Choosing Our Kitchen Counter Stools – Our Splurgey (And Sustainable) Choice


I feel like I’m being super slow at choosing major pieces for this house because until we live in it there are so many unknowns. Which way do we want to face in the living room? Will we want a light sofa or a dark one to ground the room once the ceiling is painted white? Two sofas? A sectional? Swivel chairs or comfy club chairs? Etc. So I’m waiting on a lot of those, but with lead times being long I’m trying to just decide on the things we DO know we need (like our family room sectional and our dining table). Today we are talking counter stools and showing you what we wanted and why.

As you can see the kitchen is open to the living room so I had to design both at the same time. The counter stools will be faced away from the living room but they would be very visible when you are in that room, thus the back of them needs to be right.

Our Counter Stool Needs And Wants

  1. Minimal in Style – Again. To stick to the original vision of the house we don’t want anything too busy or distracting. But “minimal” can be cold and uncomfortable if not selected right.
  2. A Supportive Back. The most minimal thing we could choose would be a backless stool that shoves in and disappears, but I know this will be a big conversation area and I want backs. I’m picturing hours of my friends hanging with me while I make unnecessarily complicated meals (my favorite lockdown activity that I hope to do more of on the weekends once we move in) and I’ll need their emotional support while doing so.
  3. Comfort. Yes, we want minimal but comfortable. I LOVE our comfortable stools at the mountain house kitchen and thought about using those again, but we want something more classic and traditional for this home. I really loved our stools in our L.A. house, too, and they didn’t even have cushions which gave me hope that there are more stools out there that are designed to be comfortable sans upholstery (we sold them with the house and since there were only three of them and discontinued I knew they wouldn’t work at this house).
  4. Visually Interesting. We love wood around here, and while I love a mix of a metal/wood situation we were leaning towards wood on this one.

When possible, for this home I want to work with local makers and this seemed like a great opportunity. I knew this would be the more expensive route, but one that I think is important to go down if you can afford it. So I reached out to Fernweh Woodworking as I LOVED working with Justin on the chairs for the Portland Project.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: portland project: the living room reveal

Those chairs are incredible sculptures and the craftsmanship is so exceptional. But to be honest we are in the “almost every piece of furniture has to be super comfortable” stage of our lives. So without sitting on these stools how could I guarantee that they are comfortable?

I posed my concerns to Justin to which he said he was coming to Portland for a delivery and he would be bring a couple of dining chairs and a bench for us to test- designed very similar to the counter stools.

Oxbend Bench

Both Brian and I were extremely impressed with the chairs. They are very hefty and solid – not crazy heavy so it makes them hard to move, just solid. They are generously proportioned – they aren’t dinky little stools that you feel like you are spilling over. And the shape of the seat and the shape of the back are so comfortable. Despite not being upholstered they are shaped in a way that just feels so good!

Oxbend Stool

And almost most importantly, they strike the perfect balance between minimal, modern, classic, and warm. They are absolutely STUNNING and yet so simple that I don’t think I’ll ever ever ever get sick of looking at them.

Now for what color? To decide that we had to reference our island as that’s the wood that it’s going to be up against.

the island

It’s a white oak, but with a pretty warm/red stain (which we really like). The floor and cabinets are a natural white oak so while we could have done the walnut to add in another tone, we decided the black would contrast so nicely against the island, speak to the black in the light fixtures, and yet still be quiet and calm.

Oxbend Chair Seat Pad

I was SO excited when they brought us samples of their new seat cushions in November. They hadn’t launched them yet, but are now available. The reason they are so special (and genius) is that they are designed to sit without straps or any adhesion – they are so bottom-heavy and sculpted into the seat of the stool that they stay in place. I’m not sure if it’s wood on the bottom or what, but whatever it is, it works. I ordered the black ones for our black stools.

What Seat Height Is Best For Counter Stools?

Well. This became a thing. I almost wish they had just “counter” and “bar” height because we actually really fixated on the height for a long time. We measured the difference between our dining chairs’ seat height and the underside of the table and based on that we were going to go with 24″. However, Brian claimed (and felt very passionately) that you want to sit higher at a counter than you do at a dining table. He demonstrated this posture many many times when debating this. He says that you want to sit up and put your elbows on the table, to lean your chin on your palm while reading, say, the paper. He is generally right about this stuff and I didn’t feel nearly as passionately about the height as he did so we ended up ordering the 26″. The height of the island is 36″ so that gives 10″ clearance, 9″ if you minus the surface of the island. The amount of time we measured from our thigh to an imaginary counter to see if that felt good was baffling and hilarious.

Now, these stools are handmade in Bend, OR, and I can’t say enough great things about Justin and his Oregon maker team. Their price point is reflective of their quality, so yes it’s high. They were kind enough to offer me a discount for press and usage, which I was so grateful for but it was still one of the biggest purchases I have ever made, and took us 9 months to convince ourselves to invest. We are SO EXCITED and it feels really good knowing that we are supporting Fernweh. Justin’s furniture is beautiful and so high quality and these are classic enough heirloom pieces that we’ll keep forever and pass down to our kids. We also feel like long-lasting pieces like these will appreciate like art does knowing that they aren’t mass-manufactured. These aren’t pieces that can be produced on a mass scale because they are made by the maker themselves. Not only are they not mass-manufactured, but Justin’s company also prioritizes sustainability. They strive to be waste-free and will be carbon neutral by the end of THIS YEAR. They source all of their wood from the pacific northwest and any wood scraps are put into storage for Justin to use in his home on an efficient wood stove. They even use their sawdust on their 5-acre property and all of their finishes are plant-based. It’s all just so awesome and Fernweh is such an incredible example of how to run a business that tries to protect our resources as best they can.

My hope is that in 40-60 years from now Fernweh will be another “Paul McCobb” or “Borge Morgenson”. At least that’s my fantasy, even though we’ll likely be dead 🙂 So if you have the budget, supporting local furniture makers and artists is a great way to spend it. I’m happy to say that their small business is thriving currently because enough people are starting to prioritize smaller high-end makers like this. Go, Justin!

Now I know that these stools won’t be in most people’s budget, so we wanted to show you the other counter stools I was thinking about and frankly very tempted by before deciding on ours.

1. Rye Counter Stool | 2. Harpswell Stool | 3. Proper Bar Stool | 4. The Delancey Stool | 5. Maison Upholstered Swivel Counter Stools | 6. Eastward Stool | 7. Netro Counter Stool | 8. Cobb Counter Stool with Back | 9. The Delancey Stool | 10. Jackson Stool

More farmhouse purchases later this week…stay tuned:) xx

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