What are Bar Stools?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Bar stools are seating designed specifically for high eating and drinking surfaces, with long legs that elevate the seat so that a patron can sit at a bar or high counter in comfort. Most are around 30 inches (76 centimeters) in height, designed to seat someone at a standard 40 to 44 inch (102 to 122 centimeter) bar or counter. In addition to being used at bars and nightclubs, some homes also use stools to provide additional seating in kitchen or transitional areas, as many informal household eating areas are at high counters. There are a wide variety of types available on the market to suit varying decorating schemes and weight loads.

A line of vintage bar stools at a diner.
A line of vintage bar stools at a diner.

The materials used to make bar stools include wood, metal, or plastic, depending on the design scheme that they are intending to fit with. The woods used include oak, mahogany, cherry, and ash, and the stools are often varnished or stained, rather than painted. Most are designed to be easy to clean, as frequent spills are a hazard at a bar, and very sturdy. In some cases, the stools are designed to bolt to the floor so that they cannot be moved, and they will not tip over if the seated patron becomes imbalanced.

Modern bar with chair-style bar stools.
Modern bar with chair-style bar stools.

A basic, traditional stool is round with a flat padded seat, four sturdy legs, and a rail to rest feet on. In some cases, the seat rotates on a swivel. The padding can be leather, vinyl, or fabric, and is usually waterproofed. Some have low or partial backs designed to provide some lumbar support to the person seated at the stool, while others actually have full high backs and are extremely comfortable. In almost all cases, a bar stool will feature a foot rail, although shorter individuals may not be able to reach it.

A simple, wooden bar stool.
A simple, wooden bar stool.

Non-padded bar stools are also available, as are those that deviate from the traditional round shape. Stools without padding tend to be less comfortable, although they may have sculpted seats to make sitting in them more enjoyable. Some are also available in shorter and extra-tall varieties, for non-standardized bars or human bodies.

Mahogany stools are often varnished or stained, rather than painted.
Mahogany stools are often varnished or stained, rather than painted.

Simple or highly ornamental designs can be used for bar stools, which are manufactured to meet a wide variety of aesthetic needs. Modern, classic, retro, antique, and designer stools can be found in most furniture stores in a wide variety of finishes, with more available by special request. Custom models with specific upholstering can also be manufactured to match a decorating scheme.

Bar stool padding can be leather, vinyl or fabric, and is usually waterproofed.
Bar stool padding can be leather, vinyl or fabric, and is usually waterproofed.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Perdido – I love unique bar stools. To me, a bar is much classier and modern if it puts some thought into the design of its bar stools.

I saw the coolest bar stools ever at a new place that just opened up downtown. The seats are made of black wood, but the back, seat, and foot rails are all one piece. The wood just curves and waves from the back into the seat and down to the feet, and a silver pole shoots up through it for support.

These bar stools are adjustable, too. You can use a pump lever underneath the seat that operates like the ones in hair salon chairs.


Instead of a dining room table, my aunt used her kitchen bar. She would put placemats for everyone on it, and her only dining room furniture was bar stools.

She did have an incredibly large kitchen. Since she really didn't have a separate dining room, and she had so much extra counter space, she just thought that it would be convenient to have everyone sit down at the bar to eat.

She had these bar stools that were padded on the seat and on the back. They reminded me of the old ones that you see in cafes that have been around for decades.


I like the bar stool chairs that you can lean back in when you are sitting. I rarely sit up straight for long periods, so I need something to support me.

My friend has these cool bar stools that are made of wrought iron. They have rounded legs that curve up at the ends, and the backs are ornamental. The seats are padded, so they are comfortable to sit in.

They actually look more like chairs than bar stools. The only thing that sets them apart from her dining room chairs is their height.


Some of my most unique furniture pieces are my bar stools. I went with the typical sofa and recliner design, but I wanted something a bit more special when it came to the dining room and kitchen design.

The entire area is decked out in rope and wicker, so I thought it fitting to have wicker bar stools. However, what makes them special is that they are not actually made of wicker. They are made of wood that is cut to resemble a wicker pattern.

The backs, the seats, and even the legs are full of square gaps. The solid sections are thick and sturdy enough to support a person, though.

I just loved the concept of wicker without wicker! The wood is pale and cream-colored, and this adds to the effect.


My neighbors have these really cool outdoor bar stools. They are made of wicker but they are actually comfortable.

They have the patio of all patios. It has a grill, a bar, lots of seating, lighting, music. I would be jealous of them but they are super nice and they have my wife and I over all time during the summer time.


My apartment that I just moved into has a sort of breakfast bar separating the living room from the kitchen. It is the perfect height for a bar stool.

Where can I find good deals on bar stools? I do not need anything fancy, just something practical.


I found some really cool bar stools at a garage sale over the weekend. They are purple and green and they have this cool checkerboard design.

Plus they were in great shape and they had the full set for less than 20 bucks.

My only problem is that I don't really have a place to put them. They were an impulse buy for sure. I don't even have a bar!

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