Tips for Choosing Kitchen Counter Stools

There are numerous factors to consider while choosing counter or bar stools. On kitchen forums, homeowners express their concerns. Even expert designers make mistakes occasionally. Counters and stools are not as standardized as dining room tables and chairs, reality.

This article will discuss six pitfalls to avoid while choosing kitchen counter stools:

  1. too high or too low; 
  2. uncomfortable; 
  3. not child-friendly; 
  4. swivel stool back slams against counter edge; 

 Mistake #1: Counter stools that are too high or too low 

This is one of the most frequent errors individuals make when selecting stools. Either the stool is too low or the counter is too high, causing you to feel like Goldilocks when seated. Perhaps, the stool is too high and there is little space under the counter to cross your legs.

Why does this usually happen?

  • a bar stool is mismatched with a standard counter (36 inches); 
  • a counter stool is mismatched with a bar height counter (42 inches); 
  • the stool’s height is not standard; or 
  • the counter height is non-standard.

This mismatch is easily avoidable. Measure the counter’s height before selecting a counter stool. A reasonable rule of thumb is that the stool’s seat should be 12 inches below the counter’s underside.

Product names can often deceive. Don’t assume a “counter stool” or “bar stool” will complement your normal counter or home bar. Verify the seat height before making a purchase by measuring or examining the product’s dimensions online.

Moreover, be aware that the seat height will be lower than intended if it includes soft padding.

Pairing a stool to a counter with a non-standard height is a typical issue.

Simplest solutions include:

  1. choose an adjustable stool that is within the appropriate seat height range, or 
  2. Use counter stools that are adjustable. They adapt perfectly to fit your island that is taller than average.

Counter stools are more difficult to choose than dining seats.

 Mistake #2  Uncomfortable bar stools

You would be shocked at how often people regret purchasing uncomfortable stools.

Do you envision yourself sitting at your counter for five minutes to drink coffee? Perhaps you will perch there while opening mail. If so, comfort might not be a major concern.

But perhaps you envision your children completing their homework at the kitchen island. Were visitors lingering over cocktails and snack while you prepare the main course? Prioritize comfort for extended, unhurried seating.

Upholstery and cushioning

Choose stools with a cushioned seat and back for extra comfort. Especially if some family members or guests possess less “natural padding.” Many choices:

  • Choose padded and upholstered bar stools: Consider wipeable materials such as Crypton cloth, leather, or vinyl (sometimes referred to as “vegan leather”) if spills are a concern; 
  • use detachable seat pads: Many of them can be washed and, if necessary, they may be replaced.

Likewise, keep in mind that fabrics are more comfortable in hot, sticky, or chilly surroundings.


Unless your counter has an integrated footrest, you should select a stool with a footrest.. Most people will not be able to rest their feet on the ground when sitting on a counter stool, as opposed to a dining room chair. People typically feel uneasy when their feet are dangling, thus a footrest is essential for comfort.

Back of the Stool

Backless stools have their advantages. In addition to being ideal for the minimalist aesthetic, they also fit beautifully beneath the counter. If comfort is a necessity, though, you will need a stool with a back. A stool without a back cannot be used for lounging.

For rapid perching, stools without a back are ideal.

Seat size

This cannot be stated in a diplomatic manner. The dimensions of seats and posteriors should coincide. The majority of adults find broader and deeper seats more comfortable. However, there are limitations:

  • if your countertop overhang is shallow, a deep seat will cause your knees to hit the underside;  
  • a too-deep seat may also cause the stool to extend too far back from the countertop edge—especially if there is a passageway; and 
  • if your countertop width is narrow, fewer wide stools will fit along that space.


Swivelling is a function that can contribute to the comfort of a chair by allowing the user to move around while seated casually.

Some disadvantages: 

  • swivel stools take up more space along a narrow tabletop; and 
  • see error number four below.

Mistake #3: Counter stools are not kid-friendly.

Dishwasher unloading and vegetable chopping. At the kitchen island, your children are having breakfast or completing schoolwork. The key to creating a family-friendly kitchen is choosing seating that is suitable for children.


