Counter Height vs. Bar Height: The Pros & Cons of Kitchen Island Seating Styles

A kitchen island or a kitchen peninsula are both perfect spaces to add seating for casual dining. The most common kitchen seating question is often about the countertop height. Should the countertop be the same height as the workspace /prep zone or should it be elevated (also referred to as bar height)?

An adorable photo of a toddler sitting at a kitchen island with counter height kitchen island seating.

Kitchen design tip: Countertop Height VS. Bar Height Seating

What is Bar Height Seating?

The elevated counter or bar height counter seating is usually about 41"-43"” off the floor to the countertop.  This is approximately 6” higher than the standard 35"-40" kitchen counter height typically used throughout the rest of the kitchen design. This kitchen seating design works well with bar stools that are 29"-30" tall.  The raised countertop is a great design feature to help conceal a busy and possibly cluttered workspace when in use.

Kitchen Design Tip: Bar Height Seating for the Kitchen Island or Peninsula

A two-tier countertop on an island deigned for bar height seating.

The Pros to Bar Height Seating

As I mentioned earlier, the advantage of this increase in height is that it can conceal any clutter or dirty dishes from view. This is a good option to consider if you have a very open floorplan.

A handicap accessible kitchen design with a kitchen island that features handicap accessible workspace on one side and bar height seating on the other.

The bar height counter can also act as a sort of room divider, separating the kitchen from the rest of the space.  The raised top also allows for family and guests to interact with the cook without actually being in the work area.

An L-shaped kitchen island with a raised countertop for lots of barstool seating in a black and white kitchen design.

Another consideration with an elevated top is there is the potential for the counter to become a drop spot for mail, keys, and screens that may lead to visual clutter.

A long kitchen island with a raised bar top and standard height countertop to create a space for dining and a area for preparing food.

The Cons to Bar Height Seating

For families with small children, you'll want to note with a raised, bar height countertop, the seating has to be taller, averaging around 30” off the floor.  This stool height can be tricky for small children to use.  Some also look at the raised, bar height counter as additional clean up due to the fact you are wiping down two countertops. 

A contemporary styled kitchen with a modern kitchen island with tall barstools with a raised countertop.

What is Counter Height Seating?

The standard countertop height in a kitchen is about 35"-40" tall which works with typical counter-height bar stools and chairs are anywhere from 23” to 28” from the floor to the seat.

Kitchen Design Tip: Counter Height Seating for the Kitchen Island or Peninsula

A close up of a navy blue kitchen island with gold bar stools and countertop height seating in the kitchen.

The Pros to Counter Height Seating

Keeping the kitchen island or peninsula all one with one counter height gives you one large continuous work surface. It is the ideal place to set up a buffet or spread out when working on that large project.  

A gorgeous modern farmhouse kitchen deisgn with a blue kitchen island that features counter height seating.

The one-level, continuous countertop makes a room feel visually larger and more spacious.

An urban loft style kitchen with a beach-inspired color palette with a kitchen peninsula with barstool seating for three.

With the lower, standard 35"-40" high countertop shorter stools or chairs are needed which are easier for children and adults with mobility restrictions to navigate.

A beautiful all white kitchen with a kitchen island that features counter height seating that is easy for children to reach and sit.

The Cons to Counter Height Seating

The counter height seating at the kitchen island does make everything visible in the kitchen, including those dirty dishes.  If there is a sink on the kitchen island the potential for splashes and water spills is greater without a backsplash to contain the mess.

Counter height bar stool seating at a kitchen island with a kitchen island sink.

Which Kitchen Seating Style Will You Choose?

There are pros and cons to both options that depend on how you want your space to look and function. Choosing counter height or elevated, bar height seating in the kitchen island or peninsula is a design element that requires some thought. 

Mandi Juskiewicz's picture

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