Garden bar ideas perfect for al fresco entertaining

These stylish garden bar ideas will make your outside space the go-to for entertaining, no reservation needed

Garden bar ideas
(Image credit: Landform Consultants Ltd / Rachel Warne)

Ready for garden bar ideas? Spring is just around the corner and we're eagerly starting to think about modern garden ideas and how to make the most of our gardens, patios and courtyards this summer. Whether your al fresco space is a bijou balcony or a tiny roof terrace in the middle of the city or you're lucky enough to have a grand, sweeping lawn, it's worth thinking about adding in a garden bar to meet all your thirst-quenching needs. 

From a trolley you wheel out on occasion to a full on built-in bar designed by the experts, a garden bar will add fun to your space, keep friends and family well watered and they can look pretty chic, too. We've asked some garden designers to share their tips for designing a garden bar.

Garden bar ideas

1. Build a bespoke bar

Designing a garden bar

(Image credit: Landform Consultants Ltd / Rachel Warne)

In an ideal world, we'd all have beautifully landscaped, enormous gardens with a bespoke bar as the cherry on top. A place to entertain guests and to wile away the hours on a warm summer's evening. If space isn't an issue, then it's worth considering a custom made bar to create an area that feels connected to the rest of the garden, built with solid materials and potentially even running water and electricity. You could also combine it with full outdoor kitchen ideas and barbeque. 

'Gardens are an extension of the home and having an outdoor bar is an excellent way to bring the inside out,' say the experts at Landform. 'A bar could be used as a breakaway space in another area of the garden where you can relax and entertain friends.  Al fresco living Mediterranean-style, with tapas & cocktails in a garden bar can really enhance the outdoor dining experience.'

'Inspired by the gardens of Hotel Alma in Barcelona, this garden features a bespoke multifunctional bar surrounded by luscious shady planting. It offers a serene oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of urban living – a calming place to reflect and take time out from our busy lifestyles.'

'The bespoke design uses a metal framework within a timber housing and is topped off with a bespoke-cut worktop. It was made in collaboration with a metalwork fabricator and a skilled joiner,' they add. 

2. Include garden lighting

Designing a garden bar

(Image credit: Industville / @upstyleyourhome)

If a fully bespoke bar fit isn't an option, creating something from furniture under covered protection will still offer a fun and stylish addition. Here, an island unit filled with storage underneath, drinks on top and surrounded by bar stools, plants and modern garden lighting ideas, helps creates a beautifully sociable space, day or night.

'Recent events have given homeowners the chance to appreciate every aspect of their homes a little bit more. While we have always cared for our home interiors, we have seen much more attention focused on creating the much sought-after inside/outside look and how we can strengthen the connection from our home to our outside space,' says Marketa Rypacek, Managing Director, Industville

'With more time being spent at home, we demand more from our spaces, both inside and out. The expectations for our outdoor living space now hold the same design opportunities as our home interiors and having the correct lighting is vital to making the most of your outdoor space,' she adds. 'Not only should your lights be stylish, but they also need to be functional. The lighting plays a key part in ensuring the garden comes together, taking the design to the next level. For many of us, this means creating stylish, thoughtfully designed spaces that create the atmosphere of a chic outdoor kitchen, bar or garden terrace.' 

3. Create handy storage

Designing a garden bar

(Image credit: Marazzi)

Storage is key when it comes to creating a garden bar, especially if it's not right next to the house; somewhere to store all those glasses, bowls for snacks, stirrers and shakers, ice and don't forget the trash. Consider crates or shelves for affordable and stylish storage ideas or remember to have it all built in if you're having something bespoke - plus. don't forget some worktop space for all that artful chopping.

Marazzi's Cementum stoneware is a great option if you’re considering installing an outside bar on a large scale. The concrete-effect stoneware is ideal underfoot where there might be spillages due its anti-slip, soft-touch matt surface. Plus, because it can be used both indoors and out, it’s the perfect choice if you want to continue your kitchen tiles into the garden, creating a smooth indoor/outdoor flow. Space for a pool to accompany your bar? Even better. 

4. No space? No problem

Garden bar by Rockett St George

(Image credit: Rockett St George)

Not everyone has a garden, let alone a big one. So if your outside space is on the small side, it's shared with someone else or you'd rather not have a permanent structure up, then have your outdoor bar ready on a trolley and wheel it out whenever you fancy an al fresco drink.

'The only thing better than happy hour at home is happy hour in the garden with the sun shining! As our outdoor spaces have become the center of entertaining, the garden is the perfect place to sit, relax and enjoy a couple of cocktails.' explains  Jane Rockett, Co-founder of Rockett St George

'With this in mind, every outdoor space needs an alfresco drinks trolley, from dedicated rattan designs for the garden, to those borrowed from indoors. Remember to have fun with your display and introduce gorgeous glassware, bottles of booze, and perhaps even a few plants to help your bar blend into the garden. The final touch for any garden bar has to be lighting, with candles and twinkling fairy lights perfect for any occasion, from after-work drinks to full entertaining. These soft accent lights also help introduce atmosphere and create a magical focal point that comes alive as the sun sets.'

