Home bar ideas are cropping up everywhere, and they are the perfect solution for a small family kitchen, as it takes up far less space than a table and chairs and can double up as somewhere to prepare and present food.
Where to install one depends on the shape and layout of your home, but you could have one built bespoke into your basement ideas, or incorporate a small home bar into your kitchen ideas – there are so many options to consider. Don't forget to fill them with the best cocktail glasses too.
Home bar ideas
The season of entertaining is well and truly upon us, and while the past few years might have not looked the same, now is the time to really rejoice and celebrate the upcoming year.
1. Add an island
A dedicated drinks area complete with a cocktail bar-inspired island is the last word in luxury when entertaining. ‘An island is a great focal point for guests to gather around, especially if it is curved in shape; it gives the host a clear area to show off their cocktail-making skills and serve drinks while keeping the back bar area free for prep and accessories,’ enthuses Mike Fetherston, design director, Hetherington Newman. ‘An island can also provide useful space for drinks fridges and an ice maker to sit under the bar top, out of sight but close to hand.’
2. Be creative in a small space
Forget filling fireplace alcoves with bookshelves, a well-appointed small home bar with dynamic design details is far more exciting. And, with a little imagination, you can achieve great things in a small space. ‘You can have lots of fun with a home bar and create something really playful, sumptuous, and showstopping,’ agrees Lucy Barlow, creative director, Barlow & Barlow.
‘For this period home, we created a pair of very groovy bespoke bar units, which we had hand-painted by Malcolm Scoular in his signature tortoiseshell, then finished with brass countertops and antiqued mirror backing – they look incredible and really bring the party vibes into the house.’
3. Go glam under stairs
Utilizing under-stair space for a stylishly appointed bar is much more rewarding than stuffing it with coats and shoes, and guests will be far more appreciative come party season! ‘A bespoke solution is key to ensuring a perfect fit and harnessing all the space available,’ says Tom Rutt, director, TR Studio.
‘Follow the rise of the staircase to gain as much height as possible and consider adding a contrasting timber or color to distinguish it from the staircase. A touch of brass or reflective material can also add glamour and elevate it from an awkward space to one to be enjoyed.’
4. Connect rooms
Make an open-plan kitchen even more sociable by including a stylish built-in bar between the cooking and living areas. Located within the island unit, or peninsula, a well-appointed bar can lure guests safely away from the business end of the kitchen, while ensuring conversation flows.
‘A kitchen island or peninsula is an excellent place to add a bar – whether below the counter with open shelving and a wine fridge, or with countertop cabinetry to really show off your gin collection,’ agrees George Miller, designer, Neptune Fulham. Use mirrored glass to lend extra glamor; here the full-length mirror on either side draws all eyes to the bar.
5. Think outside the box
This home bar located in the dining room of a London townhouse makes the most of a narrow alcove. ‘A carefully executed bar can make a virtue of the smallest niche. Clients often say that clever, hidden storage solutions, like the pull-out ‘table’ we included here, become their favorite features,’ says Natascha Dartnall, director, ND Studios. It’s a small detail, but the leather-topped pull-out takes it from being solely about bottle storage to a practical serving area. ‘The cabinet below takes care of the other barware and accessories that can make small bars look messy very quickly,’ adds Natascha.
6. Get mixers on demand
If your home bar isn’t within easy reach of the kitchen sink, consider incorporating a boiling water tap. Far faster to heat than a regular kettle, boiling water taps are also more energy efficient and make light work of serving hot beverages.
‘This tap also delivers chilled sparkling water, which is perfect for making cocktails and long drinks, and also relieves pressure on the fridge,’ says Gary Singer, creative director, Eggersmann Design. While you don’t need a large sink to support a boiling tap, a small prep sink will prove handy for rinsing glassware and disposing of dregs.
7. Include appliances
If you are going to dedicate space to a home bar, don’t skimp on the functional details. ‘A wine cabinet should be factored in so that your favorite tipple is kept at optimum temperature,’ says Charlie Smallbone, founder of Ledbury Studio. Add a second wine cabinet for storing juices and other soft drinks to free up space in your main kitchen fridge. ‘If space allows, you could also squeeze in a dishwasher so you don’t have to cart glassware to and from the kitchen,’ adds Charlie. ‘Do check the dB levels to ensure a running dishwasher won’t drown out conversation.’
8. Introduce a home bar in the dining room
‘Introducing a home bar area within your dining room ideas not only creates the perfect opportunity for after dinner drinks, but on a more practical level it adds useful storage to conceal the less decorative and more habitually used tableware and practical accessories,’ says Clara Ewart, head of design at Kitesgrove.
‘Painting the joinery in the same color as the walls creates a sleek and minimalist look, one that does not distract the eye away from the design of the rest of the space,’ she adds. Opting for a dark and moody color, such as the rich blue shade used here, results in an impactful and contrasting backdrop for favorite glassware or serveware or a collection of decorative objects.
9. Impress with a fully-stocked bar
Using luxe materials and an atmospheric palette, interior design Peter Mikic has delivered a dramatic dining room complete with dance floor. This space is in the basement of a house in Notting Hill. It has no windows so the decorative approach from the start was to work on the atmosphere, making the room wonderfully dark and moody. Fundamental to its success was getting the lighting scheme spot on. Here, a big source of light is from the bar that glows at night – it makes everyone in the room look wonderful.
