Once simply the mainstay of taverns and restaurants, bar stools have been propelled into a major industry to accommodate the home market as kitchens increasingly are viewed as the centerpiece of family life and entertaining.
The kitchen has become the Number 1 priority for designers of new homes, and a kitchen remake is by far the most popular home remodeling project, experts agree, with increased counter space with overhangs and kitchen islands among the chief design elements. Counter seating for casual dining and gathering around communal food preparation has driven the bar stool industry to new heights with thousands of choices to fit any décor, from rustic and traditional, to ultra-modern and unique designer kitchen creations.
The traditional bar stool, with origins in the 19th Century when taverns and saloons emerged as the business and social hubs of the day, were traditionally 30” in height, giving the standing bar patron a seating option that maintained the overall elevated view of the barroom. While today’s restaurants for the most part maintain this height for social ambiance, for home kitchens the most popular stool height has become 24” to 26” to allow a person to comfortably use the kitchen counter or island as a convenient tabletop, dining spot or work station. These so-called counter stools have now eclipsed the taller bar stool for home sales as they are viewed by kitchen designers as a safer and more easily accessible choice for kitchen-area seating, especially for children.
Two recent studies conducted by research organizations on behalf of kitchen and bath industry players point to an uptick in kitchen remodeling projects following the recession, with kitchen counter the main concern. The Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), in a survey of kitchen dealers operating showrooms, said kitchen remodeling jobs jumped 44% in 2011 over 2010 figures. And a study conducted by CNW Research with homeowners called HomeSight indicated that insufficient counter space is the No. 1 complaint from consumers when asked what they least like about their kitchen.
Moreover, experts say kitchen islands are getting bigger, wider, and longer. And some larger-kitchen designs are going with two islands -- one specifically for food preparation and another for buffets, breakfast service and entertaining. Also, there is a smaller explosion in popularity for outdoor kitchen spaces and entertainment areas, once again with a focus on bar stool or counter stool seating as the preferred option.
A chief purveyor of bar stools, AbsoluteBarStools.com, sees a clear reflection of these trends in its sales every day. The online bar stool showroom carries nearly 850 styles, from 13 bar stool manufacturers, in all height categories, and in hundreds of choices for composition, colors, seat coverings, and designs. These stools are made of wood, metal, acrylic, and plastic, come in stationary or swivel models, and feature backless designs or stools with backs like traditional chairs.
The best-selling bar stool brands at AbsoluteBarStools.com are Boraam, Zuo Modern, Alston Quality, Winsome and Bellini Modern. Styles include counter and bar stools made of wood with rattan seats and leather seats, swivel stools, contemporary and modern wood and acrylic stools with or without backs, with or without foot stands. There are even round, square and pedestal pub tables that accommodate counter stool seating and match any kitchen décor. Zuo Modern also has a number of very stylish, even space-age designs, while Alston Quality has an array of both traditional and retro stools in its line. Winsome specializes in solid wood designs, and Bellini Modern, from Canada, goes for high style with a modern feel.