I’m something of an accidental bar-cart creator. Slight correction: I outfit a lot of bars, but they’re rarely carts. In fact, when it comes to where you store and pour your spirits, the more inventive, the better.
This unpaid side-hustle all started when the New York Times featured my home bar, which was formerly an old woodworking bench I bought at Brimfield, the triannual antiques fair in Massachusetts. (I borrowed the idea from designer Thom Filicia, who had a similar set-up at his lake house in Copake, New York.)
With the holidays fast approaching —and the increasing possibility that you’ll be entertaining a smaller group at home versus going out to big parties— why not create your own bar-as-conversation piece? Here, my how-to tips:
Find the Main Piece
Industrial tables, hutches, buffets, old dressers (or similar pieces of furniture) all work. I made this bar from a heavy (and I mean heavy) iron stand that was once used to hold a commercial saw. I bought it from an architectural salvage yard and outfitted it with vintage glasses bought at a thrift store and grasscloth-covered trays I scored at Home Goods.
Use Organizing Trays
Desk, dresser or coffee table trays work wonders on bars to help delineate the spaces you place glasses, bottles and other accents. Try rattan, metal, lacquer (or a mix of all three) to fit your décor style and help corral glassware, accessories, and more. The goal is to look well-stocked, but not cluttered.
Hunt for Glassware
Vintage glassware has the ability to give a bit of history and character to your bar area without breaking the bank. Thrift stores, Goodwill and the Salvation Army are the perfect hunting grounds for all kinds of vintage glassware—rocks glasses, champagne coupes, crystal or glass ice buckets, drink stirrers, ice tongs, whiskey and/or wine decanters and more. Many items will only set you back a few bucks. Etsy is also a prime destination for finding vintage barware if you prefer to shop online.
If you plan to actually make cocktails at your bar, you need some practical elements, such as a shaker, strainer, measuring jigger, and a mini cutting board —plus, wine and bottle openers. It’s always nice to add some cute cocktail napkins, too, or a book of drink recipes nearby.
Work in a Surprise
To add interest, put something on the bar that’s a little unexpected—a vase of fresh flowers, a vintage phone, a candle, a framed piece of art, or even a lamp. These small details help elevate your bar area and give your guests a great conversation piece to mention while you mix cocktails.