Creating your own home bar

Whenever I’m entertaining or hosting, especially around the holidays, my kitchen can become a zoo.  Filled with dishes, people, food and little kids running around between it all. Pure mayhem.

So whenever possible, I try and take as much stuff OUT of the kitchen as I can.  Especially cocktails.  

Creating a bar area OUT of the kitchen is really simple, and a great way to create another space in your home for people to gather and come together.

We recently purchased this bar cart from West Elm (which we love and is currently on sale) and it works great.  But you don’t need a bar cart to set up your own bar.  Honestly, lots of things can work as a bar.  A buffet, bookshelf, sofa table, you name it.

We carved out an area of JP’s office (oh, who am I kidding? I’ve completely taken over the office, so I should just staring saying “my office”.  Sorry JP) to create our own little bar area using a combination of built-in shelves and our bar cart.  And it turned out great.  We have our calendar and budget meetings in there (you married friends know what I’m talking about; I refer to them as our “office hours” ;).  It’s great because now when JP gets stressed about saving for college or how to best color coordinate six different schedules on one calendar, we just pour ourselves a little drink 😉 

When it comes to setting up a bar cart, or any home bar, there really are no rules.  I’ve seen so many different great bar set-ups that all work great.  But there are a few themes that I keep seeing repeated in some of my favorite setups – and a few that I’ve copied in my own…

1  Keep it contained – Bars can easily become overflowing with things.  Limes and ice cubes, shakers.  It can get sloppy very fast.  So I like to make sure I’m keeping everything contained and grouped together.  Trays are your best friend in these situations.  Place all of your glassware on a gorgeous tray, or all of your liquor bottles on a silver platter.  Create an obvious “home” for everything on the bar so when your guests are helping themselves, it easy for them to place it back in the right spot.

2  Make it workable – there is nothing worse than when someone creates a beautiful bar (or a great cheese board) but it’s so overflowing you can’t get in there and do anything!  A bar should still be that – a bar – a place to CREATE cocktails.  So make sure there’s plenty of space for you (or your guest) to work.  And make the system obvious.  

3  Balance it out – I’m one who usually likes things to feel airy and light.  And the same goes for my bar set up.  It can feel too heavy, or out of balance, to have everything all stacked together.  So I balance it out by repeating glassware grouped in several places, liquor in a few groups (usually grouping all of the bourbons together and then all the “clear” liquours together, etc.)

4  Add a little life – I am a huge plant lover, and I love a few small plants by a bar.  It just creates great texture, color, and life and just “softens” everything.

5  Make it personal – Have fun with your set up.  Add a little whimsy or personality.  A small piece of art or an object you love.  On our open shelves, I added a photo JP and I found on our last trip to Tuscany where we had our favorite wine.  It just makes me smile when I see it as I’m pouring myself a glass of Chianti.  So have a little fun, and make it your own.   

To help you get started creating your own bar set-up, I’ve included a roundup of some of the things I used here, along with a few of my other favorite bar carts and accessories. 

No. 1 West Elm, Chelsea cocktail shaker ($23), No. 2 West Elm, Chelsea brass tray ($55), No. 3 West Elm, Chelsea bar set, No. 4 Crate & Barrel, Easton cocktail shaker ($29), No. 5 Crate & Barrel, Hatch mixing glass ($9.95), No. 6 Anthropology, Lustured coupe glasses set of 4 ($56), No. 7 Crate & Barrel, Crafthouse shaker set ($100), No. 8 Crate & Barrel, Easton ice bucket ($59), No. 9 Crate & Barrel, Moscow mule mugs ($11.97), No. 10 Terrain, cast aluminum tray ($43.95), No. 11 Crate & Barrel, Element metal tray ($69.95), No. 12 Target, seagrass tray ($19), No. 13 Target, bar cart ($149), No. 14, West Elm, Terrace bar cart ($319), No. 15 West Elm, rattan bar cart ($529)

And if you’re looking for a little inspiration for your new bar creation, this is my favorite holiday cocktail I’ve been making for years.  It’s a cranberry mule filled with lime, ginger, and rosemary.  It’s a great easy refreshing cocktail and so festive and pretty for this time of year.

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