Bar stools are a practical addition to any home decor. Not just for pubs and diners. You’ll find them in any good kitchen and breakfast nook — or any casual dining setting. They work because they add a welcome informality to a space.
There’s good reason for it too. The formal dining room with its fancy cutlery and delicate china is dying a slow death.
Choosing the right bar stool involves knowing three figures: chair size, counter height and thigh clearance. The combination of these measurements will give you an ideal range for what you need. It has to strike a balance between a comfortable seating position and the proper distance from the surface. We’ve considered each one in detail to make things as easy as possible.
BAR STOOL SIZES
The first figure measures the height from the floor to the top of the chair. There are three standard sizes for bar stools. You’re probably most familiar with the counter stool or Linda Low. It’s what you’re likely to find at the bar counter at the local. It has a range of 60 to 66cm in height. Some even come as high as 73cm.
The bar stool or Goldilocks runs about 76cm. Again, variation exists and some may go up to 91cm. You’re most likely to find this type with high-tops at the pub. Finally, there is the spectator or stadium chair. It’s also known as the Henry High. The tallest of the types ranges from 86 to 91cm.
The size of the bar chair is only one part of the equation. The ideal height should also consider the counter or table top to get the right fit. As you may expect, each bar stool works best with a certain sized table. The counter bar stool is great for bar tops between 95 to 102cm. It’s suitable for up to 105cm for a thick bench to, which is the standard size you’re most likely to see.
The ideal range for a bar stool is 102 to 108cm, reaching up to 110cm for a thick bench top. The stadium chair has an extra few centimetres that will come in handy for things like watching telly. You find these in the 102 to 108cm high range, as well as the 110cm thick bench top measurement.
Once you’ve found those measurements, it’s time to consider legroom for your thighs. The right bar stool height ensures that you’re seated comfortably with enough space between you and the bar table. A safe bet is finding a clearance between 18 to 32cm, with 20 to 30cm being ideal for most people. That gives you enough room to sit down and cross your legs if you choose.
In this case, more space isn’t necessarily better. A clearance on the high side will feel awkward and overly roomy. Some may find it just as uncomfortable as a chair with a tight fit.
COMPLETING THE EQUATION
Now you’ve reached the final stage. Start by putting your numbers together with some measurements. First, use the figure from the height of the bar stool from the floor. Next, measure the distance from the floor to the bottom of the counter. Double check by measuring it twice. That will account for the bar top height and the thigh clearance. You now have a range with each bar stool size.
Alternatively, you can measure from the floor to the top of the bar counter. Then, subtract 25cm from that figure. This differs from the method detailed above because it accounts for the height of the table too. Even though it may seem like a small number, the height can seriously affect the comfort of the bar stool.
The counter bar stool works best with a bar top measure between 82 to 93cm, using the first measuring method. That gives the thigh clearance at 84 to 91cm. The bar stool is 91 to 102cm, with an optimal clearance between 93 and 101cm. The stadium stool goes from 97 to 108cm with the perfect thigh clearance between 99 and 107cm.
You’ve likely noticed the overlap between the different sizes. This just means it comes down to your own personal preferences. Try out a bar stool with a narrower or wider clearance to see which feels better for you. These figures are only suggestions. You’ll like find a lot of variation depending on the style of the piece.
Remember to take it all with a grain of salt. These figures are designed to reflect what would provide the best seating for the average adult. Of course, use plays a major role. A counter bar stool may not offer the most comfortable height if you’re eating at the bar. Likewise, these standard measurements may not be practical for taller or shorter people—or children.
The range is helpful to keep in mind. Things like adding a seat cushion may turn a comfortable bar stool into a cramped, ill-fitting chair. Choosing a bar stool with adequate padding at the start will avoid this problem.
There is another alternative worth investigating. While less common, you might also consider getting an adjustable bar stool. It’s a practical investment, especially if you anticipate buying a new table or counter in the near future. Many models offer a generous range of heights for most any situation. Bear in mind that this feature may require additional maintenance on your part.
Space is an important consideration at the counter level too. Plan on about 66 to 76cm between place settings to give everyone enough room to eat or drink. It’ll make it easier to get on and off the chair too. The right bar stool height should take into account the entire user experience.
You’ll find bar stools with or without back rests. A chair with one will encourage more comfortable sitting. It’s got your back, but it’ll take up more space. You’ll also see models with or without armrests. The latter is an excellent option in smaller rooms since it can easily slide under a countertop.
Use these simple calculations to give you a starting point for choosing the right bar stool. The key is to provide a comfortable experience. But it’s only a guide. In the end, your personal preferences are the ultimate deciding factors.