Whether you’d like a fun space for entertaining guests or you foresee a lot of quiet evenings in this fall with the uptick of the Delta variant, there’s no better time than the present to start creating the bar of your dreams right in the comfort of your home.
But there’s more to it than plunking down a few highball glasses and bottles of Grey Goose, maybe an ice bucket. Here, some local pros offer tips for designing your dream home bar.
Wet bar vs. dry bar. A wet bar has plumbing to allow for a sink, faucet, or even a dishwasher. A dry bar won’t be that elaborate, though it could still have a beverage refrigerator or wine cooler. “That is really going to be the first fork in the road,” says Nadia Wall, studio manager and cabinetry designer at Marks-Woods Construction Services in Alexandria. “Once you select which option you want, you can then start to determine individual needs.”
Think about what you’ll use the bar for. Is it mostly for storing bottles of alcohol, or are you going to be entertaining there, too? Leaving room (and money in the budget) for nice, cushy chairs may be a waste if you don’t plan to kick back by the bar with friends. Even if it’s mainly for storage, think through the details. For example, a wine enthusiast with red and white vintages to be kept at different temperatures—and the glasses to go with them—will want different storage solutions than a scotch aficionado with various bottles and decorative decanters. “The type of bar design really is kind of contingent upon what is needed,” says Danielle Steele, lead designer at Marks-Woods.
Price out the wish list. After determining the basics, one of the first things you should do is to take your budget into consideration and start pricing the big-ticket items, including things like custom cabinetry or stone countertops. “For example, just in the realm of wine storage, there is a large range of what you could spend on just chilling your reds and whites,” says Steele. And if you get your heart set on that gorgeous stainless-steel Italian model that’s just too much of a splurge or handmade Spanish tile that’s as lovely as it is pricey? Remember—you can almost always find alternative pieces or materials for a certain look, says Gizem Ozkaya, director of project development at Case Architects & Remodelers, which has studios in Alexandria, Falls Church, DC, and Bethesda. “You don’t need to use a full-custom product to re-create a look you like,” she says. Do some research to find what would be most compatible, what would create a similar feel to what you like and also be more budget-friendly.
Determine the vibe you’re going for. Now the fun part begins: decorating your home bar. “With this step, it really kind of depends on the client’s preference and overall style,” says Steele. “If the home bar is going to be in close proximity to the kitchen, some people really value symmetry.” Others opt for more of a contrast. “Sometimes the kitchen is white and bright, but for the bar they want moody and handsome or more masculine,” says Wall.
Open vs. concealed shelving. And then come the shelving decisions. “Some people really love open shelving, where they can display their rare whiskey collection or barware,” says Wall. “But even in the world of displaying, some prefer glass-door cabinetry.” That may depend on what’s going on in the rest of the house, she says.
Let your personality shine. A bar is sort of a lower-liability space, says Wall. “People are often more inclined to be playful there.” For example, maybe you really love color but were a bit too scared to go full fuchsia in the kitchen. “Putting it in your home bar is a great way to incorporate it in small quantities, like a fun backsplash,” Wall adds. Brightly saturated, bold colors are very in right now, says Steele. Think wild wallpaper and antique mirrors. This is the time to really splash out. And keep in mind that this can be a multiuse space: The countertop where you’re pouring your gin on Saturday night can double as a coffee bar on Sunday morning.
This story originally ran in our October issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.