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Choosing Our Kitchen Counter Stools – Our Splurgey (And Sustainable) Choice

I feel like I’m being super slow at choosing major pieces for this house because until we live in it there are so many unknowns. Which way do we want to face in the living room? Will we want a light sofa or a dark one to ground the room once the ceiling is painted white? Two sofas? A sectional? Swivel chairs or comfy club chairs? Etc. So I’m waiting on a lot of those, but with lead times being long I’m trying to just decide on the things we DO know we need (like our family room sectional and our dining table). Today we are talking counter stools and showing you what we wanted and why.

As you can see the kitchen is open to the living room so I had to design both at the same time. The counter stools will be faced away from the living room but they would be very visible when you are in that room, thus the back of them needs to be right.

Our Counter Stool Needs And Wants

  1. Minimal in Style – Again. To stick to the original vision of the house we don’t want anything too busy or distracting. But “minimal” can be cold and uncomfortable if not selected right.
  2. A Supportive Back. The most minimal thing we could choose would be a backless stool that shoves in and disappears, but I know this will be a big conversation area and I want backs. I’m picturing hours of my friends hanging with me while I make unnecessarily complicated meals (my favorite lockdown activity that I hope to do more of on the weekends once we move in) and I’ll need their emotional support while doing so.
  3. Comfort. Yes, we want minimal but comfortable. I LOVE our comfortable stools at the mountain house kitchen and thought about using those again, but we want something more classic and traditional for this home. I really loved our stools in our L.A. house, too, and they didn’t even have cushions which gave me hope that there are more stools out there that are designed to be comfortable sans upholstery (we sold them with the house and since there were only three of them and discontinued I knew they wouldn’t work at this house).
  4. Visually Interesting. We love wood around here, and while I love a mix of a metal/wood situation we were leaning towards wood on this one.

When possible, for this home I want to work with local makers and this seemed like a great opportunity. I knew this would be the more expensive route, but one that I think is important to go down if you can afford it. So I reached out to Fernweh Woodworking as I LOVED working with Justin on the chairs for the Portland Project.

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

Those chairs are incredible sculptures and the craftsmanship is so exceptional. But to be honest we are in the “almost every piece of furniture has to be super comfortable” stage of our lives. So without sitting on these stools how could I guarantee that they are comfortable?

I posed my concerns to Justin to which he said he was coming to Portland for a delivery and he would be bring a couple of dining chairs and a bench for us to test- designed very similar to the counter stools.

Oxbend Bench

Both Brian and I were extremely impressed with the chairs. They are very hefty and solid – not crazy heavy so it makes them hard to move, just solid. They are generously proportioned – they aren’t dinky little stools that you feel like you are spilling over. And the shape of the seat and the shape of the back are so comfortable. Despite not being upholstered they are shaped in a way that just feels so good!

Oxbend Stool

And almost most importantly, they strike the perfect balance between minimal, modern, classic, and warm. They are absolutely STUNNING and yet so simple that I don’t think I’ll ever ever ever get sick of looking at them.

Now for what color? To decide that we had to reference our island as that’s the wood that it’s going to be up against.

the island

It’s a white oak, but with a pretty warm/red stain (which we really like). The floor and cabinets are a natural white oak so while we could have done the walnut to add in another tone, we decided the black would contrast so nicely against the island, speak to the black in the light fixtures, and yet still be quiet and calm.

Oxbend Chair Seat Pad

I was SO excited when they brought us samples of their new seat cushions in November. They hadn’t launched them yet, but are now available. The reason they are so special (and genius) is that they are designed to sit without straps or any adhesion – they are so bottom-heavy and sculpted into the seat of the stool that they stay in place. I’m not sure if it’s wood on the bottom or what, but whatever it is, it works. I ordered the black ones for our black stools.

What Seat Height Is Best For Counter Stools?

Well. This became a thing. I almost wish they had just “counter” and “bar” height because we actually really fixated on the height for a long time. We measured the difference between our dining chairs’ seat height and the underside of the table and based on that we were going to go with 24″. However, Brian claimed (and felt very passionately) that you want to sit higher at a counter than you do at a dining table. He demonstrated this posture many many times when debating this. He says that you want to sit up and put your elbows on the table, to lean your chin on your palm while reading, say, the paper. He is generally right about this stuff and I didn’t feel nearly as passionately about the height as he did so we ended up ordering the 26″. The height of the island is 36″ so that gives 10″ clearance, 9″ if you minus the surface of the island. The amount of time we measured from our thigh to an imaginary counter to see if that felt good was baffling and hilarious.

