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8 best bar stools for your kitchen island or breakfast bar

Elevate brunches and cocktail evenings with these wood, velvet and leather chairs

Katie Gregory
Wednesday 16 March 2022 11:00 GMT
<p>Our (tall) shortlist covers everything from space-saving stools to Art Deco-inspired glamour</p>

Our (tall) shortlist covers everything from space-saving stools to Art Deco-inspired glamour

Kitchen islands are a brilliant bit of interior design if you’re lucky enough to have the space for one. But to get the most from this freestanding countertop you’re going to want to choose the best bar stools to go round it. And choosing the right ones for your particular kitchen set-up is where the fun really begins.

Firstly, decide if you want a countertop stool that saves on space and makes a great place to perch, or a high-backed bar stool you can lean back on for longer periods of time. Secondly, think about the material – wipe-clean wood is always a good way to go if yours is a family kitchen. On the other hand, leather can add a touch of luxury, and velvet brings a level of comfort that’s hard to beat.

Design-wise, bar stools run the gamut of styles from industrial to elegant, rustic to ultra-modern – so you really are spoilt for choice.

Whatever you pick, pay close attention to the seat height. While bar stools are designed to work with a countertop, they do vary by as much as 10cm. And depending on the height of your island or breakfast bar, that could mean the difference between sitting comfortably or finding it a bit too much of a tight squeeze.

How we tested

We tested a range of bar stools to find the best options for a variety of scenarios – from space-savers to tuck beneath a breakfast bar, to comfy chairs you could easily spend a night sipping cocktails in. We looked at quality, practicality, and value for money, as well as comfort and design. We factored in price and our shortlist includes budget bar stools and blow-out options, from £39 to £550 a stool.

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The best bar stools for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Cox & Cox weathered oak counter stool: £250, Coxandcox.co.uk
  • Best contemporary design – Perch & Parrow Persis bar stool, set of two: £425, Perchandparrow.com
  • Best budget chic – Home Essentials Klara bar stool: £70, Homeessentials.co.uk
  • Best industrial style – John Lewis & Partners Anyday spot bar stool, mustard: £39, Johnlewis.com
  • Best luxe lounging – Oka Stafford leather bar stool: £550, Oka.com
  • Best understated elegance – Homescapes Eton velvet bar stool: £99.99, Homescapesonline.com
  • Best for easy customisation – Farmhouse Table Company spindle back bar stool: £250, Farmhousetablecompany.co.uk
  • Best for instant glamour – Dunelm Vivian velvet bar stool: £109, Dunelm.com

Cox & Cox weathered oak counter stool

Cox & Cox weathered oak counter stool indybest.jpg

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

We love the classic look of this weathered oak counter stool from Cox & Cox, which looks great in a Shaker-style kitchen but could work equally well in various colour schemes. The wood is matte and beautifully rustic, yet silky smooth to the touch. The seat is moulded for comfort and has contours in just the right places, and the whole thing has a really solid, quality feel.

The seat measures 66cm to the bottom of the seat groove, plus a few extra centimetres at the very highest point, which tucked nicely under our island unit with plenty of room to sit comfortably. We like the fact there are plastic floor protectors hidden underneath each leg, and that this stool wipes clean, meaning it’s not only pretty, but practical.

Overall it’s a great option for a family kitchen, with a timeless style that won’t go out of fashion.

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Perch & Parrow Persis bar stool, set of two

Perch & Parrow Persis bar stool, set of two  indybest.jpg

Best: Contemporary design

Rating: 9/10

These faux leather bar stools have a distinctly retro vibe that works brilliantly in contemporary kitchens. We love everything from the stitching on the back of the seats, to the bronze-effect metal legs, which give these stools an edgy, industrial feel.

The seat height is slightly higher than others we tested – around 75cm – so it’s worth checking these will fit under your kitchen island or breakfast bar. And because the legs are angled, each stool takes up a bit more floor space than others we tried. Personally, we found these hit the perfect balance between comfort and grown-up style. The fact they come as a set of two makes the price a lot more palatable, too.

