Home Bar Basics

There are few things more enjoyable in life than a cold cocktail at the end of a long day. But why should you have to get dressed and hit up a swanky bar, where you’ll have to shell out lots of cash to enjoy a watered down beverage in a loud and obnoxious setting? Bring the bar to you! Whatever your budget, we’ve got the basics for an at-home bar that will have your friends and neighbors wondering how to get on your guest list.

Bar Infrastructure

A stylish, space saving bar-style alternative to a full-size bar.

A stylish, space saving bar-style alternative to a full-size bar.

The best part of setting up a bar in your home is the ability to create any kind of ambience to enjoy a drink. Have a finished basement? Easily set up a full bar complete with stylish bistro or pub style sets for sitting and casual eating. Live in a warm environment? Make your patio party-central with an outdoor bar and casual lounge seating. If you don’t have the space for a dedicated bar, you can easily and affordably add a modern bar-style table top or mini bar to a living or dining space. To seamlessly add a beverage station to an already furnished space, shop for bar units that match your existing decor and stick to the wall (you won’t get the effect of looking like a bartender prepping drinks from behind it, but it’ll save you space!). For a more low-key option, consider an expandable bar counter unit that looks like a storage cabinet, allowing you to keep bar wares out of sight.

A chic backyard bar is easier to add to your patio than you think. All-inclusive outdoor bar set by Eagle One.

A chic backyard bar is easier to add to your patio than you think. All-inclusive outdoor bar set by Eagle One.

Glassware

Your cocktails are only as classy as the glassware in which they’re served. Stock up on basic glassware including the essentials for a home bar. Cover your bases with a basic cocktail glass for your martinis and margaritas, an Old Fashioned or rocks glass for drinks on the rocks and neat whiskeys, a highball or Collins glass (depending on your style preference as they’re both essentially higher-volume glasses with subtle stylistic differences) for a variety of mixed drinks like Mojitos or Long Island Iced Teas, a versatile coupe glass for champagne, bubbly wines, and frozen cocktails, and a snifter for brandy and cognac. Of course you should substitute glasses you’ll use more frequently if you’re not much of a brandy aficionado, but these are great starters that will lend your bar an elegant air even they’re just on display.

Portable, inconspicuous, antique-style bar cart, with room for all the essentials.

Portable, inconspicuous, antique-style bar cart, with room for all the essentials.

Bar Accessories

Complete the look of your bar with trendy barware accessories from the fun to the functional. Cocktail shakers, muddlers, jiggers, ice scoopers/tongs, drink pourers, corkscrews, and bar spoons are the basic accessories in a bartender’s arsenal. Some items, like bottle openers, ice buckets and wine stoppers are available in elaborate or fun designs that double as design elements, adding to the aesthetics of your bar.

An easy reference for essential home bar glasses from The Savory.

An easy reference for essential home bar glasses from The Savory.

Alcohol

Flex your bartending muscle with a fun cocktail shaker like this one from Authentic Models.

Flex your bartending muscle with a fun cocktail shaker like this one from Authentic Models.

Probably the most essential item in your bar: alcohol. Stock up on basic bar foods and snacks, along with limes, lemons, bitters, and garnishes to make your drinks look as delicious as they taste. When it comes to stocking your bar, start with spirits you personally enjoy and will actually drink; save the fancy stuff for impressing your guests when you throw a party. Which brings us to the final essential for a home bar, arguably the most important: knowing how to make a drink. Your beautiful bar is useless if you can’t mix a proper cocktail! Brush up on these 25 must-know recipes for popular cocktails like Cosmos, Manhattans, and Old Fashioned’s.

High Design on a Low Budget

No matter what your budget for decorating your home or living space, there never seems to be enough for design after splurging special furniture pieces. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can elevate your home’s design even on a limited budget.

Dimension & Depth

A simple way to create an upscale design in any room is by adding dimension and depth to make a more dynamic space – something you can do with existing pieces or on the cheap with paint or simple hardware supplies. For smaller living rooms with furniture in the same color family, paint strategic vertical lines to give the illusion of higher walls; using contrasting and unexpected colors makes your plain black or white furniture appear far more elegant. You can achieve the same effect by arranging existing chairs, tables, or frameless mirrors in a vertically linear fashion. For the reverse effect, creating an intimate and cozy feeling in a large, open space, do the same with horizontal lines instead.