Now, these stools are handmade in Bend, OR, and I can’t say enough great things about Justin and his Oregon maker team. Their price point is reflective of their quality, so yes it’s high. They were kind enough to offer me a discount for press and usage, which I was so grateful for but it was still one of the biggest purchases I have ever made, and took us 9 months to convince ourselves to invest. We are SO EXCITED and it feels really good knowing that we are supporting Fernweh. Justin’s furniture is beautiful and so high quality and these are classic enough heirloom pieces that we’ll keep forever and pass down to our kids. We also feel like long-lasting pieces like these will appreciate like art does knowing that they aren’t mass-manufactured. These aren’t pieces that can be produced on a mass scale because they are made by the maker themselves. Not only are they not mass-manufactured, but Justin’s company also prioritizes sustainability. They strive to be waste-free and will be carbon neutral by the end of THIS YEAR. They source all of their wood from the pacific northwest and any wood scraps are put into storage for Justin to use in his home on an efficient wood stove. They even use their sawdust on their 5-acre property and all of their finishes are plant-based. It’s all just so awesome and Fernweh is such an incredible example of how to run a business that tries to protect our resources as best they can.

My hope is that in 40-60 years from now Fernweh will be another “Paul McCobb” or “Borge Morgenson”. At least that’s my fantasy, even though we’ll likely be dead 🙂 So if you have the budget, supporting local furniture makers and artists is a great way to spend it. I’m happy to say that their small business is thriving currently because enough people are starting to prioritize smaller high-end makers like this. Go, Justin!

Now I know that these stools won’t be in most people’s budget, so we wanted to show you the other counter stools I was thinking about and frankly very tempted by before deciding on ours.

1. Rye Counter Stool | 2. Harpswell Stool | 3. Proper Bar Stool | 4. The Delancey Stool | 5. Maison Upholstered Swivel Counter Stools | 6. Eastward Stool | 7. Netro Counter Stool | 8. Cobb Counter Stool with Back | 9. The Delancey Stool | 10. Jackson Stool

More farmhouse purchases later this week…stay tuned:) xx

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Mariana
1 month ago

Wow, those are absolutely gorgeous!

Anna
1 month ago

Those are some seriously pretty stools!

Cece
1 month ago

Woah that is a LOT of money. But you’re absolutely right, beautiful, sustainable craftsmanship like that is worth the cost and for people who can afford it, it’s great to support those businesses. They are beautiful stools.

Ulrika
1 month ago

Beautiful chairs!

Just a quick note for Caitlin (sorry didn’t know how else to contact): there’s an auction in CT where they gave your beloved cabbage plates…. “Bordallo Pinheiro Cabbage Green Tableware Collection, Thirty-Five Pieces, #11”
https://www.blackrockgalleries.com/sales/details/weston-single-owner-online-auction-p-u-wed-6-29-10-2–1602.html?fbclid=IwAR1Mdy4E0K8YhiD5h3HUAJkOQMmG3T2MB05Ottz32KWorqDblOLVUt9dGUc&fs=e&s=cl

Ulrika
1 month ago
Reply to  Ulrika

So many sets of cabbage-related pottery! They also have the vine, lemon and other vegetable designs. Oh my!

Emily, they have some interesting wood furniture pieces too, including a thrundle bed.

Michelle
1 month ago

Thank you for featuring this maker and the stunning stools. They are gonna be gorgeous. The price may be out of my budget but they are absolutely worth it given the quality. I’m a mountain house fan girl but the farmhouse def looks impresses. It’s going to be an incredible transformation from where you picked up her storyline.

1 month ago

I have been really struggling with bloggers and designers who spend an outrageous amount of money on their home, and then act like that money isn’t a contributing factor in the end result, or who don’t acknowledge the incredible privilege they have. However Emily I haven’t felt that way with you. You are upfront, honest, and admit your mistakes when you make them. You acknowledge your privilege and are vulnerable. While I will never be able to afford even the more affordable options in this post, I think there is something lovely that you do have the resources and instead of buying mass produced you invested in this artist. I really appreciate how you balance showing us what you are buying, building, and spending money on with honesty and and being self aware.

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Katie Kerr

Here here.

Cici Haus
1 month ago
Reply to  Katie Kerr

The problem for me is that I started reading design blogs in 2008, so I’ve grown up with the designers, but everyone is always one step ahead of me! I can finally afford West Elm and I want Restoration Hardware. I can finally afford Restoration Hardware and I want Thos.Moser.

Susan
1 month ago

The stool maker looks like a model. My dad made me a giant white ash hutch and I’ve made simple furniture myself so I know how many many hours it takes to turn raw lumber into usable furniture that’s not mass produced. I remember how many hours it took to make my coffee table. But oof. The final numbers on this Farmhouse are blowing my mind.

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan

And to make a mathing set is hard work.

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

*matching.

Paula
1 month ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Hee. I thought that was a comment on the cost. 🙂

🥰 Rusty
1 month ago

OMG! I LOVE THEM!!! 💗💗💗 Yep, shouting was necessary!
They are ABSOLUTE pieces of art and will be good forever.
Thing is, you can afford them. You love them. So enjoy!

“That’s Justin and his stunning chairs” … um, Justin’s quite stunning too! Hehehe 😏

Those Industry West stools are super great too!

Lisa
1 month ago

Those are stunning. I can imagine getting a jolt of joy every time you see them for the next 40 years.

BB
1 month ago

Wow! $2K for a stool.

Roberta Davis
1 month ago

Those are just gorgeous and perfect! Worth the money! It wouldn’t be too expensive if a person just needed 2 or 3.

