Friday, January 13, 2017

Beautiful Bars

I'm still working on my little apartment, and I've found myself somewhat stuck - waiting for the right things to come along, and for inspiration to strike. Last night, nearly two months after I started, I finally finished the floor in the entry hall and dining room. Cutting those final, narrow strips was not the easiest thing I've ever done, so I had left it unfinished for far too long.

I'm planning on taking pictures of the apartment this weekend, and I'm actually pretty excited about sharing the space with all of you. This apartment really has some of my most favorite things, and frankly, some of the nicest things I've ever owned. Last night, as I started thinking about photos of vignettes and angles to get the best pictures of the rooms, it occurred to me that I really needed some fun pieces for the bar I've set up on an antique dresser in my dining room. Bar tables and bar carts are some of the most interesting things to style. Unlike other vignettes which can be purely decorative, these spaces have to function. The pretty things that you scatter on top/bottom/shelves have to be as useful to your guests as they are beautiful to you.

I figured if I needed inspiration, you might, too! So, I'll share with you some of the photos I found of brilliant bar set-ups, and a few fun items that I think might be both functional AND pretty for the home bar. Ready!?

What's great about this bar? Well, to start, it's accessible. Nothing worse than having people feel like they have to dig for things. If you have an alcohol you want to share with your guests, it should be out and free for them to pick up and pour. Secondly, it's purposeful and pretty: books, flowers and art all keep it from feeling like you just put all the bottles of things you own on a table. 

I love keeping lemons, limes, and other garnishes out for dinner party guests to make their own cocktail. Leaving them out all the time is wasteful though, as I don't drink at home by myself. But I share this image for another reason: the silverplate. If you can score it, beautiful silverplate pieces can be a real gem in a bar. A mint julep cup can be a great storage container for straws (above) and tarnished pitchers become great vases. 

I also love the idea of trays on a bar table. Trays allow you to corral things apart from your liquor, like your martini shakers, stirrers, etc.. This burl wood tray fits beautifully here, holding an assortment of leather wrapped bar accoutrements. 

This is really lovely, and pairs up a lot of the things that I love in a bar - both beautiful and functional. Trays: they're great in multiples, and they don't have to match! Thoughtful mixers! If you have the space, keep a few small bottles of ginger ale, soda water, and tonic. Tarnished silverplate. Here they have old silver and glass coasters, and a silver tray that's perfect for cocktail napkins. 

If you have the space, adding lighting to your bar table is also a great idea! Here, there's a ton of space, so matching buffet lamps flank art and anchor that niche. This set up is lovely for commercial use (as it is here) or for a large gathering. Personally, I don't like keeping glassware on a bar table all the time. Keeping your glassware in a closed cabinet after cleaning will ensure that it's ready to go for unexpected company (i.e., no dusting, etc.) plus, it's less likely that you'll have breakage. Afterall, we are talking about alcohol here people. Can you image someone who has had one too many at the corner of this bar? CRASH! Be thoughtful about not only what you have on your bar, but also where it's placed. If you do choose to keep your glassware on the cart or table, try to guard it from easy tipping. Last thing you want to do at a party is clean up broken glass! 

Here's another great bar, with lots of lovely things, and glassware stored correctly! If you are going to store your glassware on a bar cart, do so with the glass facing downward, and corralled in a tray. It'll save you a lot of headache, I promise! Also, things like your corkscrew can be beautifully decorative and also functional! If you happen to have them, you can store your bitters in flasks instead of the brown bitters bottles, and again, cocktail napkins are never a bad idea! 

I am absolutely in love with these white linen hemstitched napkins from Amazon. You CAN NOT beat the price. A full dozen for just $18.95!

I personally prefer cloth napkins to paper. They take a little more effort, washing, folding, ironing stiff - but I think that the little touches like having cloth napkins is something that people remember and appreciate. It's a simple thing that goes a long way. 

Another great thing for styling your bar for parties, beyond the lemons and limes, is a small pot of herbs, like mint or cilantro. We talked a little about lighting for your bar, and lamps are always a great choice if you can fit them in. If you can't, candles may be a better way to go! Candles provide a beautiful ambient light, and if you have the room, a match strike is also a pretty piece you can keep on your bar! 

I did a book review on a really beautiful little book, perfect for the bar, called The Craft Cocktail Party. It's a wonderful book on creating beautiful and impressive craft cocktails for all occasions.

Flowers are lovely in any location, at any time. But cut flowers can be expensive to replace. One thing that is much easier, long-lasting, and just as beautiful (in my opinion) is a nice ivy or fern in a beautiful container or urn. 

My friend Joan, who blogs about her lovely home and her life in New Hampshire on her very popular blog, for the love of a house, is a master of all things interior design, including peppering houseplants into the rooms of her amazing home. Here, her bar, neatly contained in a woven basket has all the things I've been talking about: great lighting with a lamp and candles, accessible space for pouring drinks, and a kangaroo fern to add a little life to the vignette. 

What you may not be able to make out in this photo is the soda and mixers, to the far right of the basket, an antique hotel silver ice bucket, and bitters contained in wicker wrapped flasks. Yes, I think Joan's bar is perfect! Including that soapstone topped iron work table Joan found while antiquing in Maine. She switched the original wood top for the soapstone during her kitchen remodel. 

Now that I'm fully inspired, I hope you are too. I'm off to find a few beautiful things for the photoshoot tomorrow, hopefully these darn tulips will start to weep, and the lilies will open up. Have a great weekend!


  1. Great post! We are going to be setting up a bar in our new house but it will be inside a cabinet to cut down on the dust. We will be incorporating many of the ideas you presented here. Thank you!

  2. Wonderful post with some great ideas for inspiration. We found a French-style sideboard at an estate sale (after a long search) that is just right was a sofa table/bar. It has deep drawers for glasses which keep them dust-free and handy. We keep the liquor bottles on top in a big bronze/brass (?) tray and two lamps for reading on the sofa as the sofa floats facing the fireplace. I just put out the other accoutrements when they are needed because you are so right, it is very wasteful to try to keep fresh fruit, etc. on it all the time. I have the cocktail shaker, napkins and bar tools in a small chest nearby. This works well for us, but I am eager to see what you do with yours.

  3. Hello my friend! Love seeing the bar area here and loved all your inspiration photos! I only keep a couple of Baccarat Harmonie highballs out, as they are Dan's scotch glasses and they get used regularly;):) (Dan picked the Harmonie glasses when we were first married. beyond dirt poor. and I would still save refunds, birthday money from my parents and literally pennies and we would buy them one at a time as we could afford them! Priorities:):) I LOVE cocktail napkins. Would love to have a cocktail (or three;) with you in your new apartment! xxoj.

    1. my mistake.... Harmonie "tumbler"- wouldn't want you to think he was drinking scotch out of a highball:) the horrors:) heehehehe

  4. Thank you Artie for another wonderful post!!!

  5. Loved seeing all these photos. I have the Beckett Bar Cart from Williams Sonoma Home. I keep it set up as a bar cart with RL decanters and glassware. It also works great as a tea cart.

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  7. Excellent post on the art of entertaining with style!

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