June 2, 2021

Counter-height stools: Features and styles you can count on 

Looking for the right seating for your kitchen counter or island? These counter-height stools will bring the style and function you need.

Looking for the right seating for your kitchen counter or island? These counter-height stools will bring the style and function you need.

We love counter-height stools because they keep things cazh in the kitchen. (Yep, that’s the short form of casual. You can use it the next time you want zhuzh up a text message — just like you can use counter-height bar stools to zhuzh up your dining room.) 

There’s something about counter stools that seem to say, “Pull up a chair and have a chat” — no need for the formality of “a conversation.” And these casual counter beauties don’t require you to join them for full meals the way a dining table and dining chairs sometimes seem to. With a counter stool, you’re welcome to settle in for a snack or keep the cook company in the kitchen. 

If you’re ready to bring that friendly feeling into your home, pull up a chair and let us share a few tips for choosing your counter-height stools

How tall are counter-height stools?

kitchen counter with counter-height bar stools


There are many features of counter-height stools (we’ll go deep below), but the distinguishing feature — the thing they all have in common — is their height. Counter-height bar stools are designed to pair with your kitchen counter, which is typically taller than your dining table but shorter than a bar-height table or pub table. A typical counter-height stool has a seat height that falls between 24 and 27 inches. 

Most, but not all, kitchen islands are counter height and require counter-height chairs. Sometimes, though, you’ll encounter a two-tier kitchen island with a counter-height countertop for food prep and a raised bar-height countertop for seating. (The pic above is an example of this design.) Similarly, if your dining table or breakfast bar is taller than standard, it could be counter height or bar height, depending on how tall the tabletop is.

You won’t be happy trying to eat off a bar-height table from a counter-height bar stool, and you won’t be able to fit your legs under a counter-height table in a bar-height bar stool. So, it’s essential to measure your table or counter height before you purchase your stools. 

Use a measuring tape, and measure from the floor to the top of your counter or table. If the height falls between 34 and 36 inches, then it’s counter height, and you need counter-height stools. If it’s between 40 and 42 inches, then it’s bar height, and you need bar-height stools. 

If you don’t want to break out the measuring tape, or if you want a long-term seating option that can transition from counter to bar height when you move houses or change tables, look for adjustable bar stools. Adjustable-height stools can be raised or lowered to a range of heights, often from 24 to 33 inches. This range works as a counter-height stool (24-27 inches) or a bar-height stool (28-33 inches), so you can sit as tall as you want. Just make sure to check the height range before you commit. 

Features to consider before you buy counter-height stools 

counter height stools: brown dining table set

Sure, you could go out and purchase the first counter stool that makes you say, “Pretty! I want it!” but that might not give you the functionality or comfort you crave. Before you shop, explore these stool features to decide which ones are must-haves. 

Note: We won’t even mention footrests here because any counter or bar stool worth its salt — and its seat! — has a footrest. But, you might want to sit in each stool you’re considering to make sure the footrest is placed at a comfortable height for you.    

Fabric vs. hard seats 

Both the frame and seats of counter-height stools come in a range of materials. The material you choose for the chair frame comes down to your personal style preference. Choosing a wood frame over a metal frame won’t make a big difference in your comfort, but the seat material can dramatically affect your relationship with your new stools. 

Metal bar stools that have a metal base and metal seat will be the hardest on your butt. They can come with other advantages — many are stackable! — but these stools will be best if you’re planning to sit in your counter-height stools for shorter periods of time. This material is a great option for a boisterous home with kids because they’re easy to clean, and kids often don’t mind the harder surface. 

Acrylic bar stools are the next hardest seat. These seats are also easy to clean but may be better for shorter sitting periods. This material looks great with modern home decor, and many acrylic stools are available with a saddle seat designed to contour to your bottom for more comfortable sitting regardless of the hard surface. 

