Bar or Counter Height?

It seems like there are two categories of trends: the inescapable ones that we go crazy for until they reach a saturation point (tuxedo cabinets, we’re looking at you) and we can’t stand them anymore, and the pernicious trends that are just as ubiquitous but somehow sneak by unnoticed. Eat-in spaces in kitchens are as common as basic appliances, but recently it dawned on us that we’ve only been seeing counter-height (around 36 inches) eating areas and hardly any with bar-height (42 inches).

Like a nondescript arctic lichen, has this ’80s and ’90s mainstay gone extinct without anyone noticing? The eradication is so complete that it’s hard to find pretty kitchens with bar-height counters. Seriously, we had to dig deep to find even just these three images:

So what is it about bar height that has caused it to be rejected in a whisper heard ’round the world? It seems practical–vertical space to accommodate outlets and hide small appliances or cooking messes is a good thing, right? Yet, looking at our own Pinterest kitchen board, there’s not a single kitchen with bar-height counters, though we never formed a conscious preference for one over the other.

Counter-level eating spaces seem to be the new normal, with plenty of beautiful examples. We’d love to perch atop the non-totteringly high bentwood stool in this kitchen and take in the lovely green cabinets and black hardware.

With so many beautiful things to look at in this home, we imagine that even diners at the formal table scarcely notice when the exposed counters are messy.

With its waterfall edge counter and golden stemmed lighting, this kitchen is glam, but not in a big-for-its-britches way.

Here’s a perk of counter-height: the extra inches between ceiling and counter accommodate dramatic blooming branches as in these next two images:

What do you think? Did you see bar-height counter’s swan song from a mile away, or did this sneak up on you too? Which height do you prefer in your own home?

We’re taking next week off from posting as we’ll be together in the flesh, hanging out and working on some fun new stuff for the blog. See you back here June 1!

17 responses on “Bar or Counter Height?

  1. Shari

    Notice in the second to last pi that there isn’t enough room for your legs to fit beneath the countertop? I’ve noticed that often – chairs the wrong size – when they should be counter height.

  2. isabel

    This might seem weird, but I have never seen the appeal in eating at a counter unless you are at a restaurant. The problem is that at a counter everyone is facing the same direction, hence it makes conversation (at least for me) more difficult. I like sitting down at a table where you actually see the person to whom you are speaking.

  3. Lea

    My made-in-the-80s kitchen has counter height seating, but our family doesn’t regularly use it. Even for breakfasts and snacks we eat at the dining room table. The chairs at the counter only get use when we have guests doing crafts like pumpkin carving at that counter or when we need to seat more people than can fit at the table.

    1. Mera

      There seems to be a consensus that gathering at a counter (be it counter-height or bar-height) is better for homework, crafting, and chatting than it is for actual eating. Thanks Lea!

  4. Susan Glassow

    Our kitchen was redone by the last owners in the ’80s so it has counter height seating. I like it for when I’m cooking and family and friends can sit up at the counter and talk or help with preparation. I don’t think in the casual setting of our kitchen-dining- sitting room with couch and fireplace that seeing a few dishes is a problem. Food, conversation, hanging out together in the dining or sitting area that is what gathering is about. If we ever redo the counters I’ll leave the seating there.

    1. Mera

      Your counter is also perfect for passing dishes out to guests eager to set the table and enjoy your company and incredible food! xoxo

  5. Jessica

    Bar height. Like Susan said, it’s so great when friends come over and sit there while I finish dinner or fix drinks. And they can have a clean surface while I work on the counter…

  6. Moira

    I can’t wait to find the right bar stools so our almost-8-year-old daughter can do homework at the counter while we cook dinner. It’s some of the sweetest time we have in the day…

  7. Nina D

    I like the idea of bar-height as a perch for sipping wine and keeping the cook company, but not for “enjoying” an entire meal. I may be prejudiced because I am short and it’s not always easy to climb onto said perch, and once up there, my legs dangle, unable to reach the food rests. Please stop laughing.

    1. Mera

      I’m tall, but I’ve definitely had the experience of bar-height stool footrests not being at the right height for me to get comfortable. Plus high stools are perilous for kids!

  8. Erin

    I think the lack of bar height counters is because of the movement to open floor plans. That added height on the counter makes things feel a bit more closed off and changes sight lines a bit.

    Also, I grew up in a house with counter-height seating and we ate dinner there every night. I think it helped that my mom would sit on one side and the other three of us would sit facing her. It never felt awkward to us and made serving dinner that much easier on my mom.

  9. elizabeth

    When our building was converted into condos twelve years ago, for the most part they installed bar-height counters, or at least they sort of did. Even though they installed gorgeous granite countertops, for whatever reason they didn’t install ledges for the bar-height counters. It’s on our list of things we want to install because I love a good bar-height counter–when we have people come over everyone naturally seems to gravitate to the kitchen anyway, so it would be nice to have a spot to comfortably serve food and give people a place to put their wine glass.

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