How Much Space Between Bar Stools?

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Wondering how many bar stools you can squeeze onto a counter or bar-top? Maybe you’re planning a new kitchen bar and need to know how many to purchase? How much space do you need between your bar stools? Don’t be frustrated at all the different answers online. We have laboriously researched this to bring order to the chaos so that you know how much space you need between bar stools.

A good guideline is a minimum of 10 inches of space between bar stool seats. Depending on the size of the seats, use the guidelines here:

  • Bar stools 8 to 12 inches wide, leave 14 inches of space.
  • Bar stools 12 to 15 inches wide, leave 12 inches of space.
  • Bar stools 16 inches wide or more, leave 10 inches of space.

The recommended area separating bar stools varies greatly depending on which website you visit. The size of the chairs and the purpose of the seating are the main factors to decide how much space you need. We’ll unravel them here so that you can see how these factors might affect the distance between your bar stools.

Dark gray cabinets and pendant lights adorn this classy kitchen with bar stools, How Much Space Between Bar Stools?

Use of bar stools

When you calculate how much space you need between bar stools, you’ll need to consider two questions: 1. What is their purpose? and 2. How big is the bar stool?  You will need more or less space between chairs depending on their size and the activities you have at your bar or counter.

Meals

If you plan on regularly serving meals at your bar, you need to plan for more space between bar stools. Meals usually require glasses, flatware, plates, napkins, condiments… and don’t forget you might have bread or dessert plates or additional wine glasses depending on what you are serving.

Bar stools 16-inch wide bar stools, spaced 10 inches apart.

Take a look at these 16-inch wide bar stools, spaced 10 inches apart. This is a minimum of space for comfortable dining.

In a commercial restaurant, comfortable seating is 16-inch wide stools spaced 10 inches apart, as in the photo below.

Bar stools in a commercial restaurant

This is a typical scenario at a restaurant bar, suitable for dining.

If you use your counter or bar as an activity space, you will need to leave a larger gap between your bar stools. Things like crafting, painting, or homework usually need more counter space. Consequently, you will need to move the bar stools farther away from one another. Plan for 12-14 inches minimum between most bar stools for any of these activities.

Parties

If your bar stools are for cocktail seating, a snack area, or a place to have coffee, you don’t need to leave as much space between the chairs. You can eliminate the guideline and leave less space to accommodate more chairs. In this photo, we have three chairs with 8-inch seats that have been spaced only 4 inches apart.

Bar stools for cocktail seating

There is less space needed for party seating with these bar stools. It’s perfectly fine and adds more seats to a small area for a party.

Compare the same chairs with 16 inches between the seats in the following photo. They look oddly empty and spaced too far apart.

Bar stools for cocktail seating, arranged farther apart

In this photo, the space between the stools is 16 inches instead of 4, as in the previous image. There is less seating room for guests and no need for so much space.

Size of Bar stool

Sometimes you can calculate the space needed by using the width of the bar stool and the length of your island or bar, but the result will leave you with awkward spacing. This is because the chair size is large or out of proportion. 

Take a look at the following picture. You see two bar stools sitting next to each other. The seats are 8 inches wide, but the seat-back is 17 inches wide. They are squashed and hard to get in or out. The width of the seatback should have been used in the calculation, not the width of the seat.

two bar stools sitting next to each other

In this photo, only 8 inches is spaced between the two oddly shaped bar stools. They are too close and uncomfortable to use.

Now you have the basic rules for spacing between bar stools. But you may have a few additional questions you might be asking at this point.

How many stools can you fit at a 6-foot island?

This is a great question when you’re buying bar stools! And the answer is to use a simple math problem. Measure the bar length in inches, then divide by the width of your chair plus ten inches. In the example, we’ll use a 6-foot (72 inches) bar length.

  • Example, bar stool seat-width 14 inches, plus 10 = 24. Divide 72 by 24 = 3.0.
    • For fractions, always round down to the nearest whole number.
    • If your bar stools are less than 12 inches wide, add 14 inches – not 10 – before calculating.

Therefore, three bar stools with seats 14 inches wide will comfortably fit on the long side of a 6-foot island. 

How much space do you need behind island/counter seating?

There should always be enough space to walk behind the seating of your bar or counter. This includes when they are in use! Going below two feet of clearance is not a great idea; there is not enough room for movement. Leave three feet or more, if possible, behind your bar stools and other obstacles. The following two photos demonstrate two options, including one if you’re short on space.

stools behind an island

In the photo above, three feet of space is behind the stools while in use. This makes plenty of room to walk between them and the sofa.

In this next photo, we’ve minimized the space to show that while tight, it’s still possible to have just enough clearance with only two feet.

stools behind an island, arranged closer to each other

In the above photo, the space has been reduced to two feet between the bar stools and the sofa behind it. There is less room, but it still works.

Keep in mind that the larger the stool, the larger the space needed.

What is the difference between bar height and counter height stools?

Bar and counters-height stools are different because bars are usually taller than counters. A standard counter is 36 inches tall. A traditional bar height is 42 inches – this is to allow people to stand and lean, as well as to sit.

So when you see bar stools offered in ‘bar height’ or ‘counter height,’ they reflect the differences in how tall the bar stool needs to be for either a counter or a bar. When calculating how tall your bar stools should be, the chair’s seat should be 10 inches below the bar.

In the next photo, you will see a black counter-height stool – standard 26 inches at the seat – next to a bamboo, bar-height table of 42 inches and the matching bamboo bar height chair of 30 inches.

black counter-height stool

As you can see, this black counter-height chair is entirely too low for a standard 42-inch height bar top. 

Now take a look at a bar-height stool – standard 30-32 inches at the seat – next to a counter-height bar of 36 inches.

bamboo, bar-height chair

In the photo above, you can see that the bamboo, bar-height chair with a 30-inch seat height is just a little too tall for the 36-inch counter. The black chairs, which are 26 inches at the seat, are perfectly positioned at a seat height 10 inches below the counter.

Measure

Always remember to measure your bar or counter height before purchasing stools. Keep the height of the seat 10 inches below the counter or bar top. If you don’t find the exact height you want or are unsure, there are chairs with adjustable heights. They are also great for families with children or people of different heights. Everyone can sit comfortably!

How far does a bar top overhang?

There are a lot of different sizes you see for bar overhangs. They can range from five to fifteen inches.  When choosing one for your home, never go below 7 inches. The additional money you spend will be worth the functionality and resale value. 

The most economical and useful overhang length is 9 – 11 inches. You can always go larger, but it will be more costly, and you may need additional framing support to hold up heavy granite or marble overhangs, as in the photo below.

Luxury gray kitchen corner with white bar

Integrated into the bar, the overhang was too big to stand on its own. Support legs were needed at each corner.

In Closing

Using a simple calculation, you can determine how much space you need between bar stools and how many bar stools you can fit on your bar or counter. The space will depend on the width of the chair and the use of the bar.

Keep in mind that standard counter height is 36 inches and bar height is 42 inches; check bar stools to ensure there is at least 10 inches of clearance from the seat to the table. With a bit of measuring and math, you’ll know right away what to buy and what to avoid when you’re ready for bar stools!

For some ideas on designing with bar stools, read: Should Your Bar Stools Match Your Dining Chairs? 

And try this great idea on How To Make Kitchen Chairs Into Bar Stools.

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