Belly Up: Tips and Tricks
A surprising number of my projects these days, even small projects, include sourcing bar or counter stools. While the barstool and its shorter sibling, the counter stool, may seem like ancillary items within a design, they deserve some extra attention.
These specialized and diverse seating elements are particularly important to urban dwellers, visually as well as functionally, and we place a lot of pressure on our stools to serve multiple needs. In lieu of square footage, those of us who live in the confines of a city habitat are rarely satisfied with a space or item that serves only one purpose. The counter area is used to gather, to dine, to cook, to work, to watch TV, to do homework. It is often centrally located and visible throughout the living area. It’s a family space, a personal space, and an entertaining space.
Stools are an easy upgrade to a counter area (much easier than changing the countertop or structure - although sometimes a more drastic change is needed, of course). Also, because the stools add an element of detail and creativity, the counter can retain a simpler, more straightforward design.
Most spaces require either bar height or counter height stools. Bar stools have a seat height of 30 inches and are designed to work with surfaces that sit at 42 inches high. Counter stools mostly have a seat height of 24 inches and are designed for counters of around 36 inches (the same height as most kitchen worktops). There are few outliers including stools designed to tuck under a standard dining table and extra high stools designed for specialty bars over 44 inches.
Back or Backless
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Backless is a bit more casual and may offer a lighter visual. However, it may be less comfortable for occasions when you're sitting down to a leisurely meal with friends and family.
Ease of Movement
Depending on your way of life, you may want a stool that is easily moved, pulled out, relocated, swiveled, etc. On the other hand, if you like everything neat and orderly, or if you want something sturdy and difficult for your four-year old to topple, you will want to test for solidity and heft.
The materials and finishes available are endless and determined by the design vision (colorful, high contrast, muted, earthy, bold, glossy, tonal) as well as the functional needs of the client. The requirements of a family with small children are very different from a couple who regularly host friends for extravagant dinner parties. Materials also correlate to comfort - Upholstery or frames with "give" are best for extended sitting. Stools meant for quick perching over a bowl of cereal or to keep the chef company with a glass of wine may be more rigid in feel.
I’ve started collating images on a Pinterest Board so I'm ready the next time I need to source that all important bar stool. Check it out for inspiration when it comes to adding a color blast, an organic edge, geometric shapes, a nod to tradition, or a modern view.