There is something supremely satisfying about a set of barstools set up perfectly at a counter, even more so when the spacing is also perfect for use. Stools too close together can be uncomfortable or difficult to sit in with others around and sometimes dangerous to get in and out of. At the same time, spacing that leaves stools too sparse can leave any room imbalance and empty feeling.
How Much Space to Leave Around Bar Stools
Just like with all other types of furniture, such as dining chairs and sofas, barstools need a certain amount of space around them to be truly functional. That perfect spacing relies on a few factors; chief among them is the diameter of the barstool followed by shape.
General barstool spacing recommendations:
- Small Diameter (8-12 inches): Leave about 12 inches of space between the stools.
- Medium Diameter (13 – 16 inches): Leave 8-10 inches of space between the stools.
- Large Diameter (17+ inches): Leave at least 6 inches between the stools.
- Swivel or Arm Styles: Leave 8-10 inches of space between the stools.
- Unique Shapes and Bases: This will vary by movement and comfort level, but for barstools with truly unique bases or disproportionate backs, leave about 10 inches of space between the stools.
It may seem a little counterintuitive for a few of the options, but a small diameter stool doesn’t mean the person sitting in it is taking up any less space. Those thinner stools likely don’t have arms or backs taking up the area, but the people sitting in them do. If you are ever in doubt, err on the side of leaving an extra inch or two, especially if you decide to mix and match styles.
When setting up your bar and kitchen area, also make sure to pay attention to the space behind the stools as much as the space between. You will want to leave adequate space behind the stools when pushed out for seating so that people can still walk behind them. Our recommendation is three feet of space for the most accessible movement, but you shouldn’t drop below two feet if you can help it.
Remember to Measure the Height
There is nothing worse than going through all the trouble to get the correct number of something only to realize too late that it isn’t practical to use how you want. For barstools, cramped spacing can be annoying, but a miscalculated height can make them look disproportionate and, at worst, unusable.
Just like when choosing dining room chairs, you need room between the seat of the stool and the underside of the bartop for legs to fit comfortably. Look for a difference of 9-12 inches in the measured heights.
Measured is the key word here. While most standard counters run about 34-36 inches and bars in the 40-42 inch range, make sure to check both that your bar or counter was made within that range and that the bar stools specified height works out as well. Barstools can be manufactured with a range of heights, so don’t assume a stool labeled as a bar or counter height is a fit for your space.
Other Special Considerations
Spacing out barstools isn’t as complicated as it may feel, but there are a few additional considerations that can bend the rules listed above. And the most significant concern is just how you plan to use the bar space.
For kitchen bars where you plan to eat meals or do light office work regularly, you should plan on upping the space between barstools. You will need a clearly defined area at the bar for glasses, flatware, napkins, and more.
Each barstool should sit in the center of any planned place settings, with a little bit of elbow room.
Work or Hobbies
If you have a family with kids, odds are the bar seating will eventually be taken over by crafting or homework. We recommend about 12 inches in between stools for activities like these that require even more space to be comfortable.
If your barstools have low backs or no arms and can be pushed out of the way and you don’t need all of them at a time for study sessions, you can get away with less.
Do you most often use the bar area when throwing a party or other celebrations? If you don’t plan to use the space for regular dining meals or other activities, you can likely fit in another seat (or two) depending on the length of the bar for party guests. You will see this at a lot of commercial spots where people tend to mingle more than they sit.
The final factor that impacts needed space around barstools is any special accommodations that might need to be made for movement impediments. For some people, it is easier to get up to and down from a barstool than a regular dining chair. But they may still require a bit of extra space for maneuverability. If you, a loved one, or a frequent guest has impaired movement, consider leaving a little extra space.
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