4 Garden Bar Accessories Designers Say You Need — and the Ones You Don't

Whether it's to quench your thirst or add some pizzazz to your patio — here are some tips from designers on how you can style your backyard with an irresistible garden bar

Garden bar/terrace
Photography by: Julie Leffell
(Image credit: Julie Leffell Photography / Stephanie Perez Studio)

With the sun glowing onto our doorsteps, it's time to think about how you can make the most of your backyard, patios and courtyards to help quench the summer thirst. Whether you're a cocktail or mocktail fan, garden bars do not discriminate. It is also a great way to bring guests from the indoors, to the outdoors and make the most of the warmer seasons.

If you're looking for the perfect garden bar ideas for al fresco entertaining, it's important to know how to accessorise it as you start to think about your outdoor living space.

A garden bar and its accessories is more than just a refrigerator to keep your drinks cool, it's about comfort, functionality and aesthetics. To guide you through it all, here is a list of what you need and don't need to accessorise your garden bar — according to designers.

The Garden bar accessories you need

A Garden bar with accessories and drinks

Valley & Co. x Camera Shi Photography

(Image credit: Valley & Co. x Camera Shi Photography)

1. Bar carts and cushioned seating

Finding the right accessories to match you garden bar can elevate your space, while creating the perfect Alfresco experience for family and friends. Aleah and Nick Valley, designers and founders of event planning company, Valley & Co, tell us: 'creating a welcoming garden bar area calls for practical elements combined with cozy comforts'.

So what are those practical elements? First and foremost, you need to make sure your garden bar accessories are durable and comfortable. Aleah says: 'The essentials start with a durable, weather-resistant bar cart, table, or counter'. She adds: 'A bar cart is an essential piece for any garden bar setup. It provides a mobile surface to display and serve drinks, as well as store bottles, tools, and other accessories. A sturdy, weather-resistant cart (or table, bookshelf, or sideboard buffet) makes it easy to move the bar area around your outdoor space as needed'.

Aleah says it's also important to provide a space for seating. She notes: 'Guest comfort is key - provide outdoor bar stools or cushioned seating so everyone can linger in relaxation'.

2. Shade is key during warmer days

A large umbrella provides shade onto a garden bar patio

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's not just about what accessories are placed onto the garden bar, but it's also about what's around it. Make your garden bar the main character by adding different elements.

Aleah says: 'Don't forget to account for the temperature and elements by incorporating shade with patio umbrellas or portable cabanas to block harsh sun'.

On cooler days, the designer recommends placing the garden bar near a fireplace or fire pit for warmth.

Aleah and Nick Valley
Aleah and Nick Valley

Aleah and Nick Valley, are the founders and designers of Valley & Co. A nationally acclaimed event planning, design, and production firm known for setting the standard in entertaining and tasteful experiences. Based in Seattle, WA, the dynamic husband and wife team have redefined the essence of hospitality and gatherings for clients worldwide over the last two decades. They have published a best-selling book on event design called Storied Weddings: Inspiration for a Timeless Celebration That Is Perfectly You. Aleah and Nick have been honored as the foremost event planners globally by Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Martha Stewart, among others.

3. An ice bucket is essential

A garden bar with many accessories including an ice bucket, drinks and tools

Photography by: Julie Leffell

(Image credit: Julie Leffell Photography/Stephanie Parez)

To give your guests the best garden bar experience, Aleah says: 'Top it off with the right glassware, durable ice buckets, sturdy trays, and bar tools like bottle openers and jiggers. That way, you've set the scene to effortlessly entertain your guests outdoors'.

Aleah adds: 'Proper ice buckets are a must-have for keeping beverages chilled outdoors. Look for durable, insulated buckets that can withstand the elements and keep ice from melting too quickly in warm weather'.

Stephanie Perez O’Boyle founder and principal designer at Stephanie Perez Studio says, 'an ice bucket with a bottle of wine or champagne at a seating area is a nice touch and easily accessible to guests'.

4. Bar tools for the perfect drink

A garden bar tray with drinks

(Image credit: Valley & Co. x O'Malley Photography-2)

As for bar tools, Aleah explains that these are key for an effortless drink preparation. 'Bottle openers, jiggers for precise measuring, and other simple tools like muddlers and strainers make mixing cocktails a breeze. For extra pizzazz, festive stir sticks and cocktail napkins can elevate the beverage experience,' she tells us.