Solid wood bar stools with a real or faux wood seat might have a reputation for being hard on the bum, but this natural material actually has a bit more give than metal and acrylic. Wood offers timeless style, it’s easy to clean, and it’s sometimes available with contoured saddle seats for extra comfort. 

Upholstered bar stools are the softest seating option, often with a plush, cushioned seat. But, this style is the hardest to clean — look for upholstery that says “wipe clean” or opt for darker fabrics if you’re worried about stains. Upholstered bar stools offer many styling options like printed and solid-colored upholstered seats, and textures ranging from velvet to rattan to real and faux leather. Plus, you’ll see high-end embellishments, like nailhead trim or a tufted seat back.

Swivel vs. stationary 

With swivel bar stools, you can simply turn to get in and out of your chair, while with stationary stools, you’ll have to scoot. Swivel counter stools can be a better option if someone with mobility issues, like an elderly relative, frequently visits your home. The swivel seat makes it easier to get in and out. A swivel seat is also a good option if you’re worried about chair legs getting caught on an area rug as you scoot.

Backless vs. chair back 

Backless bar stools are the standard — traditionally, not having a backrest is what makes a stool a stool. But times are a-changin’, and you can now find low-back bar stools that give you a little back support while maintaining the aesthetic appeal of a stool. 

Completely backless counter stools will be the easiest to tuck under the counter and out of the way when they’re not in use. But, if you need extra back support, counter-height chairs with a full chair back will give you the best backrest.  

5 counter-height stools you can count on

Now that you know what you’re looking for, check out a few of our favorite counter-height stools

1. Backless counter-height stool in driftwood and dark bronze

backless counter-height stool in driftwood

This stool will complement your industrial-chic or modern-farmhouse home decor. The metal legs feature a decorative, grooved finish like a corkscrew, and the wood saddle seat will contour to your curves. 

2. Arched-back counter-height stool in grey and brass

counter-height stools: arched back counter-height stool in grey

This glam velvet seat will add drama to any dining room with its Hollywood Regency style. The gold metal legs provide an elegant contrast with the grey upholstery, and the arched back will give you added support. 

3. 3-piece counter-height set in nut brown

backless leather bar stools in nut brown

Put that measuring tape away! You’ll know everything is the right height when you go with this table and stool set. The wood counter-height table matches the two, backless leather bar stools to create a cozy seating arrangement for a couple.

4. Rinconia counter-height stools with footrest in blue and matte black (set of 2)

blue Rinconia counter height stools

For a bit of boho style, these upholstered plastic chairs feature a woven fabric with a batik-inspired blue print. They have a mid-century modern bucket seat made from molded plastic to provide contoured comfort.

5. Acrylic-back counter-height stools in grey and chrome (Set of 2)

acrylic stool from Coaster

This two-piece stool set brings a bit of modern glam to your dining area. It features faux leather grey seats, chrome-plated metal legs, and an acrylic low backrest

Get comfy at your countertop 

Counter-height stools turn your kitchen island or breakfast nook into a casual hangout spot. To create the get-comfy vibe you’re going for, try your stools before you buy your stools.

The best way to find seats you’ll love for years to come is to try them out. Shopping for furniture in-person allows you to assess the quality and comfort of the pieces you’re considering. So, find a local furniture store and go meet your future counter-height stools in the flesh (or wood finish).  

Mindo Backless Counter Height Stool Warm Chestnut and Matte Black Mindo Backless Counter Height Stool Warm Chestnut and Matte Black - Hover

Mindo Backless Counter Height Stool Warm Chestnut and Matte Black

Carmina Counter Height Stools Cappuccino (Set of 4) Carmina Counter Height Stools Cappuccino (Set of 4) - Hover

Carmina Counter Height Stools Cappuccino (Set of 4)

Backless Counter Height Stool Driftwood and Dark Bronze Backless Counter Height Stool Driftwood and Dark Bronze - Hover

Backless Counter Height Stool Driftwood and Dark Bronze

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