-to-seat height.

Now, there’s also the question of HOW MANY barstools to use comfortably. Your mind might jump to “I need four people to be able to sit at this island” so hence you buy four stools, but if you want comfort (i.e. not being elbow to elbow when seated), you want to make sure to allow about 6 to 12 inches between the edge of each barstool.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the portland project kitchen reveal

Alright, now that you’re a barstool shopping pro, it’s time to put your expert knowledge to work. We rounded up lots of options in different styles and budgets, new and vintage, and both with backs and backless for both counter-height and bar-height needs. One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of big-box stores actually carry both heights in a style, so if you see something you like in counter-height, for instance, but need something a little taller, click through because you’ll likely find more options.

1. Hayden | 2. Perch Stool | 3. Cora Velvet Counter Stool | 4. Halifax Farmhouse Wood Counter Stool | 5. Campbellton Counter Stool | 6. Esse | 7. Iron Modernist Stool | 8. Ercol Originals Counter Stool | 9. Dalfred | 10. X2 Stool | 11. Skogsta | 12. Carlisle Metal Counter Stool | 13. Rhodes Metal & Wood Seat Square Counter Stool | 14. Kingscanyon Counter Stool | 15. Mid Century Aalto Counter Stool | 16. Dakota Adjustable Wood Seat Barstool | 17. Bebbia Pleated Velvet Counter Stool | 18. Gordon Stool

I’m really into the shape of #7 and the down-to-earth-yet-glam #1 with both brass and leather. If you have a HEALTHY budget, #2 has really special details and a unique silhouette. The subtle two-tone wood situation is also a nice touch. On the flip of that is #4 ($60), #11 which has a pretty small seat but is VERY cute IRL, and #13 which comes in at $55 a stool. The white metal frame on that one would be nice against wood-toned cabinets for a little contrast or even to blend in a white kitchen.

Now if you want a bit more support and like leaning back check out these puppies…

1. Meisel | 2. Wood & Steel Counter Stool | 3. Lenox Velvet Counter Stool | 4. Paton Black Oak Windsor | 5. Modern Retro Metal Chair | 6. Prouve Stool | 7. Rake Brass | 8. Janelle Counter Stool | 9. Ali Counter Stool | 10. Classic Café Walnut Counter Stools| 11. Cline Stool | 12. Karina Counter Stool | 13. Cosmopolitan Astor Upholstered Stool | 14. Parksley Rattan and Woven Counter Stool | 15. Naomi Dempsey Flannel Tufted Stool | 16. Fanbyn | 17. Dakota Adjustable Wood Seat Barstool | 18. Silas Seagrass | 19. The Camp Stool | 20. Mid Century Luna Stool | 21. Slope Upholstered Stool | 22. Portside Stool | 20. Modern Petal Stool | 21. Sylmar Counter Chair

We’ve long been a fan of the metal and leather strap thing going on with #1 from Jayson Home, but also the natural texture of #18 is also SO good. #6 was one of THE chairs of 2019 and still holds up beautifully, but also, #15 looks so comfy and that you could sit in it for hours.

If you are needing some more height lets move on up:

1. Cesta Rattan Bar Stool | 2. Amisco Monza Swivel Stool | 3. Malden French Barstool | 4. Cobb Bar Stool with Back | 5. Domino Bar Stool | 6. RD Bar Stool | 7. Seth Bar Stool | 8. Pecoraro Bar Stool | 9. Brunner Bar Stool | 10. Bowden Faux Leather Barstool | 11. Azalea Mink Bar Stool | 12. Jack Leather and Wood Stool | 13. Riviera Barstool | 14. YNGVAR | 15. Thor Wood Ladder Back Bar Stool | 16. NORDVIKEN | 17. Horsens Panda Bar Stool | 18. Era Barstool

We’ve entered bar-height stool territory now. A few favorites: #5 (always a fan of anything caned), #18 for its classic design, #11 for the glam yet cool shape and material, and #17 for its modern take on the wishbone chair.

And finally the classic, backless bar stool…

1. Veldhoven Bar Stool | 2. Shoemaker Bar Stool | 3. Jeanneret Counter Stool | 4. Mid-Century Upholstered Backless Bar Stool | 5. Tractor Contemporary Carved Wood Barstool | 6. Dakota Adjustable Stool | 7. Lindquist Swivel Solid Wood Bar Stool | 8. Shaw Walnut Stool | 9. Cane Bar Stool | 10. Lynn Bar Stool | 11. Pop Bar Stool | 12. Spot Barstool | 13. Carbon Loft Black Metal Bar Stools | 14. Peg Upholstered Bar Stool | 15. Shaker Bar Stool | 16. Good Thing 6063 Bar Stool | 17. Seagrass Bar Stool | 18. Flint Gold Bar Stool

HOLD THE PHONE! Did you see #12? Pricey? YUP! But man she’s so pretty and for anyone with the budget, we highly approve. Something like #6 is great because it’s adjustable up and down (I’m 5’3″ so I’ll always appreciate something that cranks me up higher than my taller counterparts), and the chunkiness of the seat on #4 and #14 look both cushy/comfortable.

*Looking for more design rules and shopping roundups?

Check out our Design Rules category and our Shopping Roundups page. May never a design question go unanswered. Ok well, you may have some others but we are doing our best to answer all of them one blog post at a time.

Opening Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Target’s New See It In Your Space Feature (+ 50 New Product Favorites)

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4 years ago

I own and love in 2 homes the Ikea $40 stool that adjusts up and down. None better at the price.

