Meet Your New Seat: Choosing Stools

Posted by Vinnie Rouge on 2/26/2015 to Buying Guide - Dining Room
Meet Your New Seat: Choosing Stools
Bar and counter height stools are an extremely popular method of providing comfortable, space-saving seating in all kinds of homes today. If you're on the lookout for the perfect stools for your space, here are some elements to consider:
  • Do I need bar height stools or counter height stools?
  • Do I want my stools to be adjustable in height?
  • Do I prefer a pedestal base or legs?
  • Do I want a swivel function?
  • What kind of back do I want on my barstool seat and do I want arms?
  • Do I prefer upholstered or non-upholstered stools?
Let's break this down. To begin with, you likely already know what bar or counter your stools are going to go with. If you don't, you should decide on this first, as it will make your task much easier. Once you know where the stools will be going, you'll know whether you need bar stools or counter stools. Basically, bar stools have an approximate seat height of 30 inches and go with a bar surface that is typically about 42 inches high, while counter stools measure about 24 inches to the seat and go with standard counters of about 36 inches high. For more details on the difference, check out my 'Bar Height Vs Counter Height' buying guide. 

Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool          Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool

If your stools will be used at more than one location in your home, or if you anticipate people in a wide variety of heights using the stools, you may wish to consider adjustable stools. These stools make use of a hydraulic gas lift to move between bar height and counter height. They typically operate by a weight sensitive lever that will cause the stool to rise up if pulled while the chair is empty, and will cause the stool to sink down if pulled while you sit on it.

Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool

Now that you've determined the height you need, think about the basic design you want. Bar or counter stool bases can be split into two distinct main types:
  • Pedestal bases. These are comprised of a single column, often in chrome, rising from the centre of the base to the underside of the seat, typically with a footrest protruding partway up. A pedestal base tends to look simpler and may take up less space, but may not give as strong a sense of support as individual legs.
Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool
  • Individual legs. These are legs which may or may not be connected at a lower point in the base, but regardless they spread out support for the seat. These stools may, however, take up more room than stools with a pedestal base.
Modern Bar Chair

Many stools also have the ability to swivel, allowing the sitter to turn in place. This can be very useful, particularly in areas where living and dining spaces are next to each other. If you envision tasks being done regularly at these stools that require you to sit still, though, consider a fixed stool model.

Bar and counter stool seats can also be split into a few basic categories:
  • Backless. These stools provide the largest range of motion for the person sitting, but lack any sort of back support.
Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool
  • Low-backed. These stools provide a bit of extra support but still leave the sitter with more room to adjust their position.
Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool
  • High-backed. These stools provide the most support, and may also have arms, but the least freedom of movement. 
Modern Bar Chair
Hand in hand with the decision of what type of seat you want is whether you want the stool to be upholstered. This decision again splits stools into three categories:
  • Non-upholstered. Stools without any upholstery whatsoever can be very easy to clean as they just require a wipe down. However, some people find them uncomfortable to sit in, particularly for long periods.
Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool
  • Fully upholstered. Stools that are upholstered on both the seat and the back can provide more comfort, but may be more difficult to clean.
Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool
  • Partially upholstered. Typically, this refers to stools which have a back, but on which only the seat is upholstered, which gives a greater degree of comfort than a non-upholstered stool but is easier to maintain than a fully upholstered one.
Modern Height Adjustable Bar Stool

There are a lot of bar and counter stools out there, and having answers to these questions about what you prefer can save you a lot of time and help to ensure you're highly satisfied with your purchase.