Buyer's Guides

How to Choose Seating with the Right Height

Chairs are some of the most important pieces of furniture in our homes. We use them when eating dinner, having drinks with friends, watch TV, read, etc. Frankly, we all do a lot of sitting.

But one of the most important aspects of the chair often gets overlooked when choosing a new one: the seat height. You do not want your knees banging up against the underside of the counter top or table, nor do you want to be so low to the ground your knees crumple into your chest. Seating that is too low directs a lot of pressure onto your pelvis, rather than distributing it evenly along the thighs. Additionally, having the right seat height determines how easy it is to get in and out of a chair.

Below you’ll find a list of guidelines to help you determine the right seat height for you based on what kind of chair or stool you are buying. It’s worth repeating that I am talking here about seat height, which measures from the floor to the top of the seat, not the overall height. Overall height includes the chair/stool back, which is more a factor of the look you want rather than proper ergonomics or functionality with counters or tables.

Lounge Chairs/Sofas

Lodge Lounge Chair (seat height: 17.5″) and Jane Bi-Sectional (seat height: 17″), from Gus* Modern

Lounge chairs and sofas are meant for comfort, so the appropriate seat height for them is very subjective. The most common measurements are about 17-18 inches, though you can find seats as low as 15 inches and as high as 20 inches.

You want to consider two things when looking at the seat height for sofas and lounge chairs. One, when you sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor, are your knees bent at a 90 degree angle? They should be. Second, how easy is it for you to get out of it? If it is difficult to get up, try getting a slightly higher seat.

Dining Chairs

Bess Low Chair (seat height: 18.8″) from Calligaris

Dining chairs need to sit comfortably under your dining table with enough room left over for your legs, napkin, formal or informal attire (and any crumbs that go astray). Most dining tables come standard at 30 inches tall. That means your seat height needs to be somewhere in the range of 17-19 inches. However, not all tables are created equal, and some are taller or shorter, so you’ll need to adjust accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to leave between 10 and 13 inches from the chair seat to the underside of the tabletop.

Counter Stools

Space Stool, High (seat height: 27.2″) by SPACE, from Mater

Counters generally run about 34-39 inches tall. Thus, the standard size of dining chairs will not work. Unless you enjoy having the counter come all the way up to your shoulders, you will need taller seating. To figure out the right height for your counter seating, measure the distance from the floor to the top of the counter. Do it twice to ensure accuracy. Then subtract 10 inches from the counter height, and the number left over is how tall your counter stool seat should be. This will give you enough space to sit at the counter–with or without your legs crossed–and feel comfortable.

Bar Stools

Cherner Stool (seat height: 29″) by Norman Cherner, from Cherner

Bar stools are designed for, you may have guessed, sitting at a bar. Bars are generally pretty tall, so they have to be much taller than dining chairs, and even a bit taller than counter stools. Common bar heights range from 40-46 inches. To find the correct bar stool seat height for your bar, all you have to do is follow the same procedure listed for measuring counter stools. Take the bar height, and subtract 10 inches.

Masters Chair and Masters Stool by Philippe Starck, from Kartell

Armed with this knowledge, you may go forth and sit well.

 

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