Having a bar or a counter has become common in homes and apartments. No longer intended just for making and enjoying drinks, a bar-height counter in the home is often used in addition to or in place of the dining table. For some people, it can be a breakfast nook, a home office, a place to do homework, and a spot to watch TV or socialize.
That doesn’t mean the dedicated drinks bar doesn’t have its place as well. Wet bars were a popular feature of many homes and people still use them for entertaining. Standalone bars are available for patios and outdoor spaces, sometimes with fun themes and decor. There’s nothing like your own outdoor bar when you’re entertaining.
For all the hours we spend at our bars and counters, indoors or out, we need comfortable and convenient bar seating, and swivel bar stools are a great solution to this need. Available in heights for both kitchen counters and bars, swivel bar stools give you the height you need and the convenience and flexibility of a swiveling seat. You can turn to face various directions on a swivel bar stool, and they’re easier to get in and out of than bar stools with fixed seats. You can find swivel bar stools in a wide variety of designs to fit your home or bar space, and many options are budget-friendly as well.
Prior to Prohibition, bars in the United States didn’t have bar stools. Patrons walked up to the bar and stood or leaned against it, or took their drinks to a table. Stool seating was found in eating establishments.
How to choose the best swivel bar stool
Height is the key factor in choosing a swivel bar stool. The two most common heights are counter height and bar height.
- Counter height bar stools measure between 24 inches and 27 inches in height to sit comfortably at 35- to 39-inch counters, such as those in your kitchen.
- Bar height bar stools stand 28 to 33 inches tall to sit comfortably at true bar heights of 41 to 43 inches.
- Less common heights for bar stools are dining height (17 to 19 inches) and spectator height (33 to 34 inches).
Most swivel bar stools are one of two kinds of bases: four-legged or pedestal.
- Four-legged bases are stable and look good in traditional settings. To swivel, they usually have a swivel plate or spindle between the legs and the seat. Four-legged bases can feature straight legs or angled legs.
- Pedestal bases have a single central column and a wide base. They’re often swivel-capable and can sometimes be height-adjustable as well.
You can also find tripod bases with three legs (usually angled) and legged bases that taper to a central column.
Counter length and number of bar stools
The length of your counter or bar determines how many bar stools can fit. A good rule of thumb is to allow a backless, armless bar stool 24 inches (or 2 feet) of total space for both the stool and whoever sits on it. Bar stools with backs and arms need around 30 inches of space for stool and user. Swivel bar stools need more space than stationary bar stools to accommodate the different positions a person can use.
Materials and construction
Bar stools are available in a variety of materials, including chromed steel, aluminum, hardwood, and wicker. Swivel bar stools have the additional consideration of the swivel plate or swivel mechanism, which should be sturdy, have a smooth motion, and be made of durable materials. Common swivel plate materials are metal or metal/plastic combinations.
Although bar stools all share a basic design, they come in a wide array of styles. Some of the most popular are the vinyl-and-chrome of ‘50s retro, the wicker and rattan of tropical tiki bars, and the leather and dark wood of traditional pubs. You can also find swivel bar stools in a simple contemporary design that works with a variety of styles.
Memory-return swivels are also called memory swivels, half swivels, and spin-back seats.
Features of swivel bar stools
There are two major types of swivels:the 360-degree swivel and the memory-return swivel. In a 360-degree swivel, the chair can rotate completely and remain in whatever position it rests. A memory-return swivel rotates 90 degrees left or right and returns automatically to a set resting position. Memory-return swivels have the appearance of looking neater than 360-degree swivels.
Swivels can also be flat or pitched. Pitched swivels are used mostly in bar stools with backs to add a degree of incline for comfort. In pitched swivels, the higher end is the front.
The ability to adjust a bar stool’s height offers a lot of flexibility in placement and usage. Many swivel bar stools with pedestal bases offer the same kind of lever-operated gas or hydraulic lifts as office chairs. Others can be adjusted by rotating the seat around a screw. Some four-legged bar stools have adjustable legs instead of gas lifts or screws.
A backrest allows for more comfort and relaxation while sitting on a bar stool. They’re best for when you use the bar stools for longer periods, while backless bar stools are easier to store and get in and out of. Place swivel bar stools with backs so that they don’t constantly strike or rub against the edge of the counter. Bar stool backs can be low or high.