‘The bar was my own design and has a slight 1970s twist,’ says Peter Mikic. ‘The bottom half is made of fumed eucalyptus and the top has glass shelves with brass trims backed by antique mirror.’
‘We wanted the room to be dual-purpose. The owners can sit 14 people down to dinner and, after that’s finished, the table can be split into three and lowered to cocktail level using a hydraulic system, leaving room for dancing.’
10. Keep your home bar behind closed doors
The bar is neatly concealed behind tall bi-fold doors in the sitting area. We love the element of surprise when the doors are opened to reveal the beautiful interior, complete with glassware, drawers and wine cooler. Using glass shelves and a mirror ensures everything glistens and sparkles. Even the shelf supports are mostly glass – they virtually disappear to create a floating shelf effect.
11. Invest in a stylish freestanding cabinet
While fitted cabinets are unlikely to ever go out of style, there has been a gradual move towards more relaxed-looking spaces that incorporate freestanding elements.
‘The addition of any freestanding piece is an opportunity to add texture and variety as a counterpoint to fitted cupboards, be they vintage, antique or very crisp and modern; all add interest and personality,' says Merlin Wright, design director, Plain English.
Here, a well-stocked and organized home bar lends a real sense of occasion. Simply repurpose an existing cabinet so that a choice of drinks, assorted glasses and all the accoutrements are close to hand for guests to help themselves.
12. Dedicate a space for a bespoke home bar
In a busy kitchen or kitchen-diner used for entertaining, it makes sense to create an area for making drinks away from the main cooking zone to avoid tripping over each other.
A breakfast bar cupboard or coffee station that can double up as a home bar is also useful, as it can be used to store all the things you need in one place, including glassware, a sink area and wine bottles. Here, a combination of bespoke shelving and drawers, positioned at different heights, allow you to store, see and reach different things with ease.
13. Install a restaurant-worthy bar at home
If you are looking for luxury home bar ideas you will be pleased to know that they can be built in just about any home. The best way to achieve this is by constructing yours from natural materials, such as exotic stone – whether real or lookalikes – matched with shapely bar stools and a trio of glass pendant lights. You'll wonder why you never had a special spot for entertaining – or breakfast – before.
14. Put it on display
Kitchen shelving ideas for your home bar – whether open shelving or hidden within a cupboard or behind pocket doors – are a great option if you are the proud owner of an impressive glassware collection, or are a keen entertainer who appreciates having ingredients close at hand.
Having everything on display, however, is not for the those of us with very little time to tidy as it requires a certain amount of dedication to keep bar shelves looking smart and uncluttered.
It’s best to mount open shelving just above eye level and within easy reach if you intend for the shelves to hold breakable items. For a stylized look, stack collections of your favorite glassware, crockery, line up fresh herbs and incorporate small pieces of art along a run of open shelving.
15. Create a niche in a small space
Anyone looking for small home bar ideas will be relieved to know that a dedicated home bar can be super stylish even if you only have limited space.
A home bar – kept hidden behind closed doors – is particularly useful in a small kitchen or dining room, as it can be used to store all the things you need in one place, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be pretty. Use metal backsplash ideas to create a space that is truly dazzling.
‘A metallic-effect tiled backsplash is the perfect backdrop for a small home bar that has been neatly tucked away behind closed doors,’ says Camille Syren, Chef de Projets, La Cornue. ‘Porcelain tiles are a low-maintenance choice for the backsplash since they are easy to keep clean and don't require sealing.’
What's more, metallic-effect porcelain tiles come in incredibly realistic designs with full-body glazes that convincingly emulate the shimmer and shine of real metals.
16. Invest in a show-stopping design
Remodeling a kitchen or expanding your basement ideas to include a dedicated home bar is one of the top projects in brand-new homes. This is because a generous home bar is now the epicentre for modern home life and a hub for entertaining and more.
Charlie Kingham, director of Charlie Kingham Cabinetmakers, lists the main benefits of taking steps to creating a bar area at home: ‘Firstly, your space will become a more sociable space. Secondly, you can improve light-levels, traffic flow and overall comfort so that entertaining is more pleasurable. And thirdly, done beautifully, you should see a return on investment, if not profit, when it comes to your property’s value.’
If you love entertaining, a basement conversion can offer a whole extra floor of space within your home’s existing footprint and is perfectly placed for a generous bar or diner that opens out onto the backyard.
17. Take a tropical approach for a garden bar
Garden bar ideas have grown in popularity as our backyards become extensions of our homes. Increasing the usage and comfort of outdoor space is now a vital part of garden design plans. The ultimate entertainment station, a home bar will become an enjoyable al fresco hub for your family and guests to come together and appreciate all year round.
Build an architectural structure to add wow factor for your guests. While it may not be the most budget-friendly when it comes to outdoor kitchen costs, a garden room is an attractive solution, adding height and throwing linear shadows into space.
How do I create a home bar?
Finding the right home bar ideas is pivotal to creating a space that will excite and entertain you and your family for years to come.
'Start by considering the style and feel you want for your home bar and entertainment space. Think about how it might relate not just to the kitchen, living room and dining areas, especially if it is part of an open-plan space, but how it also fits with your overall plan for the house,' advises designer Tiffany Duggan of interior design agency Studio Duggan.
'Gather pictures of home bars that inspire you and start to hone your ideas, thinking about how they might suit your space, the joinery elsewhere in your home and the period of your property.'
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Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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