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

A kitchen island is the perfect spot to add seating space for casual dining. The question is should the counter be the same height as the work/prep area or should it be elevated (also refered to as bar height)? 

The elevated counter, or bar height counter is usually about 42” off the floor.  This is approximately 6” higher than the standard counter height in the rest of the kitchen.  The advantage to this increase in height is that can conceal any clutter or dirty dishes from view.  This is a good option to consider if you have a very open floorplan.  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.

With an 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.  The raised, bar height counter also requires a little more clean up due to the fact you are wiping down two countertops.  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 space for preparing food.

Keeping the kitchen island or peninsula all one height gives you one large continuous surface. It is the ideal place to set up a buffet or spread out when working on that large project.  The one level counter will also visually make the space appear larger.  

Contemporary gray textured foil and white kitchen with floating shelves and counter hieght bar stool seating on a kitchen peninsula.

With the countertop at 36” off the floor shorter stools are needed which are easier for children and older adults to navigate.

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.

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. 

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