Counter seating is popular in modern kitchens, which inevitably raises the question of what stools to pair with your work surface. Since kitchen stools often get more use than dining chairs, they need to be sturdy, good-looking and just the right height. And although buying a few good stools may not be difficult, there’s more to choosing them than meets the eye.

The best kitchen stools represent a combination of design and comfort. And while it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the variety of designs available, you’ll need to carefully evaluate your requirements before zeroing in on your purchase. You see, the wrong stool could leave you feeling dissatisfied and uncomfortable. And you won’t realize that it’s wrong until a few days after you’ve used it extensively. So how do you make your purchase worthwhile?

Bar Stools vs. Counter Stools

The only real difference between the two is height, since bar counters are higher (usually 6 inches) than kitchen counters.

Key Measurements

The first step is to evaluate the best height for your situation. Remember to calculate a stool’s height from the floor to the seat, and not the backrest. A good way to measure is to first measure the distance from the floor to the underside of the counter. Then subtract 10 to 12 inches from this distance, and you have your ideal stool height.

Knowing your measurements in advance is a good way to narrow your options. Typically, you’re looking at stools in the height range of 24 to 26 inches. Bar-height stools are taller and have a typical seat height of 30 inches.

Features Worth Considering

○      An adjustable-height stool comes with a hydraulic gas-lift mechanism to help you reach a comfortable height when seated. Always remember to invest in a quality adjustable-height stool that can withstand everyday use.

○      With a swivel seat, you’ll be able to turn around or move from side to side without moving the base of the stool. A swivel-seat stool is lovely to have while you enjoy a cocktail at your counter.

○      A high back and a footrest are worth considering if it’s comfort you’re after. A high-back stool offers full back support and comes in a wide variety of designs. For more comfort and ease of access, you may also want to consider a footrest.


Consider how the stools will sit under the counter when not in use. How much empty space do you want around each stool? Ideally, you should allow at least 6 inches between each stool to sit and move comfortably without your arms touching your neighbors’.

Remember to make note of your seat width. If your stool has arms, it will extend the width of your stool and may reduce the number of stools you can have at your counter.

RELATED: Match the Stools With Your Countertops

What’s Popular Today

“Overall, the wooden tops continue to be strong,” says Stina Eriksson, senior buyer at Australian housewares company Zanui. Mixing natural materials (like rattan or mango wood) with a metal base is a great option in most kitchens, she says.

Metallic accents are also going strong this year. Think copper or metallic backless stools that are as rugged and solid as they appear.

RELATED: Prepare for Spring With a Pair of Outdoor Bar Stools

What to Keep in Mind When Shopping

○      Study the materials of your stool to understand how sturdy and durable it is. A heavier stool isn’t automatically stronger.

○      Look for rubber pads underneath the stool’s legs to protect your floor from scratches.

○      Do you need to save space because your counter area limited? If yes, then you may want to go with swivel stools. Alternatively, backless stools are great too. Another option is wooden stools that you can fold and stow away when not in use.

○      Don’t forget to match your stools with your kitchen decor — you don’t want clashing designs. One idea is to match the shade of wood on your counter with that on your stool. The look will spell cohesiveness in your kitchen.