Nearly every estate sale in New England offers at least one well-loved vintage two-in-one step stool. It’s that thing that sits in the corner, a nice tall stool with a couple of steps that swing out from underneath, like the green stool above. You’ll likely find it in the basement where it migrated from its original home in the kitchen. More precisely, it’s probably in the workshop are where it serves as both step stool, tool rest, paint stand and general workshop assistant.
Why step stools are hardly ever seen in modern kitchens is a puzzle. We humans are not that much taller and we still need to get things off high shelves. My theory is that the kitchen step stool is yet another victim of technology. It’s not because step stool technology has advanced and rendered it outdated. It’s because telephone technology has changed. You needed a step stool to sit on when you talked on the kitchen wall phone. And you needed a place for your neighbor to sit when she stopped by to chat. Now that we can phone from everywhere and text our friends every thought that enters our brain, our need for a compact place to sit in the kitchen doesn’t really exist.
Even though it’s most traditional use doesn’t exist anymore, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a step stool, preferably a vintage one. Here’s 5 reasons why:
REASON 1: Step stools are a versatile multi-taskers.
You can sit on them, stand on them, use them as a barber chair, use them as an extra seat at the table, decorate them as multilevel seasonal displays, use them to get a junior chef up to counter height, plop your backpack on them when you get home…and so much more. Your step ladder and your kid’s plastic step stool can’t do half as much.
REASON 2: Step stools are stable.
When you pull out the steps to gain elevation, they’re nearly impossible to tip over. Plus, the seat back to acts as a handle. You have to try pretty hard fall from a step stool. Which doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means it’s harder to do.
REASON 3: Step stools are cheerful.
Step stools are neither somber nor pretentious. They have happy shapes and came in happy colors originally. Yellow, red, blue, green. You still find some in their original colors, but many, like the vintage step stool below, have been painted at least once. Or twice (original yellow, dark olive, light meadow green).
REASON 4: Step stools are a good investment.
Most furniture falls from favor eventually, whether from wear or outdated design. Nice furniture can be upholstered anew, but upholstery is not cheap nor is it easy. Step stools, because of their function-based design, don’t follow trends. And if they need a freshening, it’s usually as simple as a quart of paint or a couple cans of spray paint. And they were probably pretty cheap to start with, so in terms of function for the dollar, a stepstool is one of the savviest furniture purchases you will ever make.
REASON 5: Step stools are timeless.
Relatively speaking that is. The step stool you get at a vintage store or an estate sale is probably better than one you purchase new at a store now. There aren’t a lot of working parts to break nor complicated mechanisms to fail. Do the steps pull in and out easily? When you stand on it does it wobble? If the answer to both those questions is no, then you are all set.
Now that we have driverless cars, it’s possible we will have a virtual step stool app someday. But until we do, that 50-year-old stool you snagged for a few dollars is definitely still cutting edge technology.