Low Stools: When to Use & Why You'll Love Them

by Dean Jeffery

The utility of a low stool speaks for itself, and its unexpected rise in popularity at cafes and quick serve restaurants has captured our hearts and our attention. Like all great trends, the low stool first gained traction in independent coffee shops and restaurants. Now, you'll find them in large chain restaurants worldwide. Here are five reasons why we love low stools, and how you can fit them into your next hospitality project. 

bar stoolsRed Dunn Kitchen, Patrick Thompson Design, Bentwood Stool 

1. Use them at communal tables

Over the past decade communal tables in America have gone from nearly non-existent to an established fixture for most dining spaces and new builds. We love seeing low stools replace bulky benches at communal tables for a few reasons: they visually make the table feel more spacious and they are easier to use and maneuver than benches. 

Eliminating seat backs and the pervasive design details of a traditional chair peels away a level of formality and embraces the intent of communal tables: to create a flexible, relaxed seating solution. Compared to benches, low stools typically have a smaller footprint and a defined personal bubble, making them more flexible and enjoyable to use. 

bar stoolsVerve Coffee Roaster, Commune Design, Photo By Spencer Lowell. 

2. Use them in multi-use spaces

Coffee shops and other multi-use spaces need lightweight, mobile furniture that can accommodate the changing and varied needs of their customers. Low stools are smaller in stature and can easily be arranged and rearranged to any situation. Chairs that are heavier or are not necessarily designed to be mobile can do damage to other products in the space when moved around haphazardly by guests, but by specifying a low stool, you're eliminating a lot of that risk. 

bar stoolsPapa Murphy's, Brent Cube

3. Use them in high traffic areas within a restaurant

You'll often see low stools paired with smaller, bistro style tables, subconsciously indicating to the customer a shorter sit time, which makes them a great options for convenience seating applications. Convenience seating can be found in those higher traffic, narrow spaces within your restaurant, near the entrance where people order, or at the back where customers are picking up their orders. The smaller footprint makes them a less invasive, yet highly functional, convenient option for people waiting for their pizza or a cup of coffee that don't plan on staying long. 

bar stoolsLa Cantina, Photography by Amy Benjamin

4. Use them to reduce visual distractions

Another trend we love are bold, graphic walls. Chair backs and extra frills can be distracting. Eliminate visual distractions and let the finer details take center stage by using low stools for these applications. 

La Cantina Cafe, designed by Blank Creatives, uses low stools at this communal table to leave room for customers to visually digest the custom wall mural and the feast of subtle design details that add sophistication to this unsuspecting space. 

bar stoolsFumi, designed by Alberto Caiola, photography by Dirk Wieban

5. Use them to add personality to a neutral space

Typically, low stools are a slightly less expensive investment than chairs and bar stools due to their size and design, and when specified in bold colors, they can make quite a statement. Use your low stools to add a burst of color in your space or breathe new life into a dull or awkward zone, transforming it into an unforgettable vignette. 

There is nothing dull about the chrome plated interior of Fumi. From bar stools to the communal table, the reflective surface makes the space feel larger than life while blending into the environement and allowing the artwork and architectural ceiling feature to shine. 

bar stoolsDessert Kitchen, designed by Matt Woods, Photo by David Wheeler

The Low Hurdle Stool is one of our all time favorites. The minimal metal frame can be used to add a pop of color to any space, while the White Oak seat keeps things grounded and neutral. These stools were designed by Australian design duo, Dowel Jones, and are sold exclusively by Grand Rapids Chair Company in the U.S.. 

Don't overlook how convenient and user friendly these little stools can be. When used in the right application, you'll not only create functionality but delight your customers and their guests. 

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