A bar stool’s height doesn’t allow a person’s feet to touch the ground, which can be uncomfortable. To remedy this, bar stools commonly have footrests in the form of either rails or rings. Some swivel bar stools even have two tiers of footrests at different heights.
Arms on a bar stool provide an extra measure of comfort by giving your elbows someplace to rest. Swivel bar stools with arms are wider than armless models and should be given a little more space. When picking a swivel bar stool with arms, consider whether the arms fit under your counter or bar, especially when swiveling.
Hard, woven, or cushioned seat
While many bar stools offer a hard seat, you can also choose to get ones with padding or cushions, or ones with woven seats. Cushioned bar stools are more comfortable for longer periods, and bar stools with woven seats like wicker or rattan have a measure of give and a great resort-style flair.
Some hard seats offer contouring for comfort despite the lack of padding.
DID YOU KNOW?
A bar height of 40 to 43 inches allows both seated and standing people to interact face-to-face.
Bar stool accessories
Cleaning and polishing
Swivel bar stools are eye-catching pieces of furniture that do well with regular polishing. Try a metal polish for stainless steel or chrome. Furniture polish, waxes, and oils are appropriate for hardwood and wood veneer bar stools, while leather upholstery calls for leather cleaners and conditioners.
If you have a hard surface swivel bar stool and you find yourself using it for extended periods of time, you may want to consider adding a removable or separate seat cushion, such as an ergonomic seat cushion.
How much do swivel bar stools cost?
Affordable swivel bar stools cost $100 and less. These swivel bar stools may use screws rather than joinery or engineered wood rather than hardwood, but they’re pocket-friendly choices for apartments and occasional usage. They usually need at least some user assembly, which may be tricky if it involves installing a swivel plate.
Mid-priced swivel bar stools cost from $100 to $400 each. This range includes well-built bar stools in a multitude of materials including stainless steel and hardwood, and including styles ranging from ‘50s diner seats to leather pub stools. Swivel bar stools in this price range usually come fully or mostly assembled.
Expensive swivel bar stools can cost from $400 to $1,000 each or more. Fine furniture bar stools boast premium craftsmanship, high-end materials like hardwood and fine leather, and designer pedigrees. Some commercial bar stools sold for clubs, bars, and pubs with the durability necessary for public use are also found in this price range.
Bucket bar stools with a fully padded and upholstered seat and back that are contoured to fit the body are a popular choice for swivel bar stools.(Video) TOP 5 Best Rolling Stools in 2021
- Always take measurements. While swivel bar stools may say they’re counter height, bar height, and so on, their heights may vary by an inch or more from model to model. Your counter height may also be an inch taller or shorter than standard heights. Always measure your counter width and height and take note of the stated measurements given for swivel bar stools you’re considering.
- Account for deflation. Padded or upholstered seats may “sit” lower than they measure when empty. Take that into account when considering the true heights of padded bar stools.
- Mind the kids. If your kids love to spin around on swivel bar stools but you’re concerned about injury or damage, consider memory-return or half-swivel stools that don’t go all the way around. Swivel bar stools with backs and arms are also more secure for kids than backless stools, but they’re harder to get into.
A good way to pick a height for your swivel bar stool is remembering to leave 10 to 12 inches’ difference between the top of the counter or bar and the seat cushion or surface.
Q. Can you add a swivel to a bar stool?
A. It’s possible to add a swivel to an existing bar stool, but it may not be worth it. In addition to obtaining a swivel plate or mechanism, you may need to add a swivel base or a seat mount, since a stationary bar stool likely won’t have both. It’s a project for experienced DIYers, but it may be simpler to buy a swivel bar stool.
Q. How do you lubricate a swivel bar stool?
A. If your swivel bar stool is squeaking or doesn’t move as smoothly as before, try lubricating the swivel plate or mechanism. Locate the swivel plate, turn the stool on its side if necessary, and apply grease, oil, or another lubricant to the pivot point and bearings. Test the motion by swiveling the seat both with and without weight. Make sure to clean off any residue. Some manufacturers do not recommend popular lubricants like WD-40, which can have a deleterious effect on plastic.
Q. Can you lock swivel bar stools?
A. It’s possible to stop a swivel bar stool from swiveling if you don’t want it to. One way is to insert a wedge of material such as rubber into the swivel plate or mechanism. Rubber is a good choice, as it won’t cause permanent damage to the swivel. A more permanent solution is to drill holes into the swivel plate and slide a bolt into them, preventing them from moving.