During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us adapted to a life spent mostly at home. While restaurants were delivery-only and bars were non-operational, we cooked our own meals and mixed our own drinks. The hospitality industry changed with us – providing packaged foods we could pop in the microwave and cocktails we could mix at home. Some restaurants and bars even offered online classes and subscription-based kits to help us make the most of our time spent sheltering in place. Two years later, we are still cooking more meals and mixing more cocktails at home than we were pre-pandemic. This change in American culture has sent demand for chef kitchens and home bars skyrocketing. In her December 2021 article “Tips for setting up your home bar, during the holidays and beyond” for The Washington Post, Helen Carefoot elaborates. According to Carefoot, “searches for glassware, drink ware or barware increased 146 percent in the past year.” Referencing data collected by Etsy, Carefoot notes that “searches for bar carts and accessories are also up.” As we head into the summer and start craving mojitos, margaritas and crisp sauvignon blancs, demand for home bar ideas could not be higher. In this post, we explain exactly how to design the perfect home bar. From investing in custom millwork to choosing durable materials, follow below for sixteen secrets to a stunning home bar setup.
How to Design the Perfect Home Bar in 16 Steps
#1 Let History Inspire You
First on our list of home bar setup tips is to choose a theme inspired by history. Take cues from your culture, your neighborhood, your home’s architecture or a period in history that resonates with you and your family. For our Dumbarton Residence remodel in Braeswood Place neighborhood of Houston, our team created a kid-friendly pub that honors the family’s Irish roots. This themed space is enlivened by rich textures, deep green walls, herringbone floors and exposed brick. Fluted pendant lights in a vintage teal tone, green leather club chairs and brass-legged bar stools make this space stand out.
#2 Take it Outside
One of the most significant — and long-standing — design trends to emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic is the outdoor living trend. Al fresco entertaining has a long history in America and abroad. However, there was a major resurgence during the pandemic as families and friends did their best to stand six feet apart. As Jessica Bennett notes in an article for Better Homes & Gardens, “outdoor living trends embrace the comfort, convenience, and style common to home interiors.” Home offices, kitchens and dining rooms have all found their way outside, so why not add a bar to your backyard?
Whether you want a wine bar or a cocktail bar, we recommend setting up a spot with a small sink. You should also have enough room for a chopping board and plenty of storage space for bar tools. You can include a herb garden too. Plant cilantro, lavender, sage, thyme, mint and rosemary — everything you need to create a great cocktail! Another option is to add a double duty vertical garden. A vertical herb garden can wall off the bar from the rest of your backyard while also providing herbs for cocktails.
If you have a walk-out basement, consider making drinks there! A finished basement can make the perfect bar because it opens to the backyard. With some natural light but not too much, a walk-out basement offers a moody club feel that can be difficult to achieve elsewhere.
#3 Invest in Custom Millwork
Investing in custom millwork turns a regular bar into a special space that honors natural materials, local artisans and traditional craftsmanship. Custom millwork elevates any space, but is particularly effective in a pub or home bar where storage is key and bespoke elements truly shine. Consider the bar in this River Oaks home our team remodeled three years ago. The Laura U Design Collective transformed this bar into a sophisticated space with vintage touches. The bar was inspired by the homeowners’ history in France and Damascus. Both destinations are celebrated for their rich histories and vibrant cultural influence.
Connecting the entry to the living room, the romantic, handsome bar creates a warm welcome for guests. We adore the lustrous, deep gold velvet bench made barstools, the rich walnut backdrop, and the smoky Nero Marquina marble. Each of these elements make it easy to mistake this space for a chic Parisian café.
From the back bar you catch a glimpse of the Jeff Koons sculpture in the reflection of the mirror. The bold design choice of black and white marble flooring complements the walnut millwork with its brass accents. A butler’s pantry in the hall offers the perfect place for their collection of wine bottles, crystal and glassware. Everything has its own space thanks to the bespoke storage in this stunning home bar.
#4 Embrace Bold Hardware
Next on our list of home bar ideas is to pick fun hardware. Choosing bold hardware for your cabinets and drawers is an easy way to add personality. We love brass and antique gold accents, especially when sourced from vintage shops. Swapping out hardware is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to update an older bar or kitchen. Consider textural pieces like these Italian Modernist Turquoise Mosaic Tile Drawer Pulls or these Amazing Door Handles Decorated with Micro Mosaic. Both are from 1stDibs and are unique conversation starters.
#5 Mix in Materials from the Rest of the Home to Keep it Cohesive
As you design your new home bar, be sure to mix in materials, textures, patterns and colors from other rooms. For our Garnet Residence remodel in the Southside Place neighborhood of Houston, we carried tones and silhouettes from the rest of the house into the home bar. We chose both geometric shapes — primarily long vertical rectangles — and organic shapes — mostly circles — for the home bar and for this sitting area. Gentle dove gray and soft white also feature in the rest of the home and in the home bar.