Make use of all available spaces, including the ceiling, to create an upscale design. Play with texture by adding painted wooden slats to the ceiling, a slab of reclaimed wood, or simply painting a design around overhead lighting for budget-friendly, but beautiful decor.

If you have bolder and more artistic sensibilities, invest your design budget into minimalist, monochromatic furniture and splurge on a wall-size mural to make any room a dynamic piece of living art. Similarly, though less bold, you can use uniquely painted walls to act as the design focus of your space, and it’ll only cost you a gallon of paint, some painter’s tape, and a little creativity.

This tiny living room looks much larger in scale with a graphic mural, despite otherwise limited decor.  As seen on IdeasToDecor.

This tiny living room looks much larger in scale with a graphic mural, despite otherwise limited decor. As seen on IdeasToDecor.

DIY Design

Speaking of creativity, the best, easiest, and most enjoyable way to up the design of any space is doing it yourself. We know what you’re thinking, how can craft-tastic DIY projects possibly look elegant? You wouldn’t believe that some of these incredibly trendy home decor pieces were made with cheap, readily available materials. The key to being able to have DIY pieces stand out is placing them in rooms with otherwise timeless furniture. If you’re a particular fan of DIY home decor, invest in classic, minimalist, high quality living room and bedroom furniture that will look great in a range of styles, with any type of decor.

DIY painted stripes and bold wallpaper add dimension to a minimalist space. Designed by the Novogratz family.

DIY painted stripes and bold wallpaper add dimension to a minimalist space. Designed by the Novogratz family.

Use What You Have

Don’t have any room at all in your budget for design? You can still make your place pop! Rethink intriguing designs for elements you already have or household items you didn’t think could be aesthetically interesting. Plates and picture frames (just the frames, no photo needed) are some of our favorite out-of-the-box wall decor ideas; it will cost you nothing and makes for a unique display. In the kitchen, put your wares on display by hanging pans and utensils out in the open and storing spices and other colorful dry goods in glass canisters or mason jars.

Who would have thought regular white and minimally printed plates would look so interesting? As seen in Apartment Therapy.

Who would have thought regular white and minimally printed plates would look so interesting? As seen in Apartment Therapy.

Designing a Man-tastic Man Cave

For all their nods of approval during shoe shopping and tacit agreements to remodel the bathroom, the men in our lives deserve a little space in the home to make their own. With Father’s Day coming up, what better time to show the dads and dads-to-be in your life your appreciation than by surprising him with a man cave? No matter what your guy is passionate about, we’ve got you covered on making your finished basement, garage, or spare room a grown man haven without the bean bag chairs and futons from his college days.

Man Cave Design 101

Won't let your man get a motorcycle? This framed print in an epic man cave you designed will probably make up for it.

Won’t let your man get a motorcycle? This framed print in an epic man cave you designed will probably make up for it.

Before you set out to fill your man cave with toys, plan the space’s layout and design. Like any other room, stick with the 60-30-10 rule for primary colors and accents. The only cave-like aspect of the space should be the dark colored walls; some of the most popular colors are dark grays, mahogany, and navy (you can also consult the Man Cave Color Palette for more inspiration). If your available space is a basement, garage, or another windowless room, brighten it with white ceilings and light, frosty colored walls, contrasted with darker bottom-half walls.

Game Room

No room for a full-size billiard table? No problem. This bumper pool table doubles as a card game table too.

No room for a full-size billiard table? No problem. This bumper pool table doubles as a card game table too.

Does your husband like hosting poker games or inviting friends over for a round of pool? Design your space around a game theme with a handsome poker table, ping pong table, or billiard table as the room’s centerpiece. Add to the theme with game tables that can be used for chess, checkers, backgammon, or as an accent table. Splurge on comfortable arm chairs for table-centered games or on a leather sofa and tall bar tables and stools for pool hall style seating. In place of a full refrigerator and bar, opt for a mini fridge or beer cooler to easily store drinks without the bulk.

