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Welcome to the Home Bar Design Guide

Home bar design should be practical for both barman/host and guests.

If you like to entertain at home, a home bar is a great place to do so. Not only does it make for great entertainment, but it can be a great feature and add to the value of your home if designed well.

This guide is intended to point out the crucial things you need to be aware of and decide upon when you want to design and build a home bar. You will typically either:

Ø Plan to build a new bar in your existing home

Ø Plan to build a bar in a new home, in it’s design phase

Ø Plan to upgrade your existing home bar

The ideas discussed below can mostly be applied to all of the above although some ideas may be more/less applicable for a given situation.


For home bar plans and ideas on building a home bar and diy home bars go to our Building a Home Bar Guide.

OK let’s begin at the beginning of home bar design

A home bar generally consists of a base wall with a bar counter resting on top. It may or may not have cupboards and shelves in the base below the counter as well as at its back and on the sides.

In home bar design, the most important things to consider are:

Ø What it will be used for e.g. to entertain family and friends or more for business use, big or small parties, etc.

Ø Where in your house to put the bar

Ø How big will it be

Ø Your budget

Ø The materials you will use

Ø Whether you are building it yourself, or having it done

Let’s look at these in more detail:


WHAT WILL YOUR HOME BAR BE USED FOR

Think of your social life, how you like to entertain and how you would like to entertain when you have your home bar. Who will you invite most regularly: family, friends or business colleagues. Work it into your home bar design.

This should give you a general idea of how often the bar will be used, how big it should be (based on the amount of people using it) and more or less where in the house it should be.

So, if you intend intimate get-togethers for colleagues fairly irregularly, the bar can be small and probably away from the “family” part of your house, maybe in a basement. However, if you intend big get-togethers with friends regularly, you want a sizable bar in your entertainment area, like a BBQ room or games room.

This should also tell you whether the bar should be a permanent fixture, or a movable one that can be stored away. The advantage of these are they can be removed if your are not using them – a good choice if space is an issue – and be put in different places as you require (in or outside for example). Their disadvantage is that they are usually small.


WHERE TO PUT THE BAR

If you going for a non-permanent bar, this is not a big issue because you can move it around and store it away if need be.

If you are going of a permanent structure, think carefully where it must go because once it’s in, it’s in.


VERY IMPORTANT: There need to be water and electricity supply close by (or these need to be extended there quite easily). You need water for the sink - we strongly suggest you put a sink in for washing hands, rinsing glasses, pouring out left over drinks, etc. You may have heard of a “wet bar” – this is a bar with a sink and running water. A WET BAR is the way to go.

You need electricity for lighting – good lighting is very important – and other electrical appliances like blenders, ice makers, a bar fridge and sound system.


Typical locations include entertainment areas, both in and outdoor – like in a lapa (an outdoor thatched gazebo) or a covered patio – or games and recreation rooms and basements. Place it where it can be reached easily for maximum use.

The bar is usually in a corner or at the end of the room, so that there is a wall behind it to use for displaying and storing bottles, bar equipment and decorations.

Remember, a bar is not only for drinking and can be used by the whole family for spending time together playing board games, having breakfast, etc. You often find that bars are close to the kitchen area and doubles for a table where there is no kitchen table or breakfast counter. A bar is a nice alternative - have this in mind when planning a new house.

In the case of outdoor home bars, you ideally want some sort of covering over it to protect from the sun and rain. Outdoor bars will usually be made of treated wood and other materials that can withstand the elements outside. It is important to treat the bar with the necessary substances (e.g. varnish or wood oil for wooden finishes) regularly to ensure your bar retains it’s good looks. Make sure you get and follow the care instructions from the manufacturer or merchant.


SIZE OF YOUR HOME BAR

The available space in the chosen location will to a large extend determine how big you can make the bar. The bar should not take up more than 25% to 35% of an entertainment room and even less if possible. You want to have enough room to fit in people as well as furniture, like a pool table for example, and still allow free movement.