#6 Include a Bar Cart to Make it Portable
Take your home bar from the kitchen to the living room and all the way out into your backyard with a bar cart. In her article “5 Bar Cart Ideas: How to Style a Bar” for Architectural Digest, Hadley Keller explains how to stock your cart. Quoting Roxy Owens, Keller recommends adding “‘a few quality spirits to make the classics [and] a good set of cocktail tools.'” Consider a “lime squeezer, muddler, strainer, and mixing tin” as well as a cocktail shaker, mixing glass, ice bucket and bar spoon. If possible, pour vodka, tequila, gin and other spirits into beautiful bottles. Use trays to neatly organize glasses, tools and other elements if your bar cart starts to feel a bit crowded.
#7 Connect the Kitchen and Den for Easy Entertaining
Flow is essential to effective entertaining. To make the most of your home bar, use it as an intermediary space between your kitchen and den or entryway and living room. Alternatively, create a home bar in spaces frequently used for entertaining. As shown in the photos above, our team created a petite home bar for the owners of our Astoria High Rise remodel in Uptown Houston. The bar blends right in with surrounding decor but is a welcome addition once you find this special little treasure.
#8 Opt for Durable Materials and Finishes That Will Wear Well
If you and your family often entertain, you will want to choose durable materials and finishes that stand the test of time. Kendall Wilkinson explains in the article “How To Design A Striking, Yet Functional Home Bar” for Forbes. According to Wilkinson, “‘a bar is a bit like a miniature kitchen, so it needs to stand up to wear.'” In the same article, Cindy Witmer recommends “‘using a hard stone surface like quartzite as opposed to marble or limestone.'” Quartz countertops will resist staining and pitting from caustic red wine, lemon juice and other drink elements.
#9 Curate to Your Favorite Cocktails
Be sure to personalize your new home bar to your specific interests. If you love wine, make it the star of your home bar by creating a wine cellar. We adore this glamorous wine room from our Willowick Residence remodel, which was tailored to our client’s specific tastes. A sculptural decanter underscores the architectural influences in this space, while glossy black finishes add depth and drama.
For those who prefer blended tropical drinks instead, consider creating an outdoor bar with a fridge for fruits. Those who enjoy classic cocktails like old fashioneds can add an ice maker. You can also create a little menu sign with house “signature cocktails” that change each month for a bit of fun!
#10 Don’t Let a Small Space Limit You
If you only have space for a little home bar, don’t worry! Our design team has created many small-space bars the work perfectly well for our clients. Your home bar could be a single shelf with bottles above and glasses hanging on hooks below. A good home bar is not defined by its size. Just be sure to have essential bartending tools and special elements like angostura bitters or white rum well stocked. Make sure you have bar essentials like simple syrup, ice cubes and drinking glasses on hand too!
#11 Play With Lighting
From measuring to chopping, bartending is a skill that requires appropriate lighting to be safe and accurate. When designing your home bar, make sure to include task lighting as well as overhead lighting, so you can see what you’re doing! To add ambiance or make a small space feel larger and more glamorous, add mirrored surfaces and high gloss finishes opposite light fixtures.
#12 Create an Atmosphere With Color
Create atmosphere with color instead of opting for bright white or muted gray. For this classic bar, we opted for a rich blue tone that falls somewhere between ocean and navy. Calm yet sophisticated blue tones feature heavily throughout the Rice Residence remodel. The runner in the entryway and the walls of the study are both shades of blue. Use color in other ways too — not just with paint, but also in the glassware, art and more.
#13 Repurpose Existing Furniture
Another fun way to create a brand new home bar is to repurpose existing furniture and unusual spaces. For example, you could convert a small alcove, niche or spandrel into a miniature bar. You could also transform built-ins like a butler’s pantry or bookcase. We recommend repurposing an old media cabinet, secretary’s desk, console table, china cabinet or trunk. Turn any of these into a bar with help from family and friends.
#14 Don’t Skimp on Appliances
Most of the home bars we design for clients are outfitted with the latest and greatest appliances bartenders and home chefs could hope for. You might find a pot filler over a small sink or a petite dishwasher under the counter. Other features include a wine fridge, a beer cooler or an espresso machine. For the perfect home bar setup, include any and all appliances you might need to craft cocktails during parties and date nights.
#15 Pick the Perfect Stools
A home bar setup is nothing without the perfect spot to sit. We especially love these custom bar stools from Berman Rosetti, which add stylish and ample seating to our Viscaino remodel. These cactus-colored chairs from Lawson Fenning and our Dunstan project are another gorgeous set.
#16 Make it Distinct with Wallpaper and Tile
Finally, make your home bar distinct with special wallpaper and tile. Of course, we love tile from Ann Sacks and wallpaper from Dedar. In our River Oaks high-rise project, we opted for a graphic vinyl wallcovering from Dedar. The scalloped mirror pictured above on the left is the perfect accent for a space exploding with color and pattern.
We hope this list helps you create the perfect bar for you home. Head over to this post for a few tips to crafting cocktails at home!