Lindsay
1 month ago

Those oxbend stools absolutely give me goosebumps. Spectacular.

Colleen S
1 month ago

That’s a lovely choice. For me, my counter stool splurge was in the $500 per stool category, and I had coveted these handmade stools by Brad Smith for over 15 years before my husband and I could afford them. He’s a woodworker in Pennsylvania and I am including his website here for others to explore. He doesn’t currently offer the specific pitchfork chair that I have (I have four, three that swivel and the one pictured that does not), but if you contact him I know he has several still available. He also has a variety of other cool pieces and focuses on salvaged and found wood and parts of tools. You can find some of his work on the Artful Home site as well, but it’s best to go right to the source.

chair1.jpeg
Colleen S
1 month ago
Reply to  Colleen S
🥰 Rusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Colleen S

Gorgeous!

priscilla
1 month ago

The Fernweh stools are sexy. And they are Art. I want to run my hands all over them! (tmi?)

emily jane
1 month ago

stools are STUNNING… (and oh my God I could cry that island is so good)

Julie
1 month ago

Not even going to click on the price… only chiming in to say they are just beautiful!!

Courtney
1 month ago

They are gorgeous, and they remind me of handmade stools I saw on Antiques Roadshow this week, haha!

Courtney
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

https://www.pbs.org/video/appraisal-1979-tage-frid-stools-newport-w5onol/
They were worth $30-$40K so maybe these will appreciate over time too!

Suzanne
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

Thank you, Courtney for sharing that clip. Beautiful stools, both these vintage ones, and the set by Fernweh Woodworking. They are a wonderful investment.

Karen
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

Love it!

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Courtney

That was so fun to watch!

Gretchen
1 month ago

Incredibly beautiful and you will love them forever!

Mindy
1 month ago

Money spent on handmade art that is functional and heirloom quality is never a waste of money (if you can afford it, clearly). Buying handmade is so important!

Suzanne
1 month ago

Love these, Emily! I understand the difficulty deciding to make the investment. I’ve done it with a few Thos. Moser pieces, and I’ve found over time, it’s the investment pieces I love most and have no desire to replace. It is a privilege, but it’s also wonderful to be able to support these talented artists.

Heather
1 month ago

I am glad I am not you Emily. I would never be able to commit to something like that for a lifetime. I’ve lived in my house for four years and changed my stools twice. The first ones were too tippy. The second ones weren’t adjustable which didn’t work for our family which at it’s tallest is 6’3″ and shortest is 5’2″. Myself, I need better lower back support on a stool and better cushioning although I am very intrigued by the pads you sourced. Hope you report back of their efficacy. Anyway, I hope the ones you picked are as functional as they are beautiful and they are indeed very, very beautiful. (and before anyway gets on me for being wasteful, my friend got one of my rejected sets and the Goodwill got the other set).

Elissa
1 month ago

Beautiful stools! Just chiming in to chuckle at the “we will pass these down to our kids” justification. Look, you love them, you can afford them, and they will last for as long as you wish to have them. But your kids, they will probably want something that they (and maybe their significant other) have chosen for their own homes, in their own style. I said the same thing about many a pricey purchase, and now my grown kids have their own ideas about decor and style as do their partners. Maybe they will take my things when I am gone, and maybe they won’t. But you can be sure our kids want exactly what you do – to make their homes feel like THEM. Enjoy!

Julie
1 month ago

Cute stools! Justin’s not bad either! 😉 I’m married!

Cindy
1 month ago

Beautiful choice Emily! Does anyone have any suggestions for vintage-look pedestal base bar stools?

mouseface
1 month ago

I love these, and I have a thought. I think the wooden version would be a better choice. They are so GORGEOUS, as a visual experience they would elevate the entire wood category in the room. With the mixed tones of the island and floors It won’t look a fight it will feel like a ballet with the stools as the star dancer. The other woods will fall into line behind it. And every time you use them you would experience that gorgeous joinery. I don’t see that happening with the black version. I have mid century rosewood veneer desk and the lines and grain make it the effortless star of any room. I can mix it with anything I choose and the wood grain helps elevate the room . Forever.( And I think the wooden versions will appreciate more LOL).

mouseface
1 month ago
Reply to  mouseface

And or /you could ask the maker to customize the color of the finish a tiny bit to account for the island no? I don’t think those are quiet calm stools I think they are showstopper stools , so why not go for it?

Amy
1 month ago

$2600 for one stool… sustainability can be an oxymoron.

Sherrie
1 month ago
Reply to  Amy

hahaha

Meredith
1 month ago

They are gorgeous! And you know, supporting an artisan is really important, and you can afford it! I am putting these on my short list for my Italy home!

Sherrie
1 month ago

$10K for 4 counter stools? WOW – blog business is GOOD. Holy cow.

E E Deere
1 month ago

The kitchen stools are exquisite. I am happy to see them. What keeps running through my mind is how the bench would be so exquisite with a piano.

Cici Haus
1 month ago

I’m normally a big fan of Thos.Moser but those bar stools look like 2004 Target 😐 Well-made, but really dated looking!

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