A Toast to In-Home Bars

Design an entertaining area where libations are an art form.

If there’s one prevailing trend in home bars, it’s this: They’re in demand. “I’m seeing a resurgence in the interest for home bars as a design feature, which is trending with the enthusiasm around the craft cocktail and craft beer movement,” says Lisa Wilson-Wirth, eponymous principal of a San Diego, Calif.–based design firm. “Cocktails, punch bowls, bitters — something that speaks to the Mad Men era — are all increasingly of interest to the modern homeowner, thanks to our neighborhood bars and restaurants.”

According to designer David Stimmel, principal of Stimmel Design Group in Ambler, Pa., in-home bars tend to be one of two types. The first is what he calls a “walk-up,” which is typically situated against a wall and allows people to serve themselves. Requiring a modicum of space, it’s easily incorporated into a variety of settings. But if it’s part of a kitchen, as it often is, locate it out of the way of meal preparation and cleanup.

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If the bar is indoors and part of an open floor plan, you may want to visually relate the bar to its surroundings by looking to adjoining rooms for design cues. This circular bar by Stimmel echoes the shape of the room and features millwork and a concrete countertop that complement the home’s architecture and quirky aesthetic.

Storage is always a must, but how much depends on how the bar will be used and, of course, available space. A walk-up may need little and include vitrines for displaying decorative barware, whereas a full-service stand-alone may require more storage that’s hidden from view. Personal preference is always a factor. Wilson-Wirth created this contemporary design for clients “who wanted their bar to be buttoned up, like their favorite bespoke suit — with the focus on each cabinet’s interior fittings.” Both upper and lower cabinets are outfitted with accessories to keep glassware, bottles and bar tools organized and discreetly accessible.

indoor bar, open floor plan, visually relate the bar to its surroundings

If you’re working with a client, Anthony Albert Passanante, of Anthony Albert Studios in Waldwick, N.J., recommends taking inventory of the types of liquor they stock not only to ensure that all have a place but also to provide appropriate appliances. If they like ice in their scotch, for example, install an icemaker that will make clear ice. “Also find out the shape of ice they prefer,” he says, as this may determine which model to specify. Undercounter refrigeration, another necessity, comes in several configurations for storing everything from wine and soda to snacks and hors d’oeuvres, and a microwave and a dishwasher enable the bar to function as a second kitchen. Kegerators and built-in espresso machines are ideal for beer drinkers and the perpetually caffeinated, respectively.

Stack your bar with several types of liquor and include a refrigerator

Include a sink, but first determine if its role is purely utilitarian or also aesthetic. In either case, go for quality construction and add fixtures with the artistic flair you want. Dual counters at 36 inches and 42 inches conceal mess while accommodating bar seating, Stimmel says. For a wider work surface, consider one counter height — 36 inches — that will allow seating on one side.

Include a sink in your bar that fits properly

Next to food, drinks are a significant component of memorable gatherings. So while the kitchen may be touted as the heart of the home, a well-designed home bar is the life of any party.