Home Bars Are Becoming a Must-Have For Hosts — Here's All You Need to Know to Set up Your Own

Up your hosting game this festive season and embrace entertaining at home with your own glitzy bar – here's all you need to know about installing your own

A home bar with metallic accents and brown bar stools
(Image credit: Michael P. H Clifford. Design: Jake Arnold)

Whether it’s an all-singing, all-dancing wet bar complete with a stocked mini fridge, or a humble bar cart styled with your favourite glassware, turning an unloved corner into a dedicated zone for entertaining feels decadent, glamorous, and perfect for the festive season.

You might not have time to get your fully stocked bar in time for this Christmas, but here's all you need to know if you're considering it for next year's festive season. If you’re looking to bring the feel of your favourite cocktail bar to your living room, here’s where to start.

1. Decide between a wet or dry bar

A home wet bar with fridge section

(Image credit: Nick Glimenakis. Design: The Brownstone Boys)

This first consideration is whether to go dry or wet. 'With a dry bar, there is no plumbing or sink functions in the bar,' explains Annie Oberman of Forge & Bow. 'This can still include built-in cabinet, counters, tile, refrigeration.'

With a wet bar, there are options for a sink and an ice fridge. 'These are typically built-in cabinets, with counters,' says Annie. If you’re not put off by having to get a plumber in, a wet bar with sink and fridge will bring wow factor to your home. Take inspiration from kitchen fittings. A designated bar with a work area, shelving, and storage can be designed using kitchen cabinetry and components so it is possible to incorporate plumbing for a sink and electrics for a fridge and lighting.

The other alternative is a furniture piece. 'Think bar cart, credenza or hutch,' says Annie. 'Personally, I like furniture pieces. I love the detailing that a nice credenza adds to the space. I don’t make too many mixed drinks so running water is not big for me. If you consider yourself a mixologist, a wet bar may support your hosting efforts best.'

2. Consider whether to go bespoke

A home bar with metallic tones and brown bar stools

(Image credit: Michael P. H Clifford. Design: Jake Arnold)

If you have room to play around with and your budget allows, you might be best going bespoke to create a piece that perfectly slots into the space. Not only can you add custom functional elements such as cupboards, shelving, and lighting, but you can also choose a palette of colors and materials, from veneer and stone to antique mirrors, metals, and crackle-glazed tile.

'It's best to choose from open vs. closed approach,’ says Kristin Bartone, creative director and principal designer of Bartone Interiors. ‘Open could be an open shelving cart while a closed could be a built-in cabinet or a freestanding piece of furniture that has doors that open to reveal the bar area.’

An expanse of wall is the most obvious place to position your home bar but if you don’t have the luxury, a custom piece can be crafted to fit into a corner of a room instead. Alternatively, a spare living room alcove could be perfect for your commissioned piece, slotting satisfyingly into the space and bringing it to life. Add a mirrored splashback to help bounce light around and add timeless glamour.

2. Or try standalone

A bar console in the living room

(Image credit: Arteriors)

If going down the re-plumbing route isn’t a viable option, opt for a standalone piece.  ‘There are some great vintage home bars for sale that are total showstoppers. The Willy Rozzi mobile light-up bar, available on 1stDibs makes a glamorous statement.

Alternatively, you can buy off the shelf. We’re obsessed with Soho Home’s Art Deco style Benedict bar cabinet, complete with a mirrored back that gives the piece a jewelry box feel.

It doesn’t matter how much, or how little space you have available, you can create a bar anywhere. Sometimes, an all-singing, all-dancing wet bar isn't in-keeping with the theme of the home.

In this situation, drinks trolleys might suit best. ‘We're not going for restaurant vibes so we want to make sure that the bar feels like it's for a home,’ says Ginger Curtis, president of Urbanology Designs. ‘We like to go for an elevated but approachable look and feel by incorporating elements that feel cohesive with the rest of the space in addition to special and unique moments that feel intentional.’

You’ll be surprised by what pieces of furniture you might already have that can double up as a home bar – a console table sat flush against the wall and console table decor in the form of a cocktail shaker might be all you need.

4. Remember to light the space

home bar with marble countertop and rattan table lamp

(Image credit: Roberto Garcia. Design LALA Reimagined)

Whether you’ve gone big or small, lighting the space is key. 'Always remember lighting is key,' says Gianpiero Gaglione of Gianpiero Gaglione Interior Design. 'So I’d opt for either candlelight or low-dimmed LED’s to really set the mood.'

Create an atmosphere with a well-placed table lamp, or bring that coveted cocktail bar glow to the space with a couple of tealights or taper candles for the perfect living room lighting. For a more permanent fixture, wall lights and sconces are the best to illuminate the space and don’t forget a dimmer.

Alternatively, we’re impressed with the range of plug-in sconces out there at the moment. Casting a pool of light downwards and bouncing light off all your beautiful glassware has never been so easy. They look super high-end but don’t involve hardwiring.

5. And don't forget to style

A bar cart styled with a lamp and fresh ingredients

(Image credit: Sara Liggoria.Design: Emily Henderson Design)

Lastly, don’t miss out on the opportunity to create an elegant vignette that speaks to your style. When planning your home bar decor or bar cart styling, let ingredients like fresh lemons, limes, cinnamon sticks and pomegranates be your decor – anything that you might put in a cocktail can help recreate the feeling of a real bar. Intricately carved liquor bottles can also be used as decor in itself, even when empty, and a tray is a great buy, working as an accessory catch-all.

Consider how your bar style speaks to the rest of your home. 'I have one client with a large contemporary home and their bar is very open and sparingly styled,’ says Gianpiero. ‘The bar is clean, considered, and almost a little museum-like in its symmetry and styling.

'On the other hand, another client wanted a super cozy and bohemian home, so their bar is full of bottles, glasses, trinkets, etc, positively bursting with personality. Both approaches were right for their respective clients, so it depends on what feels right for the home and the client.'

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Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.