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If you enjoy the occasional adult beverage, you’ve probably visited a few bars in your lifetime. Thanks to the “new normal” that focuses on staying safe at home, it’s a perfect time to consider designing your very own custom bar that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
Setting up a bar in your home can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. With a few simple steps, you can easily design a custom-built bar so you can mix, sip, and mingle to your heart’s content. From the build to making sure you have the most important drink essentials, read on for some tips that will inspire you to design a new custom home bar, DIY-style.
Before you start working on your home bar design, you’ll need to designate a space for it in your home. Whether your house is large or small, it’s easy to start setting up a home bar that’s both fun and functional. Make sure that your bar space is comfortable and that there’s ample room for storage, mixing drinks, and serving. Determine what your bar budget is in advance. This will make it much easier for you to decide where the bar will be as well as its total size.
Larger homes with an extra spare bedroom, a room over the garage, or a basement offers you endless possibilities. However, if you happen to live in an apartment or condo, you can still enjoy a home bar in a corner of your living room or a section of the eat-in kitchen. Do a quick walkthrough of your home to get a few ideas for the location of the bar. Once you start the process of designing and building your bar, you’ll have a blast coming up with fun ideas and designs — no matter how large or small it is.
There really are no rules in terms of creativity and style when it comes to building a DIY bar. While there are certainly a few must-haves, you’re free to design and build a custom bar any way you see fit. If you’re in doubt or need a bit of help with the build, don’t hesitate to call in a DIY-ing friend or family member, or hire an expert.
No matter how you do it, this project will give you a real sense of pride every time you concoct your signature cocktail. You can purchase a pre-built bar cabinet at your local or online furniture store, but for those who want to truly DIY, here are a few important details you’ll need to consider.
Bar height. Your bar should be 42 inches high with an overhang of at least 8 inches.
Bar width. The average bar top is between 16 and 20 inches wide, but you can always make yours wider if you have the room or narrower if you don’t.
Barstool height. Standard barstools are typically 30-inches tall, but it’s best to look for stools after you build the bar to ensure a proper fit.
Wood. Use high quality lumber and plywood for the frame and top of your bar. Connect the frame using standard wood screws.
Bar top. Here’s where you can get super creative. You have endless choices for the finished top of your bar, including wood, stone, tile, and stainless steel. You can also:
Build a shallow frame, fill it with anything imaginable — pennies, poker chips, poppies — and encase it in clear resin.
Pour a concrete top. You can embed it with broken glass, dye or etch it, or polish it to a high shine — or all of the above.
Construct a top from reclaimed barnwood, an old bowling alley floor, or a vintage formica countertop.
Bar molding. Depending on the construction and style, molding can make a bar look finished and attractive. Your best bet is pre-cut molding, which you can stain or paint.
Bar front. Like the bar top, the front of the bar can be just about anything — try galvanized steel for a modern, industrial look; tin ceiling tiles for a vintage vibe; fabric for a warm, cozy feel; or DIY-stained glass made with plexiglass panels and stained-glass paints and lit from behind.
Before you start building, make sure you have all the tools and fasteners you’ll need. That list may include the following:
Miter saw, table saw, circular saw, and/or jigsaw.
Drill and wood or metal screws.
Nail gun and nails.
Hammer and finishing nails.
Level, tape measure, pencil, and T-square or carpenter square.
Hand sander and sanding paper.
Adhesive and caulk gun.
Gloves for hauling wood and heavy things.
Protective eyewear for using power tools.
Ear plugs for using loud saws.
A first-aid kit, just in case.
Now that your custom home bar is complete, it’s time to stock it with the essentials to make it functional.
Bar furniture. Purchase some padded bar stools for you and your guests — the ones with a back are the most comfortable. Stools with a footrest are even better. Swivel bar stools make it easy for people to rotate and enjoy great conversations. If you need extra storage, a separate bar cabinet is another great addition to your bar area. And if your bar area is large, populate it with loungey furniture.
The right lighting. You don’t want your bar area lit by overhead fluorescent lights, no sir. Give your bar area a moodier vibe with lamps, pendant lights, or even color-changing LED string lights.
Music. Set the right mood, and keep the party going with music. Whether you prefer an old-school record player or want to pair your phone to your wireless speaker, get it all set up before your first shindig.
Glassware. Stock your bar with a variety of glassware, such as beer steins and pint glasses for your favorite brews, low-ball and highball glasses for spirits, and shot glasses for shooters. If you can trust yourself and your guests with stemmed drinkware, hang your wine and champagne glasses upside down from the bar if you can. If you doubt, they’d still be upright by the end of the night, opt for stemless, egg-shaped glasses for the wine and bubbly.
Mixology Tools. To properly make cocktails, you’ll need a few essential mixing tools. Stock your bar with a mixing glass, shaker, jigger, and a Hawthorne strainer. A hand juicer is great for cocktails that include fresh citrus, while a nice vegetable peeler is great for garnishes. Don’t forget the bottle opener and wine bottle opener. Throw in an ice bucket if you want to avoid trips from the bar to the fridge and back.
Spirits: Keep things fresh and exciting by stocking your bar with a variety of spirits, including a good bottle of rum, vodka, tequila, brandy, Scotch, gin, and bourbon and your favorite mixers. If you’re on a budget, start with a couple of your favorite liquors, and grow your bar from the basics as time goes on.
Make sure that your home bar has the proper storage to hold and protect your tools, bottles, and drinkware. Store your spirits in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight. Too much light can affect the flavor of your drinks and cause them to taste watered down.
Store your mixing tools in a drawer behind the bar or in a big pitcher or vase on top of the bar. Store your glassware on shelves behind or under the bar, and keep your beverage napkins, stirrers, and straws in a caddy on top of the bar.
Take your home bar to another level with an under-bar fridge, ice maker, wine cooler, sink, or beer tap setup.
Entertainment in your new bar space
Mingling and sipping drinks is always fun, but adding a few classic forms of entertainment will make your bar more exciting, a place where everyone can gather, celebrate, and enjoy. Here are tips for entertainment you can include at your bar so that it’s always a great time, whether you’re reveling in a corner of the living room or have the entire basement for your play space.
Classic games like dominos, chess, checkers, and playing cards are always welcome at a bar.
Board games make for great bonding times and loads of fun with friends.
A karaoke machine makes you the star of the show. Make it even more fun with some colorful flashing lights, a disco ball, and a wireless sound system.
Add a dartboard, foosball table, or pool table to your bar area for hours of fun.
A jukebox is a fun and unique addition to any bar area.
A flat-screen TV behind the bar is icing on the cake if you’re a big sports fan or enjoy watching movies while sipping a cocktail at the bar.
Dress up your bar with some accessories, like an oversized mirror, a fun painted mural, or a beautiful tile backsplash. Hang a few framed movie posters, sports memorabilia, or rock ‘n’ roll poster art to make your bar unique to you. Put a large chalkboard on the wall where your friends and family can have fun doodling and getting creative as they sip and mingle. When it comes to the small (but mighty) details, the sky's the limit, so remember to have fun and make sure that your custom home bar is a place where people will have hours of fun together — and always remember the good times they had.
Whether it’s a huge custom bar in your sprawling basement or a charming small corner of your den, creating a bar at home is an extremely rewarding experience. Look online for inspiration, and plan your bar out thoroughly before you begin building. With a little creativity, you can add some unique finishing touches that will make your home bar burst with personality. Throw in some entertainment, and you’ll be content to spend time at the bar without ever having to leave the house.
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