4 years ago

A note on barstools for kids: we had swivel counter stools and found them a bit unsteady and difficult for our toddler to climb on and off of (and once she was up, it often wasn’t at the right distance from the counter). We switched them out for a backless version with a wide base (similar to the shape of #2 in the backless bar stool grouping) and find them to be so much better for kids. The backless shape means that kids can climb up from the back and be at the right distance from the counter with no adjustments.

4 years ago
Reply to  Rachel

Thanks for this advice! Am currently in the process of buying counter stools and would have totally went with the swivel for the kiddos!

4 years ago
Reply to  Danielle

Another thing to consider… I had swivel stools with backs with kids and they loved spinning or turning side to side and hitting the back of the stool on the side of the counter. We had an tiled counter, which meant a few cracked tiles!

4 years ago

Great roundup, but I’ve never seen any advice on how to pick/pair barstools with nearby dining chairs/table. Any suggestions?

4 years ago
Reply to  Kd

Same. This is what I need to know! How to pick the barstools in reference to my decor…including kitchen chairs. I was so thrilled to see this post but sadly didn’t get the styling info I really needed. Appreciate all the stools examples though!

Sherry B.
4 years ago
Reply to  Felicia

I was thinking the exact same thing, have an open concept dining area, have a table and chairs but now need bar height stalls to look good with the dining area table and chairs, help!

Amanda Piacentino
4 years ago

I have the DWR bar-height w back #9 and love them! We’ve had them for a year and a half and none of my 3 maniacs have fallen. They clean up so easily with magic eraser sponge. I got them after I saw them in Emily’s kitchen before the Hedgehouse stools.

Rebecca Unter
4 years ago

We LOVE our counter stools from HAY. They are slightly contoured in the seat for comfort and the base revolves, not just the seat.

4 years ago

Now that I see this post, and I see the picture of the casa soria kitchen reveal again, it makes me want an update. I have an idea for a new post – UPDATES! how the space has changed, evolved since living in it for a year + etc. What worked, what has changed, what failed. What do you think??

4 years ago

I have three of the Jayson Home barstools that I purchased on FB Marketplace for $25 each! I had no idea they were a higher end brand, the previous owner said they were “vintage, from a bar in Chicago that closed it’s doors…” Keeping them forever now, haha!

4 years ago

Definitely the width of the seat is important to note. We had Number 10 – Ikea Skogsta and man is a smaller seat uncomfortable even after sitting for a short while. Sold them fairly swiftly!

4 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I literally look up your sourcing for everything! Love tyhis!

4 years ago

Also to add, it’s nice to have a bar somewhere on the stool to rest your feet too!

4 years ago

This is great! We are looking to replace the barstools in our kitchen and this post is helping me narrow down what I’m looking for. Thanks!

4 years ago

One other key thing to look at is how much clearance you have between where the stools sit and where you walk. If the legs of the stools go past the back, you’ll stub your toes every time you walk past the island because your eye relies on where the back is not the legs. It seems like Emily’s black ones do that in the mountain house, but if there is enough clearance that would not be a problem.

4 years ago

We just put two of these in our new kitchen and they are sturdy, comfortable, and have character; they’re handmade by artisan Brad Smith:

4 years ago

Are shadow chairs and stools not ‘in fashion’ anymore?

Paula Carr
4 years ago

I’ve never found a comfortable barstool for me. I have short legs. If the footrest doesn’t adjust, I will be in GREAT discomfort after maybe five minutes. That’s why given a choice I’ll always pick a regular sized chair.

4 years ago

I’m in the market for some barstools and I love all these options- thank you! One question- I’m also shopping for a new kitchen table and chairs that will be adjacent to my island- should I be looking for chairs for the table that match? Similar wood tone? Help!

Elena Sullivan
4 years ago

I would like to give some feedback about the West Elm stools (#18 under “Counter Height Stools w/ Back”). I bought them for my island three years ago and I LOVE them! HOWEVER, it is important to know: there are little round metal bits on the bottom that help the stools glide along the floor. If you have children, (or really, anyone) eventually those little metal things will break off. (I have six stools, each with four metal bits, so 24 in total.) When this happens you are left with little jagged parts that can scratch your floors. I was devastated when this happened and immediately went into problem solving mode. I have found that these floor protectors (which wrap around the metal legs) are the best solution to this problem. (They can get dusty but a lint roller will take care of that.) This is my little PSA for anyone looking into those stools!

maria jane
4 years ago

wow, amazing and informative stuff. I was also looking for these items which I can place in my office canteen. You can visit my website and suggest me the best tools for my work.

Bekah Schweiger
4 years ago

#4 under counter height stools stopped me in my tracks – the link is wrong though. It doesn’t click through to the right chairs. Personally, I found mine using a reverse image search on Amazon for $125 a piece.

Have a great day!

4 years ago

As a designer literally all of my clients want stools that are comfortable and have backs and I have to say, I personally agree with that for my own stool requirements. There are some great form and function options out there and I love your roundups!

4 years ago

I want bar stools with wheels. I have looked and they just don’t seem to exist. So frustrating. That scraping sound when people pull the stool away from the counter is like nails on a chalkboard to me,

4 years ago

I’ve been waiting for this!!!

4 years ago

I was so excited for this post because I have been hunting for extra tall barstools that are well designed….and clicking through the bar height selections, they look to be 30” seat heights, so maybe this is not really an all heights round up 🙁

4 years ago

When I was actively searching for a counter-height stool (ended up with one from Blu Dot that is VERY comfortable), I was in love with the Mattiazzi Radice stool. I’d seen it on some design discussion forum, but could not find it for sale anywhere. Your post reminded me of it, and look! It is available. You can buy it at Finnish Design Shop. I may re-think that Blu Dot stool…