The At Home Bar

The home bar is not just for the adults in the house

By Colton Martini
All images by Gibeon Photography.

Some may think you have to choose between an all-adult party space and a family-friendly environment when planning your home bar area. But that is not the case. The best-used spaces combine elements for both, ensuring a space you will use often and that operates effectively.  

The home bar is not just for the adults in the house. This is a great opportunity to bring in aspects of fun and interaction for the whole family. Whether it is an addition to a theater room, or an add-on to another living area, the in-home bar serves multiple functions. Soft drinks and snacks are always at the ready, and popcorn is a must have if you are going to sit down to a good film. The bar area can even serve as a water station for a home gym, or even just the spin bike in the corner.

Having the bar be an extension of the kitchen allows for more versatility within the communal prep space and serving areas as well. Rather than create an entirely separate arrangement and configuration, integration is paramount in this case. In addition, it can serve as kitchen storage when the bar is not in “party mode.”  

Undercounter appliances have really become a staple in the at-home bar.  Refrigerated drawers act as storage for seltzer waters, mixers, and even fruit and vegetables.  Integrated freezer drawers even come complete with ice makers like those found in larger appliances. Ice makers are another key component of a bar area. Montana grocery runs can be a trek and a half, and not needing to run out for ice all the time is a huge help. When the party is over, the most well-equipped bars have dishwashers. This really helps with cleanup when hosting a dinner party of size, especially when the kitchen dishwashers are filled to the brim. 

Wine rooms and temperature-controlled cellars have become a fun place to gather for the grape aficionados in the family as well. Endless design concepts come to mind when planning a wine room. Rack storage can be as simple as wooden boxes and a bar cart or as complex as backlit intricately devised steel systems allowing for hundreds or even thousands of bottles to be stored. In any case, there is always an opportunity to combine the wine storage and home bar areas for an even more seamless party vibe.

The key to longevity in the design of an in-home bar area is to keep it simple but memorable. Floating shelves have taken the kitchen world by storm over the years, and in the era of the modern farmhouse, the look makes sense. It is also a key component in commercial kitchens and bars. This allows for easy access to all items as well as a visual reminder of what is in stock and what may need to be refreshed.  This open shelving concept allows for some interesting “back-bar” details as well.  

Think of a backsplash in a kitchen, but bigger and better. A little drama with mirrors behind the open shelving would give the effect of a larger room as well as reflect light to allow for a brighter experience. Opportunities for materials abound. Tile, concrete, bark, fabric and leather just to name a few. The more interesting the material the more inviting the space.

Bar countertops can be an opportunity for some real creativity. Whether you are more rustic and want a wood-style bar straight out of the scenes of Yellowstone or a swanky city vibe with onyx lit from within, there is no wrong answer.  Sometimes the most interesting design is a mix of the Montana rusticity and the sentiments and high-energy vibes of a more urban environment. 

In any good design, lighting is paramount. Task lighting and function must be considered of course, but the most important to the experience is the mood. Mood lighting creates the vibe. That could be in the form of a lit bar top, as previously discussed, or in the use of cleverly placed decorative lighting. Pendants and sconces add a layer of jewelry to the space and can class up the joint a little bit. Remember, everything should be dim-able. No need to cast oneself in a bad light, especially in your own home. 

Speaking of jewelry, lest not be forgotten, the hub of any well-designed at-home bar: The sink!  Bar sinks can be just a basic stainless bowl, and that will suffice, but why not go all the way?  A statement sink is an amazing add-on to a fun and functional space. Again, materials are endless and can be stone, glass, concrete or metal. The list goes on.  

And while the sink is the workhorse of the bar, a little jewelry can add a little something. And the cherry on top? A statement faucet to bring it all together. 

Regardless of how you design it, it’s important to remember that the at-home bar is a space for everyone.