5 reasons every home needs a vintage step stool

cosco stool
cosco stool
From left, vintage Cosco step stool, vintage Cosco stool magazine advertisement, the yellow, dark green, light green paint history of the vintage stool

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 It’s not because step stool technology has advanced and rendered it outdated.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.

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4 comments

  1. We use our step stool every day – in our kitchen. We love it! When we first built our house, one of the first things I bought was a good old-fashioned step stool. Similar to the one my parents have in their kitchen (and still use), and similar to the one my Grandma had in her kitchen. We even designed our kitchen to have that little space next to the counters and the phone, to put that stool. It’s been in that same place since we moved in, and I am sure it will be in that same place for as long as I’m alive. It has served ALL the purposes you have mentioned, and is usually the first place our guests gravitate to when they visit and we hang out in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, that step stool is ALWAYS selected before the other 6 stools we have around the center island – go figure. I agree with you completely – every home needs a step stool!

  2. Our step stool has a permanent home in my husband’s shop but does duty all around the house. Hmm….now that you mention it, I could use another one in the kitchen. Yay, thanks for the excuse to hit the thrift shop, Laurie.

  3. One of the first gifts my daughter bought her brother when he got his own place was a Cosco step stool. Many years later he still has it. It sits in his office/utility room usually with a couple of books, computer, or bag of cat food on top. Probably the one gift that will last the longest.

  4. Both of my grandmothers had a vintage step stool in the corners of their kitchen. We grandchildren always wanted to be the one chosen to set on the step stool at the big family dinners. It seemed to almost be a place of honor. I have looked and looked in my part of the country for a vintage step stool, but have not found one I really liked. My kitchen is just waiting for this lovely vintage purchase to arrive!

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