Often, stools with backs are preferable for children. Having a seat back appears to give grounding, particularly for wiggly young children. See error number four below.


In my experience, children tend to remain seated longer when seats are adequately padded. As adults, we have a tendency to overlook the fact that children typically have less cushioning on their posteriors. If the objective is for children to complete their homework or consume complete meals, it may be beneficial to provide them some padding.

Obviously, children frequently cause spills and messes. Additional child-friendly upholstery choices include:

  • Crypton fabric: I’ve observed this stain-resistant fabric stay up well on 16-year-old dining chairs used by people of all ages in a common area;
  • dark and/or patterned textiles;
  • leather with wipe-able finish; 
  • vinyl (sometimes known as “vegan leather”); or 
  • add a detachable seat pad.


Most children adore stools with swivel seats. Watch out for error number four, however.

Mistake #4: the swivel stool’s back slams into the counter’s edge.

Stone counter edge versus swivel stool back

Do you have uneasy customers seated at your counter? We do. In this situation, you may wish to reconsider pairing a stone counter with a hard-backed swivel stool. Over time, a stool back that repeatedly strikes the counter’s edge will sustain damage. As a result of this, there has been undeniable wear on our stools.

  • Choose a stool that does not swivel; 
  • Choose a stool with no back — ideal for stools that will be used briefly; or 
  • Choose a stool with a padded/upholstered back.

The leather version of the Toledo Bar Chair would have been a better choice for us, but they weren’t available when we acquired our stools (and they are incredibly expensive).

Mistake #5: Buying either too many or too few counter stools

Too many

Typically, kitchen space limitations dictate the number of available seats. In addition to the width of the stool itself, there must be sufficient space between stools for sitting or standing. To allow room for knees as the seat rotates to the side, you will need more space if the stool swivels. 

If you’re unsure on how many stools to purchase, err on the side of purchasing more. You might purchase three identical stools if you discover the ideal stool. If you later decide to add a fourth, you risk being disappointed. Many open-stock counter or bar stools become unavailable unexpectedly.

Mistake # 6: Counter stools do not complement the interior design

The counter stools should complement and enhance the decor of the room. In this section, I will discuss a few helpful design principles.


Does it truly important how the counter stools appear? True and no.

If your counter stools will be seen along crucial sightlines, prioritize visual impact. Concentrate on what you see as you enter a room or sit down, as opposed to what you see as you go through it.

If counter stools are less noticeable, prioritize comfort and utility.

Overall style

In general, you’ll want a counter stool that complements the room’s design. The following are examples of interior design styles: 

  • modern; 
  • aditional; 
  • transitional; 
  • boho; 
  • Scandinavian; 
  • industrial; 
  • country; 
  • coastal; 
  • rustic; and 
  • shabby chic

The following are examples of interior design styles: 

Many interiors are characterized by a combination of styles. Avoid selecting counter stools that conflict with the aesthetic of the area, unless you’re making a statement.

Open concept rooms

Choosing bar stools for an open-concept area can be more difficult. 

  • flooring; 
  • kitchen finishes; 
  • dining area furnishings and finishes (if applicable); and 
  • living room furnishings and finishes (if applicable).


Contrast is one of the most essential design elements. Because counter stools are extremely visible, it’s ideal to have some contrast. Here are some recommendations for adding contrast:

  • your island or peninsula is patterned or highly textured or visually busy: consider simple stools with clean lines
  • the island or peninsula is neutral: consider stools that add a pop of color or have a complicated shape
  • for a dark peninsula: consider stools that are light in colour/tone that are light in colour/tone
  • if your island or peninsula is light: consider stools that are dark in colour/tone
  • for a space with lots of wood: consider stools that have metal, fabric, leather, or plexiglas; and
  • When there are numerous hard surfaces in the room: choose stools that bring in some softness with fabric, leather, or cushioning.

Observe the frequency of contrast in the photographs of kitchen counter stools that motivate you.