Renovation & Design

Breakfast bar has benefits

Our on-the-go society doesn't leave much time during the week for sit-down meals. Incorporating a breakfast bar into your decorating plans may be a good solution for your busy family.

A comfy spot where one can catch a quick meal or snack between outings can be an asset to your kitchen and your life in general. A breakfast bar may help you offer your family quick, nutritious meals instead of rushing through the drive-thru before soccer practice or swimming lessons.

Adding a breakfast bar to your kitchen has additional benefits. It can add extra cooking prep space along with space for other activities, such as homework, and provide additional seating/serving space for gatherings.

If you have a kitchen island and are installing a new countertop, consider extending its width or length and use the overhang as a breakfast bar. Depending on the space available, you may be able to extend the countertop enough so bar stools can be tucked beneath when not in use. If not, attractive bar stools can sit beside the island in plain view.

If installing an entire new island countertop is not an option, you may be able to install a length of decorative shelving along the seating area of your current kitchen island, which can act as an eating surface. If this sounds doable, consider using contrasting colours and materials for the addition, as it may be difficult to exactly match the current island.

For example, you might install a length of wooden shelving with decorative wooden brackets then paint them a colour that will match the new bar stools. Add a few countertop accessories and linens in the same colour to finish the look. This might just be the opportunity you're looking for to add that vibrant red or orange splash of colour to the kitchen. The colour of the new install can be changed down the road with a fresh coat of paint.

If space is tight, you can install a drop-down shelf on the island and use folding chairs (like a director's chair for instance) that can be tucked away when not in use.

No island? No problem

If you don't have an island on which to add a breakfast bar, you can still add a decorative length of shelving along a wall in the kitchen and purchase co-ordinating bar stools. To make the look cohesive, install the shelf under a window or wall opening (like a pass-through). If this is not an option, then hang a large painting over the bar to create a visual vignette.

You might even want to create the look of a street café by installing a small awning over the seating area, with lively, striped material, and a chalkboard on which you can write fun café sayings or menus.

Another option would be to make a faux window using an empty window frame and replacing the glass with mirrored tile. Add a lace curtain for added appeal. A cute window box below the "window," filled with silk flowers, might also be a nice touch.

Use your imagination and have fun. It's a casual dining space, so a little whimsy is allowed.

All-in-one solution

You can purchase a portable cart that can act as an island with drop-down or fold-away breakfast-bar surfaces. These items can add much-needed prep and storage space as well as an eating surface. A portable unit is a good option if you're renting, as you can take it with you when you move. Places like Sears offer a few options.

If you don't want to install a shelf but like the idea of a casual dining area, you might consider using a piece of furniture, such as a sofa table, along one wall, with bar stools that will work with your particular piece.

The width and height of something like a sofa table is similar to that of a breakfast bar, so it won't take up too much space. Try to find backless bar stools that can be tucked beneath to save additional floor space if needed.

Bar stools

There are so many styles of bar stools available that it might be hard to make a final purchase decision. The styles range from modern to traditional and can be made of wood, metal and even acrylic. The price range is wide as well, so you'll need to consider your budget along with other requirements.

Bar stools come in two general heights: counter height, which ranges from 24 to 28 inches, and bar height, which are a little taller, ranging from 29 to 32 inches. You'll definitely want to take measurements before you go shopping to ensure the right fit.

If you're installing a breakfast bar, it might be wise to purchase the stools first -- then you have the option of determining the perfect height for your shelving, rather than trying to find stools that will fit the install.

Consider the style you need and also whether comfort is a factor. If you intend to sit on a bar stool for longer than it takes to eat a quick meal, then you may want to purchase stools with back support, a swivel option and soft seating. These will be at the higher end of the price range but can be worth the investment if the breakfast bar will be used daily.

Classic diner-style bar stools can look great in a retro kitchen. Check out antique shops and flea markets for the real thing or purchase a newer version of this old classic.

Foldaway stools, such as the director's chair mentioned above, can be a good choice if you don't have a lot of space. The style of a director's chair is generally the same, but you have the option of different fabrics and colours to suit your décor. You can also enhance the look by monogramming the seat back with a name or other moniker. These chairs are also great for additional seating when needed.

A breakfast bar can be your "fast food" solution for the home. Consider the benefits.


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