Wooden Bar Stools
Gain Some Character

Wooden bar stools are kind of a bore. They haven't changed much for decades, or is it eons? Their function is obviously perfect hence their continued use and existence, however these things are begging for a makeover. If you have some old, wooden barstools, pay attention. The following ideas are easy to implement.



I like wooden bar stools due to their simplicity. The saddle seat versions are some of my favorites. Those without backs are wonderful as they are easily tucked away and take up less room; perfect for creating that sense of openness. These bar stool ideas can be used for those in your kitchen at an island countertop or perhaps a family room bar used for entertaining.

The wooden bar stools below were bought in unfinished pine, allowing for ease of manipulating and customizing. New, unfinished furniture often costs less than finished pieces so consider this route to save a few extra bucks. Besides, you'll be able to customize the pieces to match your decor and style better.


Customized Kitchen Barstools
Previously white pine, these barstools now have some character and fit this kitchen's color scheme. Black-colored wood stain was used on the legs and the top was stained a light oak and finished with a semi-gloss polyurethane.

Colored Wood Stain Used On Barstools

There are many colored wood stain options available. Ask at your local home improvement paint center. It is applied easily, just like regular wood stain.

For some added interest and again to tie in with the chrome elements of this kitchen, rectangular drawer pull backing plates were repurposed as a decorative element. They were simple tacked in place using the holes provided for the typical hardware installation. Both the stools and the hardware backing plates were purchased at the reasonably priced IKEA®.

I really love the simplicity of these stools.

The square shape lends itself well to modern and contemporary styled rooms. My only regret is not purchasing more. A third one would have been nice as I prefer groupings of three.


To create these stools I used the following:

  • Colored Wood Stain. You can choose from numerous colors to find one that closely matches your specific need. I believe a pint is the smallest size available for some of the custom colors, however 8 fl. oz. sizes may be available in popular, stocked colors.

  • Wood Stain in your choice of wood finish. I used a light oak and/or natural stain in an 8 fl. oz. size, the smallest size you can get. Unless you are doing a ton of wood projects, this should be sufficient and goes a long way.

  • Polyurethane in your choice of sheen. I typically use semi-gloss or satin depending on application. Since a barstool gets a lot of use and potential wear, it's best to choose a semi-gloss finish.

  • Small pieces of clean fabric (for application). An old t-shirt or sock cut in small pieces work well for all of the above stain applications.

  • Disposable plastic or latex gloves.

  • Hardware backing plates (Optional). Look for other unique ideas in hardware departments to dress up your stools. I've always wanted to use metal drywall corner bead in an unconventional way.

Metal Drywall Corner Bead
This metal bead would provide an industrial, modern look if applied to the outer corners of square stool legs.

A few tips to consider:

  • Work outdoors or in a garage to minimize inhalation of stain fumes and to keep the odor out of your home.

  • Application works best on dry, mild days with low humidity and allows for quicker dry times.

  • Allow for adequate dry time before applying a second coat (if desired) or before applying your polyurethane coat.

Note: I only applied polyurethane to the bar stool's seat area.
The black-stained legs were left untreated which provides a dull, flat look.
This contrast in sheen provides additional, yet subtle interest.


Do you have painted bar stools that are mess? You can stripe them with paint and varnish remover, or paint over them. If you decide to paint over them, you will want to roughen the surface area with sandpaper. Use a medium grit followed by a fine grit. This isn't to completely remove the paint, but instead to give the new paint a good surface for adhesion. Choose a semi-gloss or gloss paint.

Also consider Oil-based paint. Although more difficult to clean and deal with, it may provide a more durable finish than that of latex paints. If you choose to use oil paint, don't forget a can of recommended paint thinner for clean-up. I prefer using latex paint over oil-based paint for most projects. If you prep your surface well, you should have little to no issue with durability. Spray paint is another consideration for ease of use and coverage.

Frugal Tip Look for FREE wooden bar stools on Craigslist or out for trash collection. People often dispose of them without realizing how easily they can be spruced-up to provide more appeal.

Taller, wooden bar stools are also a great find as you can cut the bottoms of the legs to customize the height for your application. Look for stools at yard sales too.


So, give those wooden bar stools a quick update with some paint or stain. You can also add some batting and fabric (including leather-like material) to produce your own cushioned stool. Simply cut the fabric to size (to fit over the stool seat and sides with batting beneath) and staple or tack the material into place. Easy, sleek, and functional.

Do you have some wooden bar stool ideas of your own?
Share them with us in the Frugal Design Workshop.








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