5. Open a hatch

garden bar in the hatch of an out building

(Image credit: Sadolin and Sandtex)

Open up the kitchen with a serving hatch, and add a ledge/bar top for an instant garden bar area. If your kitchen isn't positioned next to the garden then consider transforming your shed instead – a hatch and a ledge is the first step into turning your shed into a garden bar. Then just add some bar stools and serve drinks from the other side.

As Ben Stokes, Founder & Interior Designer for KAGU Interiors explains 'a garden bar doesn’t require ample amounts of room, just a little planning. Whether you’re transforming the garden shed or calling in the professionals, choose materials that can withstand year-round exposure such as treated wood and well-sealed natural stone.'

Top tips for creating a garden bar

Pollyanna Wilkinson Garden Design garden bar

(Image credit: Pollyanna Wilkinson Garden Design)

You've got the ideas, now it's time for some tips. Pollyanna Wilkinson Garden Design is a multi-award-winning design practice and Polly shares her best top five pieces of advice if you're thinking about installing an outside bar:

1. Location: Do you want it near the house (and therefore kitchen) so that you can shuttle things easily? Or perhaps further away so that the new outdoor watering hole becomes less an extension of your home and more a destination in its own right?

2. Contents: This can be as simple as some shelves with surrounding units for prep, to the ‘whole shebang’ including a sink, tap, fridge and multiple cooking appliances.

3. Hassle factor: The further you are from the house, the more useful storage and appliances such as a fridge can be. By nature we use things more if they are convenient, so ensure a setup which makes using it a pleasure, not a chore.

4. Lighting: There is nothing like an evening drink outside, but you need to be able to see what you are doing. Remember to run electricity for lighting around the bar if you can so you aren’t prepping with a torch in your mouth.

5. Keep it clean: Make sure to consider the work surface and floor surrounding the bar so its easy to clean up any food and drink spills.

What is a garden bar?

tiki garden bar from Habitat

(Image credit: Habitat)

A garden bar is simply a place to enjoy drinks in the open air. It can be as small and casual as a shelf or trolley or as big and impressive as a fully functioning al fresco room with power, lighting and worktops.

You want a garden bar to be wide enough so that you can comfortably mix drinks and store what you need in order to mix said drinks. So the perfect width will really depend on how many people you plan to host for. We'd recommend going no smaller than 39 inches wide and nine-foot long. But if you plan for it to be a place to where people will perch on bar stools while they drink you may want to go bigger – use the number of bar stools you want to fit in to help you decide on the right size.  

How do I build a garden bar?

table with built in wine cooler

(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

If you want your garden bar to be more than a trestle table and an ice bucket, you're going to need to do some planning and think practically before your mind gets carried away with images of you mastering the perfect margarita. 

'You’ll want to ensure you have access to the essentials, a shelving unit to keep glassware and drinks at easy reach will ensure you are able to enjoy your evening without the need to go indoors. Finally, consider how you and your guests will interact with the space, a cocktail-bar style with stools is an interactive, comfortable, and social setup that you can enjoy well into the evening,' says Ben Stokes, Founder & Interior Designer for KAGU Interiors  

What should I buy for a garden bar?

pink bar in the garden

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Without stating the obvious that you should generously stock your garden bar with drink, but there are a few other essentials that can make the experience. Gorgeous glassware for example, although you may want to consider bringing some pretty plastic cups over too and keep the actual glasses for best or just for show. Stylish cocktails accessories like a shaker, stirrers, a jigger and a crusher not only look lovely sat behind the bar but they make all the difference when mixing drinks. 

If you have the space, you might want to consider adding a fridge if you think you'll use the bar enough that an ice bucket won't surface. And a surface for chopping garnishing would make it a more practical space too. 

Then you've got the decor, which can really elevate a garden bar. Choose lighting that's going to add some ambiance and suit the vibe of your garden – whether that means neon lighting or soft glowy LED candles. You'll also want one of the best outdoor speakers. Decorate shelves with nice bottles, and mix in some small house plants and stylish decorations to make the space feel more like an extension of your home. 

Rachel Christie

As the Houses Editor on Livingetc, Rachel has been obsessed with property ever since she was a kid. With a diploma in interior design and more than a decade working on interior magazines under her belt, she feels very at home sourcing the best contemporary houses the world has to offer for Livingetc. It's not just the day job either, she admits she's spent a scary amount of her own time researching schemes for her own renovations - scrolling Instagram, stalking Rightmove and Modern House, flicking through magazines and snooping in other peoples' windows - so she really does live and breathe houses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Before Livingetc, Rachel had a stint finding homes for Ikea Family magazine where she was lucky enough to gallivant around the world on shoots meeting and interviewing interesting people, all with a very keen eye for blending high-end design with everyday items from Ikea. It inspired her to not be afraid of mixing new and old, expensive and affordable, vintage and modern and so Rachel's current Victorian terrace in north London is very much an updated, contemporary take on a period property; think open-plan modern kitchen with concrete floors, feature fireplaces and her grandmother’s paintings on the walls. Rachel is currently crushing on reeded glass, large gingham prints, squishy curved furniture; like Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, and vintage wall sconces; she especially adores Retrouvius for sourcing antique finds and feels inspired by Lonika Chande, Beata Heuman and Matilda Goad and already can’t wait to start planning her next home, wherever that might be.