Kitchen Design with Built-In Seating

Nothing feels more like a marathon than cooking with a chronic illness. Standing at the stove stirring food, chopping vegetables, and even pivoting between a stove and countertop can take their toll on a hurting or fatigued body.

Disability-proofing a kitchen does not necessarily mean making the whole room accessible, especially if the issue is one of fatigue, weakness, or limited mobility. Instead, think about the spaces where you will be spending the most time in the kitchen. If it’s possible, design those spaces with built-in seating, or at least a back-up plan to allow for rest on bad days.

Here are some simple solutions to provide seating in a way that enhances the look of the kitchen, and doesn’t scream out its real purpose. As an added bonus, you just might find that all that extra seating invites others into the kitchen to join you! And there’s nothing like a heart to heart with your teenager over a steaming pot of supper…

Image shows rounded wooden stools mounted to metal swing arms with cut-out letter "H," mounted to rustic barnwood bar. Links to Etsy seller.
A pair of rounded wooden stool seats are attached to a black metal pivoting arm. The arm is mounted to a rustic barnwood bar front, and we see a letter “H” cutout in the metal. The stools appear to pivot on a large pin so that they can swing out from the bar, or be tucked under it.

A metal swing arm stool provides convenient seating that can easily swing out of the way when not in use. The style adds a vintage or industrial feel to the space. These stools can often be found in salvage and resale shops, or the hardware can be purchased to make the stools by hand. Or check out these beautiful custom monogram stools from Etsy.

Image shows kitchen with peninsula-style seating area and window seat, and links to CDN website.
A wide bay window has a padded seat cushion at the edge of a kitchen. There is a set of wooden cabinets and sink, with a countertop that extends past the kitchen and into the bay seating area to form a rounded tabletop. Wooden stools are tucked under the counter opposite the windowseat.

I love how the countertop wraps around to include the window seat in this kitchen. This would be a perfect space for eating, chopping vegetables, or even working with a griddle or Instant Pot. Plus, it’s a wonderful social space!

Image shows a bright kitchen with gray cabinets, a window seat, and long island with stool seating.
A kitchen with light gray cabinets and large windows is shown. There is a low set of drawers beneath the tallest window to form a lot seat. A long dark blue island sits opposite the window seat with open space beneath the counter, and four red metal stools are tucked under.

Full disclosure: this kitchen is actually mine! We built in a variety of seating options at the counter (with stools that tuck under the countertop and out of the way), and in a low window seat. This gives me plenty of options for sitting and resting while I’m working in the kitchen. The stools are close enough that they can easily be pulled up to the stove or the sink when needed. And the drawers on either side of the stove stash utensils and spices within easy reach while I am sitting and cooking.

Image shows small portable kitchen island on wheels, and links to Bob Vila site.
A small black rolling island cart sits in the center of a small traditional kitchen with mahogany cabinets. There is a butcher block countertop on the island and assorted baking supplies on top. Horizontal shelving beneath the counter houses recipe books, bowls and plates, and a light yellow stand mixer. A section of vertical shelving holds three baking sheets. There are caster wheels beneath the cart, and a stool with wooden seat and metal legs beside.

A rolling kitchen island like this provides versatility and mobility. It can easily be rolled to wherever you are working, with easy access to small appliances, utensils, or whatever you use most in the kitchen. Adding a drop leaf to one side could add even more workable space, and make it comfortable to pull up a stool. This is an especially great design for small spaces.

Image shows dark green kitchen cabinets and sink, with open space beneath sink. Links to Remodelista website.
A set of lower kitchen cabinets in a deep green are shown, with white marble counter top. There are several drawers with gold finish cup pulls, and a small sink with gold faucet. Beneath the sink are two false drawer fronts, with open space beneath that reveals gold-colored pipes.

A kitchen sink with open space beneath may be uncommon, but it’s a great way to make a space workable with seating or even a wheelchair. The space beneath allows room for your knees as you sit washing dishes or vegetables. It also makes the kitchen feel open and airy, with just a bit of an industrial or vintage feel. The green shade of this particular cabinet is especially stunning!

Image shows a metal and wood adjustable-height stool on wheels, and links to Wayfair website.
A black metal stool with dark colored round wooden seat sits on a white background. The stool seat has an adjustable threaded post. Four curving legs support the seat with four caster wheels.

An adjustable heigh stool on wheels could be a great option for versatile seating, especially in a small kitchen. It can easily be wheeled to any work area, and the adjustable height makes it perfect for working at a low counter, sitting at the stove, or even working at bar height. Stools like this are sometimes available at thrift stores, salvage shops, or resale stores, too, for an economical option.

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