Bottoms up! It’s toasting season. Is your home bar up for the challenge? Ask virtually any adult beverage buff their secret to good libations and they’ll disclose that a dedicated bar space works wonders. So much more than a place to store your bottles, a home bar offers a place to craft cocktails—plus acts as a gravitational force for guests. And the best part? No home is too small for a home bar. To prove our point, we’ve collected 12 home bar ideas for small spaces. From DIY home bar ideas on a budget to more elaborate concoctions that call for an on-duty ‘tender, these home bars serve as inspiration for setting a truly spirited scene!

Design by LSM Interior Design / Erin Alvarez Photography

Tray Chic

Consider it your small space home bar mantra: where there’s a will, there’s a tray. Whether you have a console, a desk, or a coffee table, pop a tray on top of it and it instantly transforms into home bar furniture. When it comes to making a tray-topped table feel like a proper bar, it’s just like craft cocktails; it’s all about the garnishes! Make room not just for bottles on your tray, but decorative bowls filled with citrus for reaming, cocktail shakers, jiggers, and more. A stack of coasters and a bowl of nuts set nearby can also assist in making an everyday table and tray feel like an authentic watering hole.

Design by Nystrom Design / Photo by Liz Daly

Desk Drinks

It’s no secret that secretary desks are shape-shifters, but there’s something that makes them feel especially befitting as bar furniture. Maybe it’s the ample work surface created by their dropped leaf, or their warren of diminutive-sized letter slots (perfect for housing bar pint-sized imbibing accouterments like shot glasses, bitters, and other tinctures), but a secretary feels unquestionably built for keeping bar. If your secretary feels a bit lodged in work mode, top it off with a collection of shapely decanters.

Design by Amanda Reynal Interiors / Photo by Rick Lozier

Get Carted

When it comes to modern home bar ideas, nothing drums up a festive air quite like a bar cart. A rolling cart solely dedicated to the task of building boozy beverages, bar carts can set a room abuzz—literally. To prevent your bar cart from appearing cluttered (those open sides can be a visual challenge), keep a tight edit on your cart’s contents. Mix in some larger vessels such as ginger jars among your spirits, or back your cart with a dramatic, solid color-painted wall to create visual cohesion.

Design by Laura U, Inc. / Photo by Julie Soefer

Hello, Trolley!

If the standard bar cart feels a bit prosaic for your tastes, try a twist, so to speak. A modernist bar trolley or service cart, whether it be Bauhaus-inspired or Italian in origin, is capable of imbuing any space with artistic integrity. When frilling out a service trolley, pay special mind to balance. Whether your cart is asymmetrically tiered or features an I or T-shape, take special care with the placement of bottles, ice buckets, and the like. A balanced arrangement can result in a piece that retains its sculptural integrity.

Design by Kathryn Ivey Interiors / Photo by Robert Radifera

Neat & Greet

Hosting pros are notorious for greeting guests with cocktails at the threshold. While square footage for a full bar cabinet or dry bar may be elusive in your entryway, most entries do have a wide enough berth to shoehorn in a console. If you don’t want a face full of barware every time you enter your home, simply clear off space for libations when you host—and remember: nothing makes bottles look more intentional than being corralled on a tray! Drop your console’s usual decor onto the floor atop a stack of books and you have a richly layered scene.

Design by Zoe Feldman Design / Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Covert Cocktails

If you had a sneaking suspicion that an army of liquor bottles is hard to keep from colonizing dust, you’re right. The solution? A bar cabinet or dry bar. Ideal for those who appreciate the ability to do a literal “last call,” as well as those who abhor allergens, a bar cabinet masquerades as a buttoned-up piece of furniture for the majority of the day. Once happy hour hits, however, the doors can be opened to unveil a festive scene. For those who are especially short on space, consider using one in an entryway, or even a stairwell.

modern wood bar cabinet with yellow interior
Design by Zoe Feldman Design / Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Cheers-Worthy Color

While on the topic of bar furniture and like bar cabinets or dry bars, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make a vibrant statement with a colored interior. Consider the prospect of leaving your bar cabinet’s doors open when entertaining and a high-wattage interior attracting guests like moths to light. Reach for an adventurous hue that complements your interior, but you wouldn’t necessarily be tempted to use in excess on the day-to-day. Chartreuse and orange are perfect for energizing, while dark green or burgundy can channel a more divey aura.

Design by Mel Bean Interiors / Photo by Kacey Gilpin

Attention-Getting Alcove

Whether it’s a proper recess or an old phone alcove, most homes possess a nook prime for transforming into a bar. While there’s no crime in going with standard white millwork, a home bar encourages a little irreverence. If you’re of the camp that believes the only “stiff” thing when talking about home bars should be your drink, spring for ebullient color on every surface, including the ceiling! A jewel box-like alcove can make your home bar feel like a proper retreat, prime for truly unwinding with that negroni.

Design by Charlotte Lucas Interior Design / Photo by Chris Edwards

Top Shelf

For a home bar where you have more space to play stylistically, consider open shelving backed by a marvelous wallpaper. In addition to being an excellent way to show off statement glassware, open bar shelving is cost-conscious, too. Electing for open shelving over custom cabinetry can help shave hundreds of dollars off your project, if you’re looking for home bar ideas on a budget.

Photo courtesy of Steven Gambrell

Custom Credenza

Of course, not all home bars need to be an armory of cabinets. If you prefer a less imposing home bar, consider creating a custom piece like a credenza-style bar. In truth, you don’t even need to build a piece from scratch. Much like a bathroom vanity constructed from an old dresser, you can have a sink added to any credenza. And just like that, voila—bar done!

Design by CWB Architects / Photo by Francis Dzikowski

Butler’s Choice

We often consider a bar to be a social cornerstone of a home, but in truth, sometimes it’s best tucked away behind the scenes. For homes that routinely host a crowd, a butler’s pantry bar can be the most practical solution. When entertaining, drop a curtained table in front of the pantry door. Caterers or bartenders can mill behind the table as they mix, muddle, or simply pop corks.

Design by Nadia Palacios Residential Design / Photo by Tria Giovan

Raise the Bar

These days, it seems wise to have a full home bar at your disposal. Should in-person socializing ever go on an indeterminable hiatus again (heaven forbid), you’re prepped to beat the nightlife nostalgia blues. While not necessarily DIY, a full-fledged bar can still be tucked into a modest footprint, as shown above. Despite the small scale, don’t skimp on the bar-centric details. Trick out your space in sconces, foot rails—by all means, throw in a purse hook! Bring the bar home and you’ll never go thirsty again!

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Lead image by  Peter Murdock / Design by Brockschmidt & Coleman

December 17, 2021

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