How to Set Up a Home Bar

Entertaining at home has always been in style, but it only grew in recent years as more people are hosting small gatherings and dinner parties. This is where having a well-stocked and attractive home bar comes in as not only a style element but a functional area of your house for creating cocktails and conversation.

Prepping a home bar is more than just throwing a few bottles on top of a sideboard. Interior designers and home experts say that with a little more intention, a homeowner can create a space that is a gathering spot for friends and family. Plus, with some additional sweat equity, you can add value to your home with a smartly designed space for drinks and equipment.

“One consideration as you start is the function of the bar. Will it be used for making old fashioneds during poker night or for serving up cabernets during dinner parties? The contents of the bar will be dependent on their intended use. A large wine use, for example, will call for a decanter versus an ice bucket,” says Cameron Johnson, the CEO and founder of Nickson Living, a furniture rental company in Dallas.

Here are eight ways to think about adding or improving upon a home bar.

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Plan Ahead

Think about proximity to plumbing when you want to add a wet bar to your home, says Catherine Mack, co-owner at the House Buyer Network in Cleveland. If you entertain often, you may want your home bar to include running water as well as a dishwasher. For a dry bar, a cart is always a winner, Mack says.

“For smaller spaces or multipurpose rooms, a drinks cabinet or a cart that you can move or collapse when it’s not in use may be the best solution. A throwback to the 1950s, carts are often very retro, but there are design options that suit most spaces,” Mack says.

Recycle and Upcycle

Facebook Marketplace as well as your own home are the ideal places to shop for items to include in or upgrade your home bar, says Kurtis Forster, sales representative for Nu-Vista Premiere Realty in London, Ontario.

“This is a great opportunity to recycle things you might have lying around or pieces others are throwing out. It’s a positive thing for our environment, it can add a unique element to your new home bar, plus it will help you save money,” Forster says. “There are so many chances to reuse a countertop, cabinetry and other storage options that can turn your room into the home bar you want.”

Think About Materials

Making sure the liquids and other materials typically found on a bar cart or home bar don’t mar the surface is a key consideration, says Grace Baena, interior designer of Kaiyo Used Sofas, a pre-owned furniture store in New York.

“I would recommend choosing something with both utility and some style. Natural wood options might blend in better with your décor for a living or dining room bar cart, while a stainless-steel option might better suit your kitchen and be a little more durable,” Baena says. “You can add some accents to a cart with fun or stylish hand towels or even a vase of flowers on the top level.”

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Get Colorful

Bar carts are not only practical, but they can allow your creativity to shine, says Lauren Binard, a real estate agent at Maison Real Estate in Charleston, South Carolina. Binard, who also works in interior design, says you can upgrade a basic bar cart with a little paint and some accessories.

“Painting it a funky color makes for an easy statement piece. Hermes orange, anyone?” Binard says. “Accessorize it with vintage books, trinkets, plants, glasses, barware. You can swap out the decor seasonally. Go wild! Try mini pumpkins for fall, garland and glitter for the holidays, heart napkins and champagne flutes in February. The options are endless.”

Play With the Location

Bar carts or home bars traditionally go in dining rooms, but you can put one anywhere you’d like for extra storage or a touch of color. For example, Binard says a bar cart is nice to showcase in a living or dining space where you will actually use it versus it becoming a pretty dust collector in the entry.

“While most home bars are found in the kitchen, probably because of the cooler temperature and away from direct sunlight, one other good spot is actually between the living and dining area,” says Adrian Martinez, owner of Painting Contractors in San Bernardino, California. “This is perfect especially for those with open space home designs. It makes your indoor space catchy and entertaining. At the same time, it allows your guests to socialize in the living room instead of the kitchen.”

Consider Shelving

Putting up some shelves above a bar cart or wet bar can add not only function but lots of space to show off your favorite collections of fine wine, whiskey or even objects d’art, says Robin Burrill, CEO and principal designer for Signature Home Services in Keller, Texas.

“If you don’t need to hide your bar behind doors, you can certainly choose to show it off. A pretty bar area can absolutely be the focal point of a room where you entertain,” Burrill says. “How about some open shelves used as a bar in the part of the kitchen facing the open living room? Why not install a backsplash all the way up behind those open shelves?! You can frame your bottle collection with your favorite touch of tile.”

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Use What You Already Have

Burrill says she wishes more homeowners would look at their existing architecture as a way to repurpose something like a bookcase or bookshelf into a home bar. Homeowners might take a built-in that’s tall and skinny and repurpose it, she says.

“If you have an open bookshelf in the living room, for instance, install a couple doors on the level right around chest height. Install a mirrored surface in the back of that shelf, too,” Burrill says. “Then, guests come over, and voila! You open the door and the party’s ready to get started with a beautiful bottle collection and all its dancing reflections.”

Add Some Style

Leslie Turner, co-founder and broker in charge of Maison Real Estate in Charleston, says styling a home bar should mesh your personality and the season at hand.

“Vintage glassware, pretty bottles or decanters, and some fresh flowers or fruit can be mixed and matched and switched out with different seasons or holidays,” Turner says. “Keep a cool sculptural vase on the cart year-round and switch out the flowers or greenery. A pretty tray corrals bottles or glassware nicely. Add an ice bucket and keep a space for cocktail napkins or drink garnishes.”

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