And Stephanie seems to agree, she adds: 'A bar tool set is a perfect accessory for the mixologist in the family to help make a refreshing summer cocktail. Most importantly, a bar filled with spirits, mixers, Pellegrino, snacks, citrus and plenty of serveware is essential for an entertaining outdoor space'.

Exoert and interior designer Stephanie Perez
Stephanie Perez O’Boyle 

Stephanie Perez O’Boyle is the founder and designer of Stephanie Perez Studio. Started her eponymous design firm in 2021 with a mission to create layered and enduring interiors that are a reflection of her clients’ stories, travels and treasures. In 2024, House Beautiful named her a coveted Next Wave designer, and her work has been featured in World of Interiors, Country Living, Westchester Magazine, House Beautiful and more.

What Garden Bar Accessories are not need?

Close-up of drinks on a table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'When outfitting your garden bar, keep it simple and low-maintenance. Skip the elaborate garnishing tools and specialized cocktail equipment better suited for an indoor bar,' Aleah says.

'The focus should be on providing an effortless, relaxing ambiance. Stick to classic, easy-sipping cocktails and minimalistic decor that enhances the natural beauty of your surroundings. Fussy glassware is best kept indoors - stick to more all-purpose glassware that won’t easily knock over,' she adds.

Aleah recommends you avoid the following accessories:

1. Specialized glassware like delicate coupes or flutes that could easily break outdoors.

2. Elaborate garnishing tools like citrus zesters or channeled knives.

3. Electric appliances like blenders, ice crushers, or smokers that require an indoor power source.

4. Fine stemware or crystal that is better suited for indoor use to avoid chips or cracks.

We asked the designers

What brings a garden bar together?

'Cohesion is key for a stylish garden bar area,' Aleah Valley from Valley & Co tells us. 'The design should complement and reflect your overall landscaping and garden style, for a seamless transition from indoors to out. Lighting plays a vital role, setting the perfect ambiance while ensuring ample visibility for effortless mixing, mingling, and movement around the bar - no matter what time of day you’re gathering'.

She continues: 'Thoughtfully curated accessories and cocktail ingredients that capture the essence of the current season and your specific locale can elevate the experience, evoking a strong sense of time and place. Freshly clipped garden herbs like mint, thyme, and lemon balm make for flavorful garnishes that look beautiful when bunched in a vase, and serving floral ice cubes to enhance a garden beverage brings the experience full circle. Above all, the garden bar should feel like an organic extension of your home’s other entertaining areas'.

Interior designer Stephanie Perez O’Boyle says: 'Comfort is king. Really consider the needs of your guests when designing your al fresco space and put those finishing touches that will make it more personal. Comfortable seating, a shady umbrella, throw blankets for chillier nights, outdoor table lamps to set the ambiance – maybe even a fire pit – potted herbs like mint ready for garnishing drinks, and good music will nicely round out your garden bar'.

What do you love most about garden bars as a designers?

Aleah and Nick tell us: 'As designers, we love how garden bars embrace the duality of purposeful design and natural beauty. Garden bars bring the inside outdoors and create a sense of comfort and a place for memories to be made in varying seasons. They fuse functional surfaces for mixing and serving drinks with lush botanicals and opportunities to highlight seasonal hues and textures'.

'Garden bars are a celebration of the outdoors - bringing interior luxuries like plush seating and mood lighting into harmony with nature's backdrop. There's something so enchanting about the way they extend indoor entertaining into an open-air setting. Designing a cohesive and stylish garden bar area that complements the landscape is an exciting creative challenge,' they add.

Advice & Gardens Editor

Faiza is the Advice & Gardens Editor at Livingetc. She previously worked for The Independent as a News Feature Writer, where she wrote articles on lifestyle, entertainment, news and more. She also worked as an Audience Editor for the newspaper for over two years. Spending a few years in the newsroom, Faiza also previously worked for Sky News as an SEO reporter, where she produced stories based on trending topics. Lifestyle and Interior design is a space Faiza has been interested in for quite some time and as she continues to grow in the field, she will be diving into an interior design course to further her skills. Faiza has a background in SEO, social media and reporting. Her passion for writing goes beyond her work as she loves all things poetry and creative writing.