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March 1, 2009
Originally published in Mid-Century Remixed
Raising the Bar!

Frontways, sideways, backward, or leaning against the back. Breakfast, beers, or bitters. The versatile barstool is indeed a perfect place to perch.

Peter Bentel portrait
Photo by 
Peter Bentel portrait

A barstool says as much about its bar as a drink says about its drinker. Ernest Hemingway was a daiquiri man, Hunter S. Thompson downed whiskeys on the rocks, and, of course, we all know how James Bond takes his martinis. But when picking a barstool, form should follow function, says architect and interior designer Peter Bentel, who lends his expertise to our barstool lineup.

“What makes a good stool depends on what it’s meant to do,” he says. “If it’s a lunch counter where a lot of single diners go, then the barstool needs to accommodate sitting frontward. If you’re out with friends, you want to be comfortable sitting sideways. If you’re settling in for the evening, a high back can be quite comfortable but could prevent you from turning around. You can get away with a less comfortable stool if it’s only supposed to be a place to plop yourself for a half hour.”

At home, where our kitchens have become living rooms, bar and counter stools make a supernal spot from which to enjoy a bowl of cereal, sit and read the newspaper, or enjoy a late-night nightcap. We rounded up five of our favorite stools—–from time-tested classics to those fresh from the factory—–and asked Bentel to decide which could claim the title of high seat.

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