Furniture, Lessons in Design
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Kitchen Stools – Design Crimes Part 1

Hello everyone, how are you all? I hope you’re all coping and staying well. It’s been a really tough April here at Making Spaces HQ (still recovering from what we think was Covid), hence the lack of posting, but I’m trying to stay positive for May. And what better way to uplift everyone’s spirits than to write a trilogy of Design Crimes? Today it’s Part 1 – Kitchen Stools

(Probably loads of better ways to be honest, but this has been on my list of blog posts to write for about two years, so that’s what you’re getting).

Doing this job gives me a hyper critical eye on all things interiors. There is not one photo in my portfolio that I don’t completely pick apart, “I should have done this instead”, “Why did I do that?”… blah blah blah, yada yada. The learning curve I’ve been on over the last six years has been immense and it continues every day. What I love to do is share what I’ve learnt with you guys. So whilst this post may come across as negative, please do take it in the spirit it was intended. It’s a tongue in cheek (but also useful) post about stools, people – no hate mail please.

Design Crimes Part 1 – Kitchen Stools

A seemingly benign object that has been slowly driving me MENTAL. I can’t look at a kitchen island or peninsular without scoping out the choice of stool that sits beside.

Let me tell you for why…

Stools come in three standard-ish heights:

  • 45cm stool – suitable for 75cm height kitchen tables, desks and dressing tables
  • 60-65cm stools – suitable for countertops which are 90cm height
  • 75cm stools – suitable for bars which are about 105cm

A lot of people get this wrong and it upsets me…. so much so I just can’t keep quiet about it any more! (Do you like how I’m building the drama here?) 

Too many people have 75cm height bar stools sat at kitchen countertops, islands and peninsular units when they should have 65cm stools. There, I’ve said it.

But, why are they getting it wrong?

Mainly because when you search for “stool” online, 75cm bar height stools seem to pop up more frequently. They’ll fit under your 90cm worktop and look pretty, but as soon as you try and use ’em you’ll be way too high, won’t be able to squeeze your legs under the worktop and have to hunch over to rest your elbows on the surface to eat your antipasti and drink your Quarantini.

The ideal distance between your seat height and table top height is around 30cm, 12″ or 1 foot. Remember that now!

Retailers are terrible for showcasing stools in the wrong setting. Case in point here:

Bar stool sat at kitchen countertop – Garden Trading

Sorry Garden Trading, it’s a lovely photo for sure, but sitting on that is going to knacker your back. That stool is a mere 15cm lower than the surface you’re sitting at. You may as well sit on the bloody worktop, save yourself the price of a stool and put it towards a chiropractor. This 75cm height stool should be photographed sat next to a 105cm bar, not a 90cm countertop.

Then there’s John Lewis advertising a countertop stool as a bar stool.

No wonder people get this mixed and end up either too high up or low down.

If you want options height wise, then go for an adjustable stool, one that you can set exactly at the height you need. These stools from Loaf can be set between 64-80cm making them suitable for both countertop and bar height.

Loaf Adjustable StoolAdjustable Stool – Loaf

If you’d prefer stools with a back rest, always choose ’em based on how they look from the back, not the front. As this is how you will see it 99% of the time. This especially applies to upholstered stools, I have a real dislike for ones with the stitching that runs down the rear – same for dining chairs too.

Dunelm

Chairs with zippers or stitching down the back really grind my gears. Unless it enhances the overall design, which for the above cases, it does not.

Whilst these next stools look comfortable (shudders) just don’t do it. Ever.**

**Of course, you can have what you want, I just really dislike everything about these space aged, chrome and leather beasts. They look like car seats. 

There are plenty more design savvy, functional seating designs to choose from these days as more and more of us are going open plan with their kitchens and adding islands and peninsulas to sit at.  And, some places are actively trying to help you with your search, MADE have these which are advertised as Counter Height Stools. Hoorah!

MADE Adeline Stool

Adeline Counter Stools

See how they relate height wise to the countertop? I could get well comfy there. Look, no stitching running down the back either. Double hoorah!

So, now you know the score about stools (who knew there was so much to know!?) you’ll start eyeing up kitchens online and start scrutinising the stool set up. Are they the right height? Do I need a footstool to climb up onto the actual stool? Would they look at home next to a steering wheel? Do they look sexy from the back?

Welcome to my world people!

Whistler Adjustable Height Bar Stools at an actual bar. Result!

So, what’s the magic distance between the seating height and surface height? I told you to remember… did you remember?

(anyone called Margaret reading this?)

“The ideal distance between your seat height and table top height is around 30cm, 12″ or 1 foot.”

And that’s your lot for today. I have a list of about six major design crimes which I was meant to put into one post. But it seems I’ve already written over 900 words just about stools. Clearly they were really bugging me. I need to get a life.

Design Crimes Part 2 coming soon…

22 Comments

  1. That was brilliant!
    We’ve just retired from a lifetime of making retail display props so I’m really
    familiar with detail that nobody bothers mentioning until it’s too late…..
    Loved the picture of the high stool against the high worktop!?