Laid-back Bar & Lounge

For a space your man would love for lounging and knocking back beverages with his buddies, go all out and create a full bar, surprising him by stocking it with his favorite liquor. Fill the walls with bar-themed decor like dartboards, lighted signs, and smart wall art. Add a set of recliners or even a massage chair for the ultimate in relaxation. Include smaller scale table-top foosball, air hockey, or table tennis games for space-saving entertainment. If your man enjoys his solitude, forget the games and TV set and create a soothing ambiance by installing an electric fireplace or reading nook by lamplight.

Mini bar + bar stools + interchangeable table top casino games = perfect combo for space and budget conscious man caves.

Mini bar + bar stools + interchangeable table top casino games = perfect combo for space and budget conscious man caves.

Entertainment Central

Turning your basement into an entertainment center has the bonus benefit of being used by the rest of the family too, with dad’s permission. Set up an entertainment center with all the gadgets and virtual games your man loves, along with theater seating for full VIP effect. Add antique versions of his favorite old-school games, along with family friendly board games that everyone can enjoy. With a big screen and theater seating set-up, your man will no doubt be an in demand host for watching sports. Accommodate guests with a pub-style tables and seating and a portable bar cart.

Handsome, man cave-ready theater-style recliners, complete with cup holders and ample style.

Handsome, man cave-ready theater-style recliners, complete with cup holders and ample style.

Decorating a Small Living Room

If you were lucky enough to be able to design your home, each space is probably perfectly sized. For the rest of us though, a too-small kitchen, an awkwardly placed beam, or absence of an entryway are common quirks for which we have to settle in an otherwise perfect house. A small living room area is a non-negotiable for many, but it doesn’t have to be! Using interior design tricks of the trade, you can easily make the most of your minimal space with a smart layout and deceptive decorating.

Opening Space by Eliminating Clutter

The key to making any room look and feel more open is to eliminate clutter and bulk. Decreasing the scale of living room furniture by replacing a large couch with a smaller settee, backless sofa or chaise lounge is one of the easier ways to reduce bulk. Stay away from heavy-looking pieces and stick with bare-legged tables, chairs, and sofas to eliminate the appearance of clutter. Make sure each piece is essential and try to find double-duty furniture which can be used for secret storage, keeping commonly used items out of sight. Another popular option for small living rooms is to choose function over traditional interior design. Instead of separate bookshelves, a TV stand, and floating end tables, combine all those functions into one wall-covering entertainment center, leaving more space in the middle of the room for a focal point piece.

Sleek, space-saving armless sofa that opens to a sleeper in the perfect color for opening any room.

Sleek, space-saving armless sofa that opens to a sleeper in the perfect color for opening any room.

Ditching Traditional Design

Having a sectional sofa, coffee table, and end tables are staples of traditional living room design, but if you don’t have the space for them, forget about it! Deciding what the space will be mostly used for is the first step to figuring out which element you absolutely must have. Once you decide, work around that piece that will act as the focal point of your space. For example, if the living room is your place for relaxing and watching television, you may want to splurge (space-wise) on sofas, hang a flat-panel TV against the wall, and have an ottoman or store-able tray tables in place of a traditionally larger, space-consuming coffee table. Upholstered arm chairs, centered around a coffee table, are a great option for a living room used for chats and chai tea. If you entertain often and must have ample seating, stuffing a sectional and ottomans into one corner of the room will make the space appear larger than it is since the two-sided sectional looks like just one piece of furniture.

Scaled-back sectional, white color scheme, and limited accents make this small living area appear much larger.

Scaled-back sectional, white color scheme, and limited accents make this small living area appear much larger.

