When Sam and Jan Hewitt decided to open up the living room and kitchen in their Sandy Springs home, a home bar was part of the plan.
For help, they couple worked with Rick Goldstein, an architect and co-owner of the Mosaic Group in Atlanta, to design and create a less formal, more functional space to relax and entertain.
As part of the renovation, 35 feet of wall was removed to open up the living and dining area and new Blood wood flooring was installed. A modern “wet bar” with an under-counter ice maker and storage for spirits and glassware was created. (A wet bar is a bar or counter with a sink for cleaning glasses and adding water to drinks.)
“We didn’t want the bar to be the focus of the area,” said Sam, whose hobby is collecting and enjoying Scotch. “We wanted it to be discreet and blend in.”
These days, Hewitt’s bar keeps him in good spirits.
Once relegated to the basement, today’s home bars are part of a small but growing trend to create a special (and often multi-use) place to store and serve drinks closer to areas where family and friends congregate.
While a bar may not be in demand for young families or non-drinkers, buyers of higher priced homes (over $500,000) are twice as likely to want a wet bar than buyers of homes (under $150,000), according to the National Association of Home Builders. The trade group tracks home buyer preferences from 2004 to 2012.
These bar areas are being created in new or remodeled homes, where open kitchens are the social center of the home. But unlike wet bars with their Formica countertops of the 1950s and 1960s, many of today’s bar areas don’t scream “bars” or have alcohol on display.
“They are understated,” said Goldstein. “And tend to use custom cabinetry and countertops that fit in with the rest of the house.”
No matter what your style, there are multi-use home bars and bar areas to suit your style and budget. Before you blow out your dining room to add a home bar, consider these planning tips from Goldstein, Glazer Construction, Kohler and houzz.com
- Space. Before you choose a location, determine how much space you will need and how you will use it. Sometimes, that space is next to the kitchen or in your great room. In your planning, consider the features you want besides a cocktail-mixing area or a separate prep space. What about space for seating, a TV or your vintage juke box.
- Unused rooms. Consider turning unused space, such as a dining room, into a bar area with comfortable chairs to relax and entertain.
- Design. If the wet bar will be located near the kitchen, it should blend well with the kitchen’s overall design.
“Lately, we are placing wet bars in a vestibule between the kitchen and the family room, or integrating (them) into the butler’s pantry space,” said Ross Piper of Atlanta-based Ross Piper Architect Inc.
Built-in bars don’t need to be limited to high-end homes with lots of square footage. A built-in bar can be the width of a single cabinet or built into a nook, closet or pantry.
- Floor-to-ceiling bars give the “always-been-there” look. This is a more architectural look that fits in with the overall lines of the nearby kitchen or living areas.
- Open shelving. If you want to showcase your bottles and glassware, like at your favorite bar, go for floating shelves and put the walls to work. Wood creates a more traditional feel. Metal and glass add a more modern look.
- Pass-through bars. Opening a previously closed wall or space can allow you to engage with your guests while mixing drinks at bar height.
- Hideaway bars. Tuck away bottles and glassware in a clever spot. While any console or buffet can be customized (or bought) to hold your spirits, bar and glassware.
If the bar area will be located in or near the kitchen, keep the cabinetry, countertops and design similar. To delineate the bar area from the kitchen a bit, add a different texture or sheen to the backsplash.
- Sink. If your bar is in or open to your kitchen, consider using a bar sink that matches the main kitchen sink, such as an apron front. If not, your choice of stylish bar sinks is limitless.
- Cool it. Add a refrigerator of some kind. It can be a wine or a beverage fridge, depending on how you like to entertain. Choose a size that fits your space, and a style — either paneled or stainless — that works with the rest of the room.
- On ice. If space allows, add an ice maker. It is handy to have a sink with drain, ice, drinks, glasses and accessories in convenient reach of a host and guests.
- Shelves & cabinets. Storage space for your bottles, barware and array of glasses is must. Use open shelves and upper cabinets. But also take advantage of unused or empty space under the bar. The right shelving and cabinet finishes will elevate the look.
- Mirrors & lighting. Install mirrors behind shelves or as a backsplash to bring in light and create the illusion of more space. Mirrors reflect light from other parts of the room and enhance the colors and shapes of the bottles. Also consider layered lighting, from under-counter task lighting to pendants and supplemental floor lamps.
As with every project, the cost will depend on the scope of your project, your choice of materials, finishes, custom details and labor costs. If you don’t move walls or add plumbing, you will save money.