  2. Shenley says

    Agree, it took me ages to find stools, as many suppliers ( Garden Trading) didn’t do counter height. I really liked the ones pictured!
    I wasn’t at all sure that I would use them as I’ve not got much of an overhang on the worktop, and already had a dining spot in the kitchen. In the end I got a couple of plain wood stools from a friend who was “updating” hers – to those black leather & chrome types – for a tenner each. Quick coat of white Osmo oil to take down the orange tone and they’re great for perching to chat.

    • Karen Knox says

      Had to read that twice then to check it wasn’t you with the leather and chrome stools. I let out of sigh of relief when I got to Osmo oil!

  3. So now I hate my stools! They are adjustable at least, but that’s it. Any chance of a good stool round up? Pretty please!

    • Karen Knox says

      Oh no!! Don’t hate your stools! Pretend you never read this post.
      I’ll add Stool Round Up to my list of blogs to write and see what I can do…

  4. Oh god I went through this nightmare when I was searching for my own counter height stools! With so many people doing breakfast bars at islands (where the worktops are standard height), why on earth are there so few that actually look nice (and don’t cost a bajillion quid)?! The nightmare! In the end I went with some counter-height stools from Dunelm but I don’t love them and I’m still trying to find my perfect fit xxx

    • Karen Knox says

      I honestly have no idea why they’re so hard to find. Not many people actually have bars at home, like you said, they’re normally just part of the kitchen worktop overhang situation. I genuinely think that most people don’t know they’ve got the wrong sized seating and then wonder why they’re so uncomfortable!

      • Anonymous says

        I was feeling rather smug when I read this… then went to measure my stools … probably about 5 cm to high… but I love them- wooden stools came from a school science lab- dipped to remove orange gloss – a mere £25 each… wondering wud I dare trust the hubby to try and trim a few cm off the stool legs..hmmm perhaps not!

        • Karen Knox says

          No leave them! 25cm distance is totally do-able. We have one those too and love it!

  5. Anonymous says

    Haha. Love this. It’s one of my pet hates too! A lot of interiors shots have barstools that are way too high and I always feel for their thighs…

    • Karen Knox says

      Yes, where do they fit their legs? Perhaps they’re just decorative stools 😉

  6. Anonymous says

    I’m mentally decorating the house I want to buy and this post was exactly what I needed to read as I was scoping out stools for the kitchen island just last night! Thank you!! 🙏🏻

  7. Rachael Thomson says

    VERY interesting! Really enjoyed reading this. Must remember to include kitchen seating set up in my next case history! Rachael (Chiropractor)

  8. Carin says

    Thank you, Karen, for pointing this out; it should be required reading for interior stylists and retailers!
    My first reality check on chair/stool to table height ratio came when I had to abandon the kitchen table/chair combo I’d set my heart on because my partner couldn’t fit his legs under the table crosspiece. Yet, dear reader, I married him —with the result that everyone in my house (except me!) is now 6’2′ plus. And I did manage to find stools for the kitchen, tables that they can get their legs under and sofas that can accommodate disparate leg heights. However, I failed to factor that in when I did the first bathroom; the loo is ‘too low’, apparently. We live and learn.

  9. I hear you! It’s been such a pain to try and find a countertop height stool – often companies will only do bar stools, which as you rightly say just won’t work. In my case the countertop is actually a little bit shorter than 90cm making it even more important to get the right stool! In the end I found a design I liked and contacted the supplier to see whether they could swap out the base for a shorter version (they had countertop version of other designs, but not of the one I wanted). Hurray for small shops that care and a few weeks later I had the design I wanted at the height I wanted with an accompanying note that they were now considering adding it to their standard line-up. Double win!!

  10. Linda says

    Excellent! I’ve spotted that there are two heights of stool and needed someone to put it in black and white for me. Absolute clarity!
    Now, I’m about to (well, when restrictions make it possible) have my kitchen extended. There will be a kitchen island. Because I’ve never sat on a stool that was truly comfortable, and because I have a frequent visitor with limited mobility (my lovely Mum), we’ve opted to have the seated part of the island dropped down to table height. For real ease of access I’m thinking of swivel chairs. I’d love to know what you’d do.

  11. Hev says

    Another design crime is having stools but no overhang (whether thighs will fit or not!). Pointless and uncomfortable. And I also find that if there is nowhere for you to rest your feet stools are very uncomfortable.

  12. I loved reading this! Cannot wait for more in the Design Crimes series. You are spot on – I found it almost impossible to find 60-65cm stools. After measuring and remeasuring (I’m never far from my tape measure…) I knew they would be the right height for my breakfast bar. But never again will I be able to look at the back of a stool/chair without noticing zippers/seams (and I thank you for it!).

  13. I have really enjoyed this post. In midst of renovating and stools are definitely in the plans so this is very informative. Thanks! Really looking forward to your next design crime 🙂

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