Happy Hour: Elevate Home Entertaining with a Bar

While some trends in home design burn red hot for a year or two only to fade into oblivion, one trend that continues to grow in popularity is designing spaces specifically with entertaining at home in mind.

The kitchen, once considered a utilitarian space that needed to be hidden away from guests’ gentle eyes, has morphed into the centerpiece of open floor plan living which allows host and visitors to interact throughout the evening. When clients visit our South Shore kitchen and bath showroom in the initial phases of designing a new kitchen, an open concept has become the rule rather than the exception. And the desire to include a home bar isn’t far behind on our clients’ must-have wish lists.

“We just don’t have the space.”

If a bar is on a client’s wish list, our designers will find the space.

For this little beauty, part of a home renovation, our designer commandeered a closet to create a “pocket” dry bar. Within just a few feet of floor space is the bar top, with a slim wine refrigerator and storage below, and glass-fronted cabinets above. With mirrored backs and lighting, the upper cabinets create an eye-catching display for stemware. Under-mounted lighting illuminates the serving space.

home bar

Wet Bar vs. Dry Bar

The difference between a “wet bar” and a “dry bar” is exactly what it sounds like; the availability of water. With the purpose of a bar often considered twofold, to create a gathering space and to keep guests away from the cook’s work zone, adding a sink to a home bar can be a great investment. If existing plumbing can be utilized, it can also have a minimal impact on the overall cost.

When working on a kitchen renovation with a client who’d like to incorporate a bar, our designers will consider the overall flow of the space as well as the ability to tap into existing plumbing, preferably away from the primary work zone, perhaps from an adjacent powder room.

For this dry bar, shown on the left, we collaborated with Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders and Julie Stein Design.

what is a wet bar

Chill Out

As home bars have become more prevalent, companies such as Sub-Zero and U-Line have added to their refrigeration options, with sizes and styles now readily available to accommodate even the tiniest space.

In the kitchen shown below on the left, our designer added an under-counter wine cooler at one end of the kitchen. Paired with a cabinet above for storing stemware, it’s an incredibly space- and cost-efficient bar arrangement. In the photo on the right, our designer, in collaboration with Michelle Cortizo of Cortizo Interiors, turned an out-of-the-way corner into a bar with a petite refrigerator, storage and window seat. Perfect!

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In the spacious kitchen below, our designer devoted an entire corner to a home bar. In addition to a large wine cooler, there are refrigerated drawers for mixers and beer.

ideas for home bars

Location, Location, Location

Regardless of the scope of a project, the first step in our design process is an extensive Q&A which allows our designers to fully understand the clients’ style and design and how they use their homes. If a client is contemplating a home bar, this step will help determine where a bar might best fit the homeowners’ lifestyle.

For those who prefer a casual approach to entertaining at home, having the bar in the kitchen tends to work best. In both of the kitchens shown below, our designers sited the bar in the center of the space. With the work zone on one side the center island and the bar on the other, everyone can easily congregate together without the chef having to constantly say “excuse me” while preparing dinner.

In the kitchen shown in the lower photo, our designer collaborated with Archwright builders and CM Design.

home bar in kitchen

With homeowners who prefer a more formal feel to entertaining at home, or who host family gatherings for the holidays, adding a bar to the dining room, as our designer did here, can make more sense. This one doubles as buffet and includes storage not only for stemware and spirits, but also for large serving pieces.

built in buffet

When clients enjoy having a home that’s “party central” we may suggest devoting more space to the bar so that stools can be included.

In this kitchen, a collaboration with MacKenzie Brothers Builders and Barbara Barh Sheehan Interior Design, our designer took an alcove off to one side of a kitchen and created a fully outfitted bar.

entertaining at home

And in this Cape Cod summer home, our designer, in collaboration with Kathleen Hay Design, opted for a true pub style feel with a belly-up-worthy bar positioned to take in the view of the water. A window over the sink works as a pass-through when our clients are entertaining out on the deck.

home bar

A Different Kind of Bar

There’s no rule that says a bar must be used for serving adult beverages. When it comes to creating party-ready spaces for our clients, our designers are all about, well…no holds barred!

At the same Cape Cod home shown above, our designer integrated a chilling sink with a design inspired by a ship’s wheel that can be used as a “help yourself” raw bar and for icing beverages. So fun!

outdoor entertaining

Another great option is a coffee bar, especially for summer houses where overnight guests are part of the fun. As guests greet the day they can help themselves to their favorite coffee beverage. With an added microwave, like the one below, and a toaster, guests can also prepare a quick breakfast on their own.

at-home coffee bar

When it comes to entertaining at home, morning, noon or night, a bar can make every hour spent with friends and family a “happy hour!”