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coco republic grey upholstered bar stools in white marble kitchen

How to Choose Bar Stools for your Kitchen Bench in 10 Easy Steps

Whether you’re looking for cheap bar stools or something more designer, discovering ones that make your heart flutter can be tougher than it seems. But call off the search party, decorating junkies, because I have the best of the best right here!

TLC has always been about helping you create a home you never want to leave, and I’m a firm believer that you can do this on a tight budget or a celebrity salary. The key to a well-rounded interior design scheme is to mix and match pieces from all walks of life (I expand on how to do that here), so it’s not always about spending tonnes of cash.

With this in mind, I’ve curated 10 divine bar stools for your kitchen that span the spectrum from cheap as chips to a little more splurgey. And I think you’ll be surprised to discover that some of the more designer looking finds aren’t necessarily the most expensive. Let’s do this!

PS: The stools above are via Coco Republic. Shopping link is further down. Below are from OZ Design. Shop them here.

sari casa stool from oz design in kyal and kara reno

Before we get into the gorgeous selection of cheap bar stools below, let me give you some tips on how to choose the right bar stool for your home. There are a few things to consider; it’s rocket science, but keep them in mind before you hand over your hard earned cash.

1. Kitchen vs Bar Stool

When we’re talking about bar stools, we generally mean the seats you see at a kitchen counter where you might serve breakfast to the kids or sit and chat over coffee. Technically though, a bar stool is also what you might find out at a bar (fancy that!) or even at a cafe.

You can usually tell the difference by the height. Kitchen bar stools (or counter stools) are about 65 cm high (at the seat), whereas stools for bars are about 75 cm. This is because in Australia we have pretty standard heights for our kitchen benches and bars, so our seating accommodates that.

Your counter at home should be 90 centimetres tall, while your local bar will be higher at about 105. Just keep this in mind and don’t get caught up buying a bar stool for the height.

2. Height

So now we know our kitchen bench is 90cm high (usually, but measure it if you’re unsure) and a standard bar stool is 65cm high. That leaves 25cm to fit our legs between the seat and the counter. I mention this because even though there are standard heights, manufacturers can and do produce fantastic stools which step outside the norm. I’ve seen them as low as 60cm, right up to 75cm.

It’s all about personal preference, but keep in mind you want the stool to be high enough that when you’re sitting at it, trying to eat your breakfast and read the paper, your legs aren’t squished under your kitchen bench. You also don’t want to be so low that you’re barely above the bench height, peeking over like Oliver Twist asking for more pancakes. Unsure which height to go for? Stick with a standard 65cm.

3. Adjustable vs Fixed

I’ll admit my bias here, I generally don’t like adjustable stools. That said, if you have a busy house full of little kids and big people, you might need to consider adjustable as an option to accommodate everyone. If you do, just please give your bar stool options a good road test in store first. I find a lot of adjustable bar stools become unstable over time, and swaying back and forth while you drink your coffee is just not fun unless you’re on a boat.

ikea dalfred stool in black in monochromatic kitchen

4. How Many Stools To Buy

There’s no definitive answer I can give that works for every home as it all depends on the size and layout of your kitchen. There are two things to remember though:

First, don’t overcrowd a walkway. Your bench might have the room for three or four stools, but if they’re in a spot that gets a lot of foot traffic, maybe two stools is a good compromise. Second, leave a minimum of 65cm between each seat (measured from the centre of one seat to the other).

This gives room for eating, drinking and talking to your stool-neighbours. If your home is larger and has a more formal feel, a little more space might be in order to reduce the visual clutter and impression of overcrowding, just don’t overdo it.

5. To Backrest or Not To Backrest (plus, padding?)

This question really comes down to mixing form and function. Do you want to barely notice the stools, tucking them away under the kitchen counter lip? Then go for no backrest and a simple design.

Maybe you’ve got a big beautiful marble countertop and your kitchen is really an informal dining space that you use for a lot of meals. A backrest would be important in this scenario to ensure you’re comfortable right up until you finish that glass of red after dinner.

Have a good think about what you’ll be doing at the kitchen bench and how long you’ll be doing it for, that will tell you whether you need the support of a backrest and a comfy cushion for your tush.

6. Footrests

Those pieces of wood or metal attaching the legs of your new stools don’t just stop the pieces from falling apart when you sit on them, they also give you somewhere to rest your weary feet. In my opinion, this is non-negotiable, especially if you’re considering a stool without cushioning. There’s nothing fun about your legs dangling in mid-air while the circulation to your feet slowly stops.

Zoe bar stool from Brosa

What was that again: Let’s Recap!

  • Make sure you’re buying a bar stool for your home, not a bar (unless you’re buying for a bar, that is)
  • Choose the right height, 65cm is standard and works well for an average 90cm kitchen counter
  • Stick to fixed height stools where possible. If you have to buy an adjustable height stool, test it well sturdiness and construction
  • Leve about 65cm between each stool (measure from the centre of the seat) and don’t overcrowd the bench or walkway
  • If you’re going to sit in it a lot, backrests and cushioning might be necessary. Just make sure it works for your space and needs
  • A place to rest your feet is mandatory

I hope you loved our roundup of cheap bar stools as well as some that I’m sure you’ll agree are worth the splurge. Drop a comment below and share some of your faves. I’d love to hear from you!


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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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8 Responses

  1. Is there any chance that you know of a store which sells the timber, four legged Craig Bassam “tractor” stools for (much) less than $400?

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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