If your bar has a custom or unusual height, then the rule is to take the height of the bar and subtract 12 inches to get your ideal seat height.
What many customers are unaware of however is the difference between a BAR height and a COUNTER height. The former is applied to restaurants and pubs where an honest-to-goodness beverage distribution station is likely to be found, and the customer is just as likely to be leaning on the bar as sitting at it. The latter, a COUNTER height, is made primarily for residences in kitchens where people want to be able to make food or eat at a distance from the surface of the counter that mimics a dining-table distance between mouth and plate.
Restaurant tables are customarily 30", which would put the ideal seat height for a chair at 18"
When you are shopping for barstools, make sure you know which height category your bar falls under, and look for key phrases like "standard bar" or "countertop" in the product descriptions. Often the style of the stool can be an indicator as to its intended environment. A black vinyl swivel stool is more likely to be found in a commercial bar, whereas a wooden slat-back could furnish any rustic-themed family kitchen in the country.
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