May. 25, 2017

How to Measure For the Perfect Barstools


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Last updated:
Sep. 7, 2022 @ 3:40 pm

You would think that finding the perfect barstools for your kitchen island or counter would be simple! You find the barstools you like, add them to your shopping cart and badda bing badda boom. Right? I’ve tackled barstool logistics in two homes now. If you haven’t already figured it out, there is so much more to consider than you might initially think. So, how do you go about finding the right size, shape, and color for a barstool match made in heaven? Let’s break it down!

Steps To Find The Perfect Barstools

There are a few steps that you can take to ensure the barstools you order or purchase are the rights ones. Let me tell you, there is nothing worse than dropping hundreds of dollars and spending countless hours on assembly only to find that your barstools just aren’t right. I’m talking barstools that are too low, too cramped or totally non-functioning! The steps below have helped me nail down the science of perfect barstool scouting. I hope that they help you in your adventures, too!

Items That Are Good to Have On Hand

  • Tape Measure
  • Large Books (I’ll explain!)
  • Cardboard or a Straightedge
  • Swatches (If you’ve got them!)

Step 1: Measure, Measure, Measure

You’ll want to get started by measuring the area where you plan to place your barstools. Remember to not only measure the length of your countertop but also how far out the counters sit from the base of your cabinets.

Step 2: Determine the Type of Barstool You Want

There are lots of options when it comes to barstools. Determine then function you’d like your barstool to serve. Think back or no back, swivel, footrest, adjustable height, etc. Keep in mind that not all spaces are right for certain types of barstools. In our kitchen, for example, we needed super skinny stools with no backs because there’s a pretty narrow pathway behind them. 

Step 3: Calculate the Perfect Barstool Height

A good rule of thumb for calculating the ideal barstool height is leaving 9″-12″ of space between the undersid of your countertop and the top of your barstool. There are some variations in barstool heights available and it’s acceptable to give or take an inch or two from this guideline.

The Math

Minimum Height = Countertop Height – 12″

Maximum Height = Countertop Height – 9″

Take the distance from your floor to the underside of your counterop and subtract 9″. Then do the same thing only subtract 12″. This will give you an acceptable range for the barstool height you should search for.

For example if my countertops are 36″ high, my ideal barstool would be 24″-27″ high.


It’s a little silly but I love to find a spare chair in the house. Using those books I mentioned above, carefully stack the books to reach your target height and then take a seat to see if it feels right.

Step 4: Find the Right Barstool Depth

In theory, your barstools can be whatever depth you’d like. That being said, keep in mind what’s going on behind the stools (like our walkway) and also how the depth will impact the way your barstools look. For instance, it might look a little silly if your counter is only 10″ deep but your barstool sticks out 24″ inches. You generally don’t want the edge of your barstool to stick out more than 4″ – 6″ from your countertop’s overhang.

The Math

Minimum Depth = Countertop Overhang + 4″

Maximum Depth = Countertop Overhang + 6″

To calculate the ideal depth, take your countertop overhang and add 4″. Then take the overhang and add 6″. You’ll want to search for barstools with a depth in that range.

For example, if your countertop overhang is 10″, you would want to search for a barstool with a depth between 14″ and 16″.


Keep in mind that not all barstools are created equal. Especially with backed barstools, it’s a best practice to take the higher of the depths. We’ve had barstools where the back flairs out. Additionally, keep an eye out for barstools with a wider base as this can impact how far your stools sticks out from your counter. I like to use a cut piece of cardboard or another straight edge to measure out my ideal depth to get a feel for how far a barstool will stick out.

Step 5: Decide On The Right Material

Now that you know the height and the depth of your perfect barstool, you’ll want to start thinking about what materials to use. I’m personally a big fan of wood or metal barstools as they hold up better to stains. Depending on where your stools will be and the type of traffic you might get, think about what material will hold up best. 


While the color and fabric of your stools is totally up to you, don’t forget to take into account the other colors in your bar or kitchen area. Try pulling in an accent color from a nearby room for a fun pop or go with a more neutral color.

Step 5: Start Shopping!

Take your dimensions and material choices to the web or your favorite furniture store and get looking! If you’re going out to the store, be sure to take a measuring tape with you so you can get it just right! Wayfair has about a million options and Target isn’t a bad place to start, either!


While the color and fabric of your stools is totally up to you, don’t forget to take into account the other colors in your bar or kitchen area. Try pulling in an accent color from a nearby room for a fun pop or go with a more neutral and versatile color.

Step 6: How Many Stools Do I Need?

You’ve found the perfect barstool and are ready to swipe that card! But wait, how many do you need? While some sources might tell you 6″ is all the space that’s needed, I find that barstools tend to function better with 10″ or more between each stool. It’s also good to leave an additional 10″-14″ between your end stools and the edge of your countertop.

The Math

# of Stools Needed = (Countertop Length – 20″)/(Bar Stool Width + 10″)

To determine how many stools you need, you’ll want the width of the barstool you’ve picked and your countertop length in hand. We start by subtracting 20″-28″ off of the countertop length to account for space at either end (10″-14″ on each side). Then take your bar stool width and add 10″ for the space between each stool. Divide the first number by the second number to get the number of barstools that’s perfect for your space. Round to the nearest whole number.

For example, if my countertop is 140″ long, I’d subtract 20″ and get 120″. The barstools I want are 30″ wide. 30″ + 10″ is 40″. 120″ divided by 40″ is 3. The perfect number of stools for my counter is 3!


Just like the depth of our stools, we want to take the wider of the barstool widths for our calculations for safe measure! Remember, you can always add another stool if you need to. Go more conservative with your measurements to start.

Step 7: Buy Those Beauties

Finally! It’s time to swipe that card and buy those barstools knowing that you’ve taken the right steps to pick the perfect set!

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