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What to Look for when Buying Bar Stools

Whether you call it a bar or a pub, a raised counter where you sit to drink and possibly eat is going to require suitable stools for people to be able to use it comfortably. Great looking barstools are the perfect way to complete this area.

Bar stools come in all kinds of configurations and are made using a range of different materials. Believe it or not, they are also made in different heights, to suit varied designs of counters and bars.

So what should you look for when buying bar stools?

Define the Style of your Bar Stools

Before you go shopping for bar stools, you need to have some idea of the look you want. Some stools may be used to make a décor statement while others are completely unobtrusive and purely practical.

Generally the style of bar stools is remarkably varied, from cottage and country looks to designs that mirror traditional genre. If you want something without frills, that is minimalistic but good looking, contemporary in style and utterly functional, you might like the idea of a bar stool crafted in metal (usually aluminum or stainless steel), that is then wrapped in bonded leather so that the back, seat and legs all have the same finish.

If you have a pub in a dedicated room, you may decide to create a style within the room that is quite different to the rest of the house. It could be anything from traditional to totally quirky. But if you have a bar counter in the living room, or even on a patio leading from the living room, you’ll probably be looking for bar stools that match or complement the rest of the décor in your home.

Once you’ve decided on the type of look you want, you’ll need to decide on materials. The first consideration will be what basic material – usually wood or metal of some sort (although some design combine metal and wood) – they should be constructed from and how they should be finished – some incorporate upholstery while others don’t. Some bars stools have backs and some have arms, but others have no form of back or arms, and simply provide a place sit (or perch) with no form of support for your body.

That sounds simple enough, but when you start having a closer look at what is available, you will realize that the choice goes on … and on (depending of course where you decide to shop). For instance you will find that both metal and wooden backs can range from absolutely plain to beautifully intricate, some featuring hand crafted patterns. Some are solid (not always cushioned), while others are purely patterned for effect, perhaps with lathes or bent metal bars. Some have a narrow strip support at the head end of the back like many dining chairs do.

Seat upholstery also varies radically, from hard-wearing microfiber cushion coverings to high quality leather. Seats themselves are also vastly different, from those that swivel to those that are completely static and have no cushioning at all.

Consider Practical Issues

First and foremost you want furniture that is easy to clean. If you like the idea of upholstered seats, and possibly also upholstered backs – after all these do offer comfort – then be sure that the material used for upholstery is simple to maintain. Spillages are inevitable, even if you take precautions, so it’s best to choose a material that can be wiped clean, like leather or even good quality vinyl. Ordinary fabric, even if factory-treated with a protective product, will eventually end up with spots and possibly stains; it also tends to wear out over time. Wicker looks great in the right environment, but be sure the quality of the weaving is good, once it starts to deteriorate (which it may do after some years) it will simply look shabby – and definitely not chic.

Since bar stools are not intended to stay exactly in one place all the time, another element to look are the legs and feet of different designs. Some stools have glides that make it easy to move them, and also help protect floor surfaces from unnecessary damage. Just be careful that they don’t make the stools slip when people are sitting on them; there should be some sort of safety device that locks them into place when the stool is in use.

Not all floor surfaces are completely level (though they should be) and so there are also bar stools available with leg levelers to rectify this problem. While stools come in a variety of different heights to suit different height counters, you will find some designs have adjustable heights – to suit people of all ages and builds.

Another practical issue is the space you have for your bar stools. If you have incorporated a bar into a relatively small area, it may be that you want to tuck the stools in under the counter when they are not in use. If this is the case then you’re going to have to opt for a design that doesn’t have a backrest or arms, although it might have a foot rest.

Decide on the Height of your Bar Stools

Don’t imagine that all bar stools are the same height. Today manufacturers cater for a variety of so-called standard counter and bar heights. For example bar counters, whether installed at home or in a public place, are usually about 40 to 42 inches (fractionally more than a meter) high. For comfort, bar stools for this height of counter should be 28 to 33 inches (more than 710 mm but less than 840 mm) high. But sometimes people build their home pubs with counters that more in keeping with home kitchen islands, typically between about 35 to 36 inches (3 feet or about 900 mm) high. Suitable counter stools should therefore be around 24 to 26 inches tall.

Extra tall bar stools are also available should your bar counter be higher than normal – as much as 45 to 48 inches (1.1 to 1.2 m) in height. However these are manufactured more for commercial settings like restaurants, bowling alleys and pool halls than for home pubs. But it’s your choice.

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