Interior Design Illusions

Choosing the right space-saving furniture is only half of the equation when it comes making your room appear bigger. Use designer favorite illusions like large mirrors, light colored walls, smart contrasts, and accent walls to give the appearance of space. White ceilings and top-halves of walls with neutral or frosted color contrasts open up any room; designers also recommend sticking with a monochromatic color scheme, reserving bursts of color for a limited number of accents. Another favorite trick is to tile an entire wall with mirrors; if that’s not possible, a large wall mirror will have a similar effect. To give the appearance of open space with tables, stick with glass or lucite pieces that are clear and appear invisible.

Clear glass, swiveling, dual-tiered coffee table appears invisible while adjusting to fit any sized room.

Clear glass, swiveling, dual-tiered coffee table appears invisible while adjusting to fit any sized room.

Bedroom Set vs. Individual Pieces: Which is the Better Bet?

Choosing furniture for each part of your home presents its own set of challenges. From picking the perfect sofa that’s both comfortable and chic in the living room, to finding a perfectly sized and equally attractive dining room table, no room is quite as challenging as the bedroom. Luckily, designers and home furniture sellers alike anticipated the need for convenient bedroom furniture shopping and made available to all the complete bedroom set, coordinated pieces of essentials to make the process as simple as possible. But is buying a bedroom set a better bet than purchasing pieces individually? We’ve prepared a pro/con rundown to help you figure out which option is best for you.

Convenience

A bedroom furniture set contains anywhere from 2 – 9 pieces, but typically include the basics: a bed (with mattress sold separately), chest/drawers, mirror, and nightstand(s). Some extras included in larger sets are headboards, matching chairs or a bench, and additional drawers. Purchased individually, the process of choosing each piece takes a lot more time than simply deciding on a design with which you’re comfortable and picking a coordinated set of the same design. You can easily furnish an entire bedroom over the course of an afternoon, or even minutes if buying online, instead of the days and weeks typically spent choosing individually. Advantage: Bedroom Set

Chic, modern style, in a bedroom set designed and sold together (all five pieces!) for your convenience.

Chic, modern style, in a bedroom set designed and sold together (all five pieces!) for your convenience.

Design

As convenient as buying pre-coordinated bedroom furniture is, your options when it comes to design are much more limited than buying pieces individually. If you have the patience and stamina, your options for a stylish bed or distinctive mirror are endless, and you will end up with pieces you truly love. Keep in mind that your bedroom is your sanctuary and a space that’s truly your own; filling it with furniture and design elements you absolutely adore and enjoy are crucial to keeping it that way. Bedroom sets are limited in unique design elements and potential, as they’re crafted with mass marketability and wide appeal in mind, and probably won’t satisfy you if you have a taste for more upscale design. Additionally, buying pieces individually gives you the flexibility to furnish your room with furniture not typically found in commercial sets, like an elegant armoire or trendy storage cabinet. Advantage: Individual Pieces

You won't normally find a stunning antique-style sleigh bed like this as part of a set (but you're in luck, because it happens to be, if you so choose).

You won’t normally find a stunning antique-style sleigh bed like this as part of a set (but you’re in luck, because it happens to be, if you so choose).

Price

If you could go either way on a purchase, the price is usually the deal breaker. When it comes to bedroom sets and individual pieces, it’s true that bedroom sets offer greater savings when purchasing items together, but there are other considerations to keep in mind. It seems like a law of the universe that the one bedroom set you find that meets all your design wants and needs inevitably comes with an extra piece or two for which you either have no use or room, negating any savings you might find purchasing all the pieces together. Alternatively, mixing and matching individual pieces across several collections (high and low-end designs) can end up costing less than purchasing all the furniture in one set. Advantage: Tie

Surprise! The pro/con list doesn’t have a clear winner. But hopefully you have a clearer sense of your options and can choose according to what matters most to you. One excellent option that is both convenient, cost effective, and smart is to purchase the basics in a 2 – 4 piece set that includes a bed, and coordinating nightstands and to supplement the furnishings with more decorative pieces like mirrors, dressers, and end-of-bed benches. Who said you can’t have the best of both worlds?

A perfect example of a "supplemented" bedroom; a handsome wardrobe that compliments pieces easily found collectively in a bedroom set.

A perfect example of a “supplemented” bedroom; a handsome wardrobe that compliments pieces easily found collectively in a bedroom set.