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Home Essentials Klara bar stool

Home Essentials Klara bar stool  indybest.jpg

Best: For budget chic

Rating: 8/10

If you’re on a budget, the Klara bar stool from Home Essentials is a quick way to add a touch of luxury without breaking the bank. We tested the navy blue version and loved the velvety finish and diamond quilted detail on the seat, which is soft and comfortable. There’s also a blush pink, a charcoal grey, and a mustardy ochre colour, and we found ours wiped clean surprisingly well.

We liked the fact this stool was nice and easy to assemble in the space of about 20 minutes, and it’s nice and light to move around. We were less keen on the oak-effect metal legs – the colour is ever so slightly too yellow – but the overall look is pleasingly chic at a fraction of the cost of similar items.

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John Lewis & Partners Anyday spot bar stool, mustard

John Lewis & Partners Anyday spot bar stool, mustard indybest.jpg

Best: For industrial style

Rating: 7/10

These fuss-free stools are nice and light, and tuck neatly under the counter. The steam-bent wooden seat is comfy enough for a place to perch for short periods, and the footrest is a welcome extra. What really sets these apart though, besides the bargain price, is the peppy mustard colour – we love that while the design is sleek and simple, the colour is anything but. There’s a dusty green if you do fancy something a bit more subtle, but it doesn’t have quite the same oomph.

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Oka Stafford leather bar stool

Oka Stafford leather bar stool indybest.jpg

Best: For luxe lounging

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for classic design and ultimate comfort, Oka’s Stafford stool should be on your list. A high-backed bar stool with a generously padded seat and back, it feels more like a comfy chair to sink into for the evening than a place to perch for a quick drink.

We tested the aged tobacco version – a lovely tan leather colour – and loved the buttery-soft finish. It seemed to repel water much better than other leather stools we tested, which is handy for spills. And it’s also available in an off-white China clay or smoke blue colour, with the option to order a free fabric sample before you choose.

Finished with studwork around the edges and sturdy oak legs, this is an investment purchase that feels about as plush as it gets. The only thing to bear in mind is that it does take up a fair bit of space, so it’s not one for compact kitchens. It does arrive fully assembled, however, so you can put your Allen key down.

  1. £550 from Oka.com
Prices may vary
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Homescapes Eton velvet bar stool

Homescapes Eton velvet bar stool  indybest.jpg

Best: For understated elegance

Rating: 7/10

We love the colour options available for this velvet bar stool – there are various jewel tones including a muted emerald green that works really well with the black steel legs. The padded seat is firm and supportive, and the stool is relatively compact – ideal if you’ve got several lined up next to one another, or if space is at a premium.

That said, at 77cm this was the highest stool we tested in terms of seat height, so you’ll want to do a quick check on the height of your countertop before ordering. Also consider the feet, which are metal and quite pointy and worth bearing in mind if your floor is likely to mark or dent. Aside from those minor quibbles, this is a sophisticated stool at a pleasing price. We want one in every colour.

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Dunelm Vivian velvet bar stool

Dunelm Vivian velvet bar stool  indybest.jpg

Best: For instant glamour

Rating: 8/10

Sitting in this Art Deco-inspired bar stool is like sinking into a giant velvety hug. The oversized seat is as cushioned as they come, and the scalloped shell back is high enough to give a decent amount of support. We tested the peacock colour – a blue-green that worked really nicely with the gold and black legs – although the Old Gold is equally glamorous.

There was a bit of assembly involved, although it took a max of 15 minutes and the instructions were easy to follow. The seat felt quite low at 66cm, and left plenty of room beneath the counter. We particularly liked the fact the legs have little levelling feet, so we spent some time adjusting ours to get the stool perfectly level.

  1. £109 from Dunelm.com
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Bar stools

We chose Cox and Cox’s weathered oak counter stool as our top pick, thanks to a winning combination of quality, style, and comfort that stores neatly under a countertop. If you’re looking for a high-back bar stool with cushioning, our vote goes to Perch & Parrow’s gorgeous Persis bar stools.

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