You should have sufficient storage available for liquor, spirits, mixers and other ingredients as well as all the necessary bartending equipment and appliances. A bulkhead with storage space above the bar counter is common, practical and helps to save space or create more storage.

You can also fix brackets designed to hold glasses slid in upside down on the bulkhead. This gives your home bar a real professional look.

It should be accessible and provide enough space for people to gather to enjoy drinks, conversation and have a good time.

It is always nice to have sufficient space behind the bar as well. Although theoretically there should be only one barman, it often happens that there are a number of people behind the bar, particularly when you have a big party.

Where you have limited space, you can consider a non-permanent bar or even converting an existing closet into a fold open bar.

The location and size of the bar you want generally determines the shape of the bar. Typical home bar design shapes include:

Ø Straight bars – at the end of a room

Ø L-shape

Ø U-shape

Ø Corner bar, in the corner of a room with an round or rectangular counter


BUDGET

Your budget will be the overriding factor as it determines how much you can spend on the bar, which in turn determines what materials you can use and how big you can go.

It is usually cheaper to build it yourself than to have it built, although this is not always the case. It is a good idea to visit furniture stores and on-line stores that manufacture and sell ready-made bars to get an initial idea of what it might cost.

If your budget allows it, it is advisable to get the help of an architect to help you design the bar and possibly give you tips on how you can save money by for example using certain materials and not other.

Remember to allow in your budget not only for the cost of the bar but also for

Ø appliances – a bar fridge for example and maybe a TV for watching sports

Ø bartending equipment (see our Bartending Equipment Guide)

Ø stock i.e. liqueur, spirits and mixers (see our Guide to Stocking Your Home Bar)


MATERIALS USED

The materials determines the style of the bar, for example traditional or more modern. The bar needs to a reflection of you and what you like.

Typically bars are made out of solid wood, although a base built from bricks and mortar tends to be more solid. Bar counters are usually made from hard wood or natural stone like granite. Cocktail Mixing Master prefers hard wood over stone, as stone is generally porous and gets stained easily, albeit non-permanently, by fluids as commonly found in bars. Formica is another, low cost option.

There are also more modern designs that include the use of glass and stainless steel and aluminum.

Whatever materials you use, it needs to be able to withstand those occasional nights of glasses clanking and general misuse. In other words, it needs to be durable.

Importantly, the materials and style need to fit in with the surrounding style of the house. It will look pretty odd if you put a traditional old English pub-style bar into a home that is ultra modern in other respects.

Shelves and cupboards are usually wood or glass and need to fit the overall style of the bar. Use strong materials (thick wood and glass) for shelves, especially big shelves that need to carry many bottles/glasses/equipment/decorations.

The style needs to fit the furniture – bar chairs, etc – you will eventually put in the bar. Keep this in mind when deciding on the style.


BUILDING IT YOURSELF

There are a many DIY home bar plans available on the internet. See our Guide to Building a Home Bar as well.

If you are handy, this is a feasible option. If not, think carefully if you want to attempt it.


Lighting

Your home bar eventually has to create a certain atmosphere and strategic lighting is very important here. There should at least be bright lights shining directly down on the bar. This can be either downlights in the ceiling or bulkhead above the bar OR lights suspended from the ceiling or bulkhead. These lights are generally sufficient to provide light for the whole bar, but make provision for other lights in other areas where you might mix drinks.

Hidden coloured or plain lights and light ropes in bulkheads at the back of the bar and underneath the bar counter makes for nice effects. Any specialist light stockist will be able to provide what you need and give you advice on the appropriate lights for your bar.

Ensure the lights can be dimmed, if required – you don’t want bright lights all over the show. This also give a lot of scope to play with various lighting effects.

Where you have a pool table or dart board, make sure you have suffient spot lights that operate independently for the other lights.


Lastly …

A decent sound system is mandatory. Leave enough space for the system and integrate it in your bar your. For example, make sure there are the necessary conduits for wires so that you don't sit with loose wires all over the place.


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