Our breakfast bar ideas are all about maximising the functionality of your kitchen. Of all the kitchen diner ideas out there, incorporating a breakfast bar is one of the best for flexible living. Perfect for enjoying a quick coffee break, lunch on the hop and easy family suppers. When entertaining, a breakfast bar can also double up as a buffet area to serve drinks and canapes.
A breakfast bar will take up less space than a dining table surrounded by chairs and can be used to boost the prep areas in your kitchen, too. Where to install a breakfast bar depends on your kitchen layout and how much space you have to spare.
One of the most popular kitchen island ideas is to add a breakfast bar. ‘Positioned away from the ‘working zone’ of the island, a breakfast bar allows friends and family to comfortably socialise with the hosts, without getting in the way when cooking is in full flow,’ says Richard Moore, Design Director, Martin Moore.
Breakfast Bar Ideas
Before you get carried away with Insta-worthy breakfast bar ideas, decide how many stools you would like to accommodate. If you’re just seeking a quiet spot to check Socials, then a single stool tucked in a corner is ideal. But if you want to enjoy breakfast together as a family, each member will need a seat.
Allow at least 50cm width per stool, plus about 15cm either side for easy access. ‘Don’t forget to consider how much space the stools will take up in the room when in use,’ adds George Forsyth, Director, Drew Forsyth & Co. ‘You’ll need to allow sufficient space behind seated guests for others to pass by without getting stuck!’
1. Tuck a breakfast bar into the corner
If you don’t have an island or other kitchen surface to spare, consider building a standalone breakfast bar in a quiet corner away from any busy entrance or exit routes. Bring it away from the corner to accommodate extra stools and create a more sociable experience without sitting with your back to the room.
Make it super functional with storage above and below for breakfast supplies and tableware. Using the same worktop as the kitchen will achieve a sense of cohesion and prove practical in terms of easy cleaning and stain resistance.
2. Raise the bar
High-level breakfast bars have a host of benefits. In terms of design, it enables a switch in surface materials that can create a striking feature and allows something a little more forgiving to rest your arms on than cold stone or quartz.
From a safety point, a raised bar can provide a level of protection from hot oil splashes if there’s a hob on the island and keeps children away from sharp knives when you’re prepping. Don’t be tempted to go too high though, ideally no more than 106cm/42in, or you’ll struggle to source stools that are tall enough to sit comfortably.
3. Add a simple island overhang
In smaller kitchen one of the simplest ways to add bar-style seating is to overhang the worktop on the front or ends of an island. If you’re overhanging worktop without any additional corner supports, don’t go deeper than 30cm/12in to avoid load-bearing issues when guests inevitably lean on the bar.
Two or three standard 60cm/24in base units with a 90cm/35in-deep worktop above is an easy, off-the-shelf solution that won’t break the bank. Choose backless bar stools that can be tucked underneath when not in use.
4. Work with a wall-mounted breakfast bar
No island? No problem. A section of kitchen worktop installed shelf-style at the end of a run of units can provide a quiet spot for your morning coffee. Yes, you will have your back to the room, but that’s not always a bad thing, especially if you’re busy at a laptop or children are beavering over their homework.
Be as generous as possible with space so the area doesn’t feel compromised or cramped. Aim for at least 1m-width of worktop for two stools, 1.5m for three if possible.
5. Get more bottoms on seats
Use benches instead of bar stools to accommodate more guests – perfect for children’s parties, and it looks great, too. This chic design idea requires a lower-level breakfast bar for ease when it comes to getting on and off the benches as those sat in the middle will need to slide along.
Add cushions and faux fur to boost comfort levels and create a cosy Scandi-inspired look. Make sure the benches you buy are solidly built and heavy, so they won’t tip backwards when loaded up with kids!
6. Impress with a floating bar
A cantilevered breakfast bar is hard to beat on the wow-factor front. This structural bar also offers plenty of leg space beneath for seating comfort.
‘A floating breakfast bar requires careful engineering for stability – usually a steel frame is concealed under the worktop and bolted to the floor under the island,’ explains Andrew Hall, Director, Woodstock Furniture (opens in new tab). ‘But the results are well worth it. Not only is it guaranteed to impress, but it also leaves more flooring visible, which boosts the sense of space.’
