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There’s no denying the appeal of a seat at the bar; it’s where everybody knows your name, after all. As a design element at home, it offers a more casual and space-efficient alternative to formal dining. And sometimes picking the best bar stool can be troublesome, there are many details despite de chairs’ design. Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, principals of the New York design firm Roman and Williams, dispense expert advice on how to shop for a stool. Afterwards, we present you our design furniture selection for the most demanding living spaces.
What do you like most about bar seating in the context of restaurants and residences?
Bar seating is spontaneous. It’s a very social and interactive location—you can see and chat with the bartender or the chef in a restaurant, or with your family over breakfast in your own home. There’s an informality to it, and that informality transfers onto the piece of furniture itself.
When shopping for a bar stool, what are the essential qualities you look for?
We look for great lines and some [visual] interest. It’s a tall element in the room. You can really see the legs, so it should have great proportions. We don’t feel strongly that it needs to swivel or have a back. Bar stools should be sturdy and have some weight; otherwise they can feel insecure and flimsy. They should always have a footrest. We like a wood seat, something made from a natural material. There’s something comfortable about that. When there’s food involved, it’s nice to sit on a warm surface.
What material do you recommend for upholstery?
If we have to use upholstered stools, we like to use leather or even canvas. They’re easy to clean! The bar stool should be a very utilitarian piece of furniture; it’s not highly decorative. It’s a workhorse stool. Buying a bar stool isn’t like buying a signature chair for a room.
Name your favorite stool from design history.
Jean Prouvé’s stools are so simple and beautiful. There is wonderful, earnest detailing, and they have a great mixture of metal and wood—warm on the butt, sturdy on the legs.
What contemporary design do you like most?
We make exceptions for people, but for objects, we only trust anything over 40 years old!