Raise the Bar: Don’t cut corners when choosing a bar stool


Not long ago, a client contracted Proctor Companies to renovate his theatre, which included the addition of a restaurant and bar. Because it was his first experience with bar seating, when it came time to order bar stools, we guided him through the standard series of questions our designers ask themselves to pin down the basics.

We asked how many bar stools need to fit into his space, the determining factor for width. Will they be counter height or bar height? Will steel or aluminum bar stools, which are more durable, work with his design, or is the warmth of wood more congruent with his decor? Will the bar stools have backs and arms? Should the seats and seat backs be padded and upholstered?

After the basics, we delved into the details. Does the bar have a foot rail or will the bar stools need built-in footrests? Is a swiveling seat preferred? Do they need to be weather-resistant for indoor/outdoor use? How much space is available for storing spares? Do they need to stack? How easily can they be cleaned, refinished or reupholstered? Is the bar floor carpeted or a hard surface? This determines whether felt, rubber, plastic, polyethylene or nylon is the best foot material.

After reviewing the answers to these questions, we recommended a bar stool that we felt would meet his needs. However, at more than $500 per piece, he balked at the cost, insisting instead on a price point of under $100.

We tried to convince him otherwise, but he was adamant. So we specified stools that met his price point. Initially, he was happy with the money he saved. But his happiness quickly faded. Within just a few months, his bargain stools were showing signs of wear. Shortly thereafter, they started falling apart. Within a year, he had a closet full of broken bar stools and, each month, was staring at another invoice to replace those that had to be retired from service.

The time, cost—and even liability—associated with substandard bar stools convinced him to replace his bargain stools and go with our initial recommendation. They were more expensive, sure, but they were built to last. Today, nearly seven years later, the majority are still in service.

His experience reinforces what we at Proctor Companies already know to be true: When it comes to buying bar stools, you have to set the bar high—because being penny-wise often ends up being pound-foolish.