How To Choose the Right Bar Stools For Your Kitchen Island Or Peninsula

How to choose the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninsula. // navy blue kitchen, wood and metal bar stools, blue and white kitchen

via Erin Little Photography (Design: Heidi LaChapelle)

Let's all take a moment to close our eyes and imagine our dream kitchen...what would yours look like? Would it be all white with marble countertops? Navy blue cabinets with subway tile running up the walls? I'll bet we can all come up with something absolutely beautiful that we'd love to have in our homes. 

Now beyond aesthetics, what functional features would you love to have? If I was polling a live audience right now, I'm sure I'd be seeing a lot of hands raised in favor of a big island or peninsula with room for a few bar stools! Eat-in kitchens are big these days (for good reason!), and I'm sure islands or peninsulas with spots for seating is one of the top requests for new kitchen designs.

I'm all for this, but make sure you find the right stools for your bar! Think about it - how often have you saddled up at a bar only to find that the stool is too tall, too short, hard to move, or just plain uncomfortable? You'd think it would be easy to pick them out (it's just a chair after all, right?), but if you've ever had an uncomfortable experience with a bar stool, you'll quickly realize there's more to choosing the right ones than you think.

If you do a quick search, you'll find that there a million options out there. It quickly becomes overwhelming, and I think a lot of folks just want to close their eyes and pick one at random, crossing their fingers that it'll work out.

Don't do that! I'm here to help!

I've created a little guide on how to go about your bar stool search so you can more quickly and easily find the right ones. Let's get started!

How to choose the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninisula // wood and metal bar stools, white kitchen

via Studio McGee

When you're picking bar stools for your kitchen, there are four main things to consider: height and size, back or backless, materials, and style.

How to choose the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninsula. // black windsor bar stools, white kitchen, vintage rug in kitchen

via Domino

Height and size:

I should start by noting that when I'm talking height, I'm referring to how high the seat is off of the ground, and by size, I mean the width, depth, and overall height of the stool. 

Let me make the first part about choosing the height of your stool easy for you - you don't actually get to pick their height! Your countertops do. As a rule, if your island or peninsula countertop is the same height as the rest of your countertops, you'll want to go with a counter height stool. If you have a raised countertop that's higher than everything else, you'll want to go with a bar height stool. You can use those terms in your search to bring up stools with the right height ranges.

This is one rule I wouldn't break. I don't think anyone enjoys sitting on a bar height bar stool at a normal height countertop. You can't cross your legs and you have to lean way down to rest your elbows or eat a meal. The same goes for a stool that's too short for the countertop height - you feel like a little kid at the adult table! No bueno.

Now within the categories of "bar height" and "counter height" stools, there are ranges in heights, so pay attention to those too. If you've got kids in your family, for example, and they sit at the counter height kitchen island a lot, you may want to pick a stool that's on the taller side of the counter height stool range. 

In general, counter height stools are between 23" and 28" tall (from floor to seat) and bar height stools are between 29" and 32". You want to have about 10" between the seat and top of the countertop.

As for the size of the bar stool, think about how many you want to have and how large your seating space is. You want to have 6" to 10" between each stool so that everyone is comfortable and doesn't bump elbows. If you want more stools at the counter, consider choosing ones that are on the smaller side. 

How to choose the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninsula. // black island, butcher block countertops, open shelving kitchen

via Von Fitz Designs

Back or backless:

Think about how you plan to use your bar area and what surrounds it to determine whether you go with one that has a back or not (or option C - a low back!).

Stools with backs tend to be more comfortable, so if you know you'll be sitting there a lot or for longer lengths of time, that might be the way to go. For example, if you live in a small apartment, that bar area may be your only dining space, so you might want seating that mimics like a dining chair. That was the case for a recent client of mine, so we decided on stools with backs.

If you live in a home with an open floor plan where your kitchen opens up to your dining area, you may want to consider something with a low profile (no back) since you've probably already got a lot of chairs in your line of sight! That's the set up in our home, so we chose some simple stools that tuck away completely under the countertop and don't compete with our dining chairs.

The back/backless consideration doesn't have hard and fast rules - it's more about thinking about how you live, how your home is set up, and how much time your bum will be sitting there!

How to choose the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninsula // white farmhouse kitchen, marble countertops backspalsh

via Mainline Today (Design: Shophouse Design)


This is another one where lifestyle is the main factor in determining which way you go.

Is having something that's easy to clean and low maintenance important to you? An all wood or all metal chair might be the way to go. If you want a little bit more cushion, but still need the easy-cleaning part, leather or a seat cushion upholstered in a stain-resistant fabric may work well. Or, perhaps comfort is your biggest motivator, and in that case, you could choose a stool with an upholstered seat and back. 

The important thing is to be honest with yourself about the materials that work best in your home with how you live right now - not how you live in your dream world! ;)

How to choose the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninsula // leather bar stools, modern white kitchen, open shelving

via Lonny (Design: Veneer Designs)


Bar stools come in every imaginable shape, color, and style. I purposefully put style last on this list of things to consider when you're choosing your stools, because you want to make sure you're picking something that will function well in your kitchen before you fall in love with something that won't work in real life!

Whether your style is modern, minimalist, or traditional, there's something out there for everyone. Once you've figured out what you need in terms of size/height, back, and materials, you'll be able to quickly sort through all the options that come up under the style you like and come up with a list of contenders.

There you have it! I hope that little guide helps you in your search. To finish things up today, I've rounded up a list of some of my favorite bar stools that are out on the market right now. Many of them come in both bar and counter height, so if you like the style, check on the different height options. Feel free to use these as a jumping off point on your bar stool hunt!

A round up of sixteen favorite bar stools and a guide on how to pick the right bar stools for your kitchen island or peninsula!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means Mix & Match Design Company earns a small commission from your purchase at no cost to you.


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