7. Consider stools on two sides
A linear line of bar stools may be one of the most popular breakfast bar ideas for an island but it’s not the most sociable way to sit. If you’d prefer to make eye-contact while quaffing that wine, go for an L-shape configuration.
Containing the breakfast bar in one corner of an island will also leave more worktop space clear, leaving room for a generous hob. Use lighting to define the bar area – a low slung pendant on a separate light switch will illuminate the bar by night, while throwing the rest of the kitchen into darkness.
8. Drop a breakfast bar down to dining level
Perching on a bar stool is no problem for short periods, such as a quick lunch stop or coffee break, but if you’re lingering for longer dining chairs are undoubtedly comfier. Go for chairs with cushioned seating and high backs for maximum support.
Dropping a breakfast bar down to dining height (76cm/30in) will also provide a small splashback area to install electrical sockets – perfect for plugging in a laptop or charging devices when working from home.
9. Save space with a slimline bar
Experts recommend leaving a walkway of at least 90cm-1m wide around an island or dining table to prevent obstructing the flow of movement when cooking. One of the advantages of a breakfast bar is it can be made much narrower, without effecting functionality.
‘Freestanding breakfast bars take up much less space than dining tables or islands, particularly when styled with stools that will be tucked underneath,’ says Melissa Klink, Head of Design, Harvey Jones (opens in new tab). ‘Before investing in a breakfast bar, make sure you choose the right size for your space. A small breakfast bar will look out of place in a large room and vice versa.’
10. Take a decorative approach
The empty void beneath a breakfast bar is ripe for an injection of colour and pattern. As the surface often comes under fire from flailing feet, especially those of small children, choosing finishes that are scuff-resistant and easy to clean.
Patterned tiles can look particularly striking and can be matched to a kitchen splashback idea for a coordinated scheme. We also love metal cladding like aged bronze or copper sheets, which can be made-to-measure and attached using adhesive.
What is a breakfast bar?
A breakfast bar is essentially a casual spot to pull up a stool in your kitchen. It can run the full length of an island, complete with four-to-six stools, or be little more than a shelf in the corner, or a short overhang at one end of an island.
‘A breakfast bar is a great way to get more out of your kitchen,’ says Graeme Smith, Head of Retail and Commercial Design at Life Kitchens (opens in new tab). ‘Breakfast bars keep everyone socially connected in the space and can make it easy for hosts to cook away while guests chat.’ In more recent years, breakfast bar ideas for kitchen life include another place to work from home – one where you’ll never be too far from the coffee machine!
What should you consider when planning a breakfast bar?
Location is likely to be your first consideration. Some layouts, for example one with an island or peninsula, lend themselves more readily to a breakfast bar. The keys thing to think about location-wise is whether there is enough space behind the breakfast bar for people to pass by – allow at least 60cm, but ideally 90cm. It should never cause an obstruction.
‘In terms of materials, any surface used for a breakfast bar should be easy to wipe clean, durable and ideally resistant to scratches and stains too,’ says Simon Boocock, Managing Director, CRL Stone (opens in new tab). 'Quartz and stones are very low maintenance but can be unforgiving on glassware, not to mention cold on your arms. Switching from quartz on your main kitchen surfaces to a warmer surface like wood for the breakfast bar is a great solution.'
What height should a breakfast bar be?
There are no set rules on what height a breakfast bar should be, but you’ll make stool shopping easier if you plan the height according to the dimensions of the two most popular stool options, which are counter stools or bar stools.
A counter stool, sometimes called kitchen stool, is aimed at breakfast bars that sit at standard kitchen worktop height. This is around 90-95cm/35-37in from the floor, with the stools ranging from 60-75cm/24-30in high (to seat height).
A bar stool is aimed at higher breakfast bars, be that a standalone bar or a raised section on an island or peninsula unit. If this is your preference, go for a height of about 100-106cm/39-42in, and buy bar stools with a seat height of 75cm/30in or above. You can take the stress out of bar stool shopping by choosing a height adjustable design that can be made higher for children and lower for adults.
Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product design, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Ideal Home Magazine since 2008, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.
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