Bar Stool Buying Guide

May 22nd, 2015

Let’s face it – choosing a bar stool doesn’t seem like a hard task.  I mean a stool’s a stool – right?

The reality is that finding the right stool for your restaurant, café, club or bar is not as simple as it seems.

What height should it be? Do you need cushions or upholstery? Does it need to swivel?  Does the timber need to match the bar counter or contrast with it?

These are just a few of the questions that might pop up once you start looking at bar stools.  We have put together a guide to the make it easy to choose the right bar stool.

1. Choosing Bar Stool Height

Bar stools vary in height so it is important to understand which size is best for your situation.  Stool heights are always measured from the floor to the seat not the backrest.

In Australia, we have standardised heights for residential kitchen benches, commercial bar counters and café tables.  In general, bar stools can be classified into 3 main sizes:  residential kitchen bar stool, commercial bar stool and the low stools (as an alternative to a dining chair).

Use the following as a guide for choosing the correct size stool.

 Kitchen BenchBarDining Table
Stool Height65cm75cm45cm

Most commercial venues such as restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs will require 75cm bar stools or 45cm low stools.

2. Bar Stool Spacing

For seating comfort, allow customers 25cm of leg room between the top of the stool seat and the bottom of the table or bar.

We also suggest allowing 60cm of space between stools (measuring from the centre of one stool to the centre of the next) to allow enough space for eating and socialising without feeling crowded.  This also allows plenty of room for customers to move in and out of seats without disturbing others.

3. Getting the Style Right

Bar stools come in an almost infinite number of shapes and styles – consider your overall décor and the look you are aiming for when choosing the style.

The main styles can be classified as follows:


Advancements in polycarbonate technology have allowed stool style to become design led.  Latest stool design is verging on art work and can make a very bold and effective statement when used correctly.

Modern design includes polycarbonate seating, chrome detailing and sleek, smooth shapes.

Modern styles are great for adding bursts of strong, monochrome colours or geometric patterning.  Transparent plastics and powdercoated frames allow for subtle addition of colour.


There are a number of stools that have reached iconic status – the shape and look is instantly recognisable.

Examples include the Bentwood and Tolix  stools originally designed by MicheaelThonet , the Bertoia metal stool and the Emeco Navy stool.

Authentically produced stools and reproductions are widely available but the classic look of these designs continues to be popular.


In some situations function is more important than slick lines and fancy design – for example stools for gaming areas.

The gaming stool is designed to be comfortable and easy to sit in for long periods in order to encourage punters to stay around longer and bet more.

The best gaming stools will have a swivel set with comfortable cushioning and a supportive backrest.  It is essential there is a footrest included and upholstery needs to be resistant to staining and easy clean.


Industrial design continues to be popular in hospitality interiors.  Powdercoated metal frames with rustic timber seating along with tarnished metal levers and pulleys can make for interesting stools with factory style edge.


Timber is a great material to use for the rustic look.  Also find stools with distressed look paint finishes, reclaimed timber, wicker and tarnished metal details.

Vintage stying is best when colours and finishes are mixed rather than matched.


Outdoor stools are an essential feature in our Australian environment and must be made of suitable materials to withstand weathering and UV exposure.

Aluminium and UV stabilised resin and polypropylene are the best materials for an outdoor stool.  Avoid polycarbonate stools and chrome frames as they are unsuitable for outdoor environments.

Extra tip:  make sure the stool seat includes a drainage hole if the stool is to be fully weather exposed – this will allow rainwater to drain off rather than pooling on the seat.


Traditional bar stools tend to be made of timber.   Bentwood stools are a good example of a traditional style stool that works well in a bar area looking for a classic, elegant look.

4. Bar Stool Features


A swivel function allows the customer to move from side to side without moving the base of the stool.  Swivel stools are good for gaming areas and at a bar counter but are not recommended for bar tables.

Be sure to check that you have a commercially rated swivel stool as moving mechanisms need to be very durable in a commercial environment.

Adjustable height

Some stools allow you to adjust the height of the stool using an hydraulic gas lift mechanism.

Gas lift stools are most suited to residential kitchen bench situations rather than commercial environments.  If you would like to include an adjustable stool in your venue make sure you invest in a high quality gas lift stool that will endure high volume usage.  Cheap gas lift stools will not be suitable. 

5. Commercial vs Residential

On of the most important features to consider when choosing a stool for hospitality usage is the commercial rating on the item.

It is essential you choose a stool that has been classified as commercial and has been tested by the manufacturer to prove that it will withstand the wear and tear of a commercial environment.

Very Important !!

Check the warranty on your stool.  Furniture bought from general retailers will often exclude any warranty or protection if the item is used in a commercial environment.

If, for some reason, you find yourself in a situation where a customer has sat on a stool, it has broken and they have injured themselves – you will want to be sure you are covered by a commercial warranty – otherwise you may find yourself with a very expensive litigation claim.