12 Breakfast Bars With Coffee Shop Appeal

Give even a small kitchen a sociable vibe by inserting a stylish seating post

By Cheryl Freedman / Courtesy of Houzz.com

It’s that little perch where you sip your morning coffee, eat your oatmeal and skim the headlines on your tablet. There’s no doubt the breakfast bar is a brilliant way to sneak extra living space into the kitchen. Even a very small one, given a little planning, can accommodate one, and I speak from experience — my breakfast bar is where I start, and often finish, the day.

Breakfast bars are also ideal spots for perusing cookbooks or sorting the mail, or for letting cooks rest weary backs and feet while keeping an eye on bubbling pans. All you need is a couple of stools and a skinny ledge to work that coffee-shop-at-home vibe: Suddenly your humble kitchen feels like a sociable hangout, instead of merely a place to cook, stack the dishwasher or load laundry. Here are some ideas for planning yours.

Look for unusual stools. An eye-catching set of bar stools can perk up even a tiny breakfast nook. These vintage metal and rose-colored-velvet numbers have elevated a cozy galley space into a stylish coffee stop. 

Bar stools come in just about every style under the sun, so don’t rush your decision when planning your breakfast bar — take your time until you find a design you really love. And don’t forget to sit on them before you buy. Are they comfy enough, are they high enough and will their dimensions work in your space?

Highlight with pendants. Low-slung pendants are the de rigueur way to mark out a breakfast bar. Hung over an island unit, they provide softer lighting for cooking and entertaining than harsh spotlights. 

These pea-green pendant shades add a fresh, vibrant edge. Note also how the stools have been squeezed in around two sides of the island to accommodate four.

Love a ledge. Consider whether you could use a wall for your bar, rather than placing it in the center of the kitchen. In this loft apartment, a skinny ledge has been tucked in by the window, away from the main chaos of the kitchen — ideal for contemplative moments. Exposed piping, industrial bar stools and subway tiles all add to the hip, metropolitan vibe.

Offer a movable feast. Breakfast bars don’t need to be built in, as this freestanding wooden butcher’s block demonstrates. It doubles as a place for a glass of wine and a sandwich, or a croissant and coffee. The wooden stools, red bricks and wicker baskets all add to the warm, country effect.

Create a breakout cafe area. You don’t have to sacrifice a slice of countertop or island unit when you build in a breakfast bar, especially if you’re fortunate enough to have a roomy kitchen. Here a separate high table adds the air of a continental coffee shop, the perfect perch for espressos. Red Tolix stools add fiery color.

Think small. It’s amazing how little space you really need to sneak in a breakfast bar. 

By extending the top over the end of this slim island, there’s just enough space to squeeze in two compact stools. Their neon orange coordinates cleverly with the painted feature wall, tying the room together.

Extend the island top. In this long, slim kitchen, the owners have extended the top of the island unit, meaning people can tuck feet under without knocking knees while enjoying a cuppa. When they’re finished, they can tuck the stools underneath to keep things streamlined.

Work a glam angle. Champagne and oysters, or cornflakes and tea? The choice is yours, but this superglamorous kitchen looks as if it could pull off either. It’s proof, if proof were needed, that kitchens and breakfast bars don’t have to be simply functional. 

Here the winning ingredients are gleaming metal-framed stools, a pale, polished worktop and shiny silver lights, while even the cocktail trolley looks fit for an A-list nightclub.

Mix up your surfaces. The cooking and eating zones on this island unit have been ingeniously divided up, thanks to different worktop materials. It’s a simple trick that makes it instantly feel less like a workaday kitchen and more like a multifunctional space. Curvy, upholstered stools also help give the wooden bar area a more relaxed, comfortable feel.

Add some metal magic. The sturdy metal Tolix stool is something of a breakfast-bar staple for a reason: This 1930s classic looks great in just about any setting. 

Here in silver it gently toughens up a pretty white country kitchen (complete with sparkling marble), but it works in modern, vintage and eclectic settings too, and comes in a range of colors.

Raise the wooden bar. For a breakfast bar with a difference, think about using reclaimed wood; it has tons of ramshackle character. The owners of this charmingly rustic room used their old floorboards to clad the island. Painting the floor white prevented any wood clash, while the vintage stools add the perfect style note.

Go to the outer edge. If your kitchen and dining room are open plan, don’t neglect the outer edge of your countertop. Here the breakfast bar looks into the kitchen area, an ideal setup if you’re cooking for dinner guests and want to chat but don’t want them directly under your feet while you season your casserole. In this setup it also means a lovely, leafy view of the garden.

Imo Bar Stools: The Conran Shop; pendants: Caravaggio, Made in Design

Do you perch at a bar in the kitchen or sit at a table? Please share your tips and photos in the Comments below.