Bedside macchiatos might sound like the sybaritic pleasures of a five-star hotel, but they don’t have to be. The home coffee bar — an indulgence that undoubtedly gained traction when Pandemic protocols barred espresso lovers from their daily coffee shops — has been taking off as of late. “Coffee bars are incorporated into about 80% of our work. It’s not so much as a trend but a lifestyle decision,” says Chicago designer Todd M. Haley. Building a home coffee bar can vary in complexity and cost, but in general, they’re a perk that homeowners don’t regret. Interested in finessing an espresso machine into your own kitchen, bedroom, or pool house? Todd walks us through expert coffee bar ideas and tips ahead. 

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Coffee making station in a modern Chicago high rise
Design by Todd M. Haley / Photography by Alan Shortall General Contractor: Canada & Klein, Ltd.

Decide on a Location

Chances are that there’s a specific location in your home where you’ve been romancing about savoring a fresh-pulled espresso. Whether it’s in bed with the Sunday Times or in the garden on a sunny morning, tapping into your daydreams can provide good grounds for where to install a home coffee bar. “My go-to place to install a coffee bar is the primary bedroom or an adjacent sitting room,” says Todd. “I have also had considerably more requests for coffee bars to be installed in clients’ studies and even pool houses.” 

Take inventory of your daily routines to decide where one might be best incorporated. It’s also worth considering how often you partake in your caffeine ritual. If you’re an everyday drinker, a bedroom location where you can steal a sip as soon as you roll out of bed might be best. However, an office or study location might make more sense if you typically reserve a caffeine jolt for mid-morning Zoom calls. 

Mission Contemporary Primary Bathroom Built-in Coffee Cabinet
Design by Form + Field / Photo by Christine Lin

Consider the Logistics 

When concocting your coffee station ideas in your head, keep in mind that built-in coffee machines require water, but not necessarily plumbing. If you’re installing one somewhere with naturally occurring plumbing, such as a kitchen or butler’s pantry, you may want to go through the extra effort of running live plumbing to your machine. (Todd personally favors the Miele #CVA 7775 Built-in coffee machine with DirectWater.) Opting for plumbing will prevent the need to perform any manual maintenance like refilling the tank from the tap — not necessarily a Herculean task, but one that’s liable to feel like drudgery when performed in a pre-caffeinated state. 

All of that said, machines with water reservoirs make it possible to install one virtually anywhere. In areas that aren’t normally plumbed, such as bedrooms, this can make them a natural choice. The same goes for an office or den. 

Noe Valley Home-Kitchen with built-in coffee station
Photo courtesy of Kristin Riccio Interior Design

Make it a proper station

Since a built-in coffee station is all about luxury, don’t skimp on the extra bells and whistles. Todd is a fan of frilling out coffee stations with a dishwasher drawer to ensure clean mugs and espresso glasses are always at the ready, and a small refrigerator for keeping milks, creams, an non-dairies chilled. A built-in sink is also a nice-to-have if you can swing it. Whether it’s used to dispense water onto a dishtowel to mop up spills or provide another source for a water glass refill, there’s no reason not to factor one into the mix if you have the space. 

One non-negotiable? Cabinetry or some other form of storage. You’ll need somewhere to stash items like cups and mugs as well as espresso pods and descaler tabs (a must to keep your machine running like the maestro it is). If you don’t have the space to incorporate cabinetry, consider a free-standing organization unit that cleverly hides its purpose. A demilune with closed cabinetry can be the perfect place to store essentials. Alternatively, consider a credenza placed below or near your machine. Equip it with perforated metal baskets to add more function to the cavernous interior and corral tiny components like pods and shot glasses. 

Photo by Brad Knipstein

Accessorize like an afficiando 

True brew buffs are likely to be set abuzz by vintage coffee wares, and built-in coffee stations offer the perfect place for displaying them. Todd is fond of modernist coffee sets that can lend architectural interest to a room. Search for pieces from brands and makers like KMD Royal Holland, Georg Jensen, and even American maker Reed & Barton who designed heavily in the Danish Modern style for a time, courtesy of partnerships with artists and designers like John Prip and Gio Ponti.  

For those who favor something more traditional, vintage Art Deco coffee sets are plentiful. Like their modernist counterparts, most feature silver metal construction, although many showcase contrasting materials like colored bakelite. Search for a piece with classic Art Deco design motifs, such as pyramid shapes and stepped silhouettes. 

Cups and saucers — the real, porcelain kind that you’d expect to find at a palatial tea— are also effective at transforming a basic coffee bar into a showpiece. Richard Ginori, an Italian porcelain maker, produces some of Todd’s favorite cups, known as the Palermo. These simple bone porcelain cups are trimmed in gold and matched with either black, red, or green banding. Their bowl-like saucers aren’t only for aesthetics — they doubly safeguard against any sloshing that might occur as you tip-toe your espresso back to bed. 

San Francisco Eichler Kitchen Counter with silver coffee service pot
Design by Form + Field / Photo by Seth Smoot

Be a barebones barista

There’s no way around it — a built-in espresso machine is an investment. If you’re not convinced one is all that it’s hopped up to be  and you’re looking for a lo-fi alternative, Todd encourages pairing a good quality free-standing espresso machine with a free-standing mini fridge. If you don’t have a sink nearby, forgo anything that steams milk, as you’ll be forever schlepping frothing pitchers to and from your machine. Instead, opt for a machine that puts all its effort into pulling a quality shot. 

Lead image courtesy of Angela Chrusciaki Blehm


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January 24, 2023

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