BY SUSAN HOLLIS
There’s no better time to consider how to improve your space for entertaining.
The pandemic inspired all sorts of home renovations, reorganizations and design overhauls, and home bars were a popular choice for those wanting a fun, sophisticated way to approach happy hour without leaving your front door. Whether as simple as a repurposed bookcase or plumbed-in with an ice maker and distilled water on tap, the aim of a home bar is to create a grown-up sanctuary with all the bases covered.
One of the first things to consider is how many people it will typically accommodate. Is it a full bar with seating where friends can catch up? Or is it more of an extension of the kitchen used to house stemware and drink-specific paraphernalia? For the latter, a bar cart does a great job of storing all the fussy parts associated with proper martinis, decanted wine and elaborate cocktails. For the former, an empty wall space or even a closet can be transformed into something more elegant, with a prep area, seating and ample storage.
“When designing bar areas, we love the idea of making them feel like a retreat,” says Maria Alvarez of Jenny Martin Design. “It’s an opportunity to design something different, moody, and can be a fun way to play with finishes, fixtures and colours.”
As the past few years have seen a spike in hyper-local drink trends — think custom cocktails, never-before-seen beer flavours and locally made tonics and seltzers — designers are fielding more specific wet bar requests, like custom taps for beer, carbonated water and filtered and reverse osmosis water.
And because makers of spirits put great effort into their bottle designs and labels, they can be used as centrepieces — shelved behind the bar or even kept behind glass in specially designed fridges.
A collection of pretty cocktail glasses also works as a focal point — a simple way to both identify the bar’s purpose and encourage its use. And it’s not over the top to match your cabinet paint colour to your glassware or wine collection. Make the most of your bar’s assets by proudly keeping them on display.
Many homes will have limited places a bar can go — converting part of a butler’s pantry, an empty corner where a potted plant has long lived or even an underused closet can be great ways to create a dream drinking nook. Just keep in mind it should work with the social areas in your home while allowing for ample storage.
“Often an escape or gathering spot for family and friends, it’s important to consider seating, flow and functionality,” says Jenny Martin of Jenny Martin Design. “Depending on what our clients love to collect, whether it be wine, beer or coveted liquors, it’s important to tailor storage to this.”
Especially among collectors, security is a factor to consider when laying out a home bar. Ensuring special bottles aren’t easy to walk away with is easily done by providing locked storage and discreet roll-out drawers.
For those going the distance with a built-in bar, fridge drawers can be hidden behind panels or under the sink. And don’t forget to plan for compost, garbage and recycling to keep debris off the bar.
For the wine lover, consider a wine column. A step above the stand-alone beer and wine fridges of yesteryear, a wine column is taller, with specific shelving, cooling, humidity and vibration controls. This high-tech appliance can pull double duty as a way to properly store wine while acting as an eye-catching statement piece.
Creating a special vibe can be achieved with the help of accent lighting. This is an opportunity to step outside of your home’s overall themes to include something fun or even unusual. Maybe that vintage candelabra that looks plucked from Hogwarts is just the thing you needed to go with your five o’clock Tom Collins.
And with a fun, new home bar suited to your tastes, you’ll have a good reason to break out the bubbly.