More than ever, the kitchen has become the heart of the home, not just for preparing food, but for eating and entertaining as well. Kitchens are larger and more open than ever before, with everything from more storage to more seating. But while many dream kitchens focus on features like sprawling kitchen islands, professional grade cooking appliances, and custom cabinetry, one of my favorite new kitchen upgrades is actually probably one of the simplest: bar stools. Adding bar stools is a simple, easy way to add functionality to your kitchen and get a streamlined, stylish design.
Simple Bar With Stools
In the past, kitchens have been closed in, walled shut and blocked off from the rest of your home. But in recent years food preparation has become everything from a family affair to a date night. The most obvious sign of this shift is that kitchen trends are starting to favor a layout with at least one wall knocked out from the waist up, giving you an open view of the next room. This open design visually expands your kitchen, and adding a few simple bar stools on the other side is a great way to bring your family and guests into the culinary action.
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Kitchen Island Bar
In a slightly larger kitchen, kitchen islands are becoming all the rage – from small ones hardly more than a cart to full islands with built in prep sinks, butcher blocks, or even cooktops. By adding bar stools to your new kitchen island, especially if you have a built-in cooktop, you can give your family and friends a Benihana style cooking experience right in your own home. For a smaller family, adding bar stools to a kitchen island can even eliminate the need for a full sized dining table, creating a more intimate atmosphere.
Big Solutions For A Small Kitchen
I’ve been reading a lot lately about compact living – from the wildfire trend of tiny homes to ultra-efficient modular spaces and even just better kitchen cabinet design. I find it striking that the most elegant solutions are often the most simple and obvious ones. Take the kitchen above for example: there may not be enough room for a full sized kitchen island, but a supremely simple narrow shelf extending from the wall adds a not-insignificant amount of storage space. Better still, with an attentive eye for design you can get a height that’s not only perfect to work at, but that’s just tall enough that you can stow your bar stools entirely underneath – meaning they’re out of the way when not in use, and won’t take up a single inch of your floor space.
Love The Ledge
Of course, adding a little ledge to hide your bar stools under is a trick that works in much larger spaces, too. From kitchen islands of any size to plain old, straightforward home bars, extending the counter top not only makes for more available dining space (very important if you’re thinking of nixing the dining table), but also helps create a uniform, even look that keeps your bar stools from looking stranded. Where this is done best is in spaces like the kitchen above, where the protruding counter is dressed up as an architectural feature. In this case, with beautiful decorative braces that portion off the space for each seat and echo the cabinet paneling below.
Built In Beauty
Of course, not all bars have to be grand affairs. In fact, if you’re looking to maximize your ability to entertain in a small space, they probably shouldn’t be. For drinks, tapas, or other small plates, there’s no need for a full spread. I really love the little add-on in the room above, a small, simple shelf extending just about a foot from a curved column, offering a slinky, cocktail lounge style seating to extend your kitchen. The bar stools don’t have the best view, of course, but they have the distinct advantage that you can stow them away when you aren’t entertaining, and leave a whole lot more room in your kitchen for your bar equipment.
I have to say, though, one of my favorite uses for a bar stools is to create a compact breakfast nook. I love breakfast nooks in all their forms, but they can be big, bulky additions that aren’t right for every kitchen. Instead of adding booth-style restaurant seating, either by a window or in a recessed space, simply add a tall, slender bistro table and one or two bar stools in a sunny spot. It takes up almost no space, but gives you a separate place to dine in the morning, especially if you just want to sit back and enjoy a nice cup of tea and a good book without having to set a table.
What’s your favorite use for bar stools? Would you ever replace your dining table with bar-style seating, or do you prefer it as an add-on?