Whether it’s your inner oenophile or innate party host persona that’s steering you in the direction of building and designing a home bar, you should certainly honor it. Gone are the days of running up pricey tabs at bars downtown, and using your regular old kitchen as a place to hone your mixology skills.
A home bar is a great idea for those that frequently entertain, but it also adds an additional lounge room to your house for those at-home date nights, business meetings, and viewing parties. However, there’s more to building and designing a home bar than throwing up a couple of bar stools and stocking a mini fridge with your favorite beer.
There are a few key design tips to keep in mind when putting together a home bar, and the end result is sure to appeal to even the most sophisticated of alcohol aficionados.
Find the Right Furnishing
Unless you already have a separate bar room in your home, you’ll have to work from scratch. To begin, invest in a free-standing bar counter. These can be purchased online, and typically don’t cost more than $300-$400. Although, pricing depends on the style you’re looking for.
A bar counter made of stunning cherry, maple, or mahogany will maintain its timelessness and exude elegance. If possible, invest in one with a storage on one side for housing your variety of liquor bottles and glasses. Also keep an eye out for any with a wraparound foot railing, as this will add to the authenticity.
Next, make sure to invest in some matching barstools. If you’ve purchased a very traditional bar top made of dark wood, don’t buy all-white modern barstools. Clashing styles in this particular area is a major no-no. Padded and upholstered leather barstools are a lovely finishing touch to a classic and old-fashioned bar counter.
Consider finishing off the façade with a small pub table, which invites a more sociable atmosphere.
Selecting Accents & Decorations
Your décor should not undermine the importance of your decorations. While a beautiful bar top is important, it’s only the foundation of your bar’s overall ambiance. The accents and decorations you choose for your bar are essential.
To begin, consider buying a bar cart where you can display your very favorite liquors in crystal and glass decanters. The bar cart is a portable first impression of your overall bar, and should contain only the finest glassware. Crystal highball glasses make for a lovely touch, along with some elegant marble or wood coasters.
Behind the bar, make sure to place a long horizontal mirror. You may be wondering why this is such a widespread tradition for bars. This trend dates back to the Old West, where bar owners believed mirrors helped set the mood of their customers. It was believed that, if customers caught a glimpse at their stressed or angry expression in the mirror behind the bar, it would be compulsory to soften it and embody a more pleasant demeanor.
Also make sure to put your glassware on display. Your bar should have three different kinds of glasses: short, tall, and stemmed. Line them up on a mirrored party tray or on a decorative shelf behind the bar.
Finally, don’t forget to stock your bar with the necessary barware (cocktail shakers, ice bucket, dish towel, etc.) and add some homey touches. Cocktail napkins with decorative holders, stainless steel straws, and some handcrafted coasters go a long way toward making your bar feel comfortable and welcoming.
As a general guideline, warmer tones tend to be more favorable in bars. Soft, orange lighting, wooden furnishings, and velvet upholstery contribute to a more convivial atmosphere. Install some industrially-styled pendant lighting directly over the bar counter. Edison bulbs will add a warm touch, while contributing a contemporary look and feel.
An ornate wine rack will also achieve this, while simultaneously displaying your fine wine collection. If you’re looking to save space, buy a hanging wine rack and even use it as a backdrop for your bar. Purchase a Lazy Susan and equip it with the signature cocktail toppings (sliced limes, maraschino cherries, sugar, etc.) Place the toppings in small antique bowls to emphasize the rustic vibe.
Your home bar is also the perfect place to display your souvenir collection, or any photography that you yourself have taken. Bars have always been about sincerity and character, so use yours as an opportunity to showcase this.
For those of us that spent our adolescence watching Sam Malone tend bar at Cheers, an opportunity to tend our own bar is a dream come true. With the right recipe for your décor (and your cocktails!), your at-home bar can quickly become a favorite hangout spot.
Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for TIPS Alcohol Training, an online alcohol certification resource for restaurants, bars, liquor stores, and events.