Living room bar ideas can range from luxury millwork to bar trolleys and cabinets, all located in the most social room in the house. With the right bar design, you can add even more functionality to the living room and make it truly the hub and heart of the home.
Of course, when it comes to living room ideas, the inclusion of a bar isn't quite the novelty it once was, but what is unique is the way these units are now being integrated into the home's plan. In large living rooms, ornate and carefully designed wet bars are taking over, whether in adjacent rooms or within alcoves and niches. In smaller homes, glossy bar carts, consoles or hidden units are adding style and happy energy. Rich woods, leather-backed bar stools, and pin-tucked armchairs are popular features of the modern-day home bar.
Here are 10 ideas, along with expert advice from interior designers on how a bar can be incorporated in your living room.
Raise a toast to these 10 living room bar ideas
'When creating your home bar, assess your current living space,' says Jarret Yoshida, principal designer at Jarret Yoshida, Inc. 'A few questions can help you screen your home. If you’re renting, then built-in cabinetry isn’t for you – it's all about a cool bar cart. If you own the house, choose stylish cabinetry for a dedicated entertainment space that will wow your friends and family.'
1. Set up a bar next to the living room
Placing a home bar in a room adjacent to the living room is a luxury only those with larger spaces can afford. If that's your property, you can use the adjacent room as one full of opportunities. Set up a special bar here, and bring in sleek chairs or stools.
In this modern living room bar by Hollis LaPlante and Jordyn Grohl, founders of Hollis Jordyn Design, the vintage bar and stools are sourced from a local LA vendor called Sunbeam Vintage. The Vintage Malm fireplace came from DeKor Living in Atwater Village , while the custom wood barn doors were made by The Mod Barn in Culver City.
'The client had described liking the idea of a dark lounge to drink whisky while entertaining guests,' say Hollis and Jordyn. 'We love the dark, cozy space with a somber feel. It's almost like a hunting lodge meets 60s mid-century. Fusing two genres can make a space very eclectic and interesting.'
2. Design the living room bar with vibrant colors and stylish furniture
An open, floor-to-ceiling wet bar can look architectural, and transform the entire look of your home. Paint the entire space in vibrant hues to make a statement. Choose cherry, mahogany, or oak, and add different stains to lift their look. If painting isn't on the cards, then give the bar a rich look with ebony or dark walnut.
With open plan bars like these that are integrated into the living room, you can increase the socializing space and create several moments and moods in the room. Consider outfitting this home bar with a sink, wine cooler, liquors, and, an espresso machine, so the space is ready for homeowners and guests, whether it’s to perk up in the morning or mix a happy-hour cocktail.
'This home is about 11,000 sq ft, built in the late ’90s in a private gated community in Preston Hollow in Dallas,' says Chad Dorsey, founder of Chad Dorsey Design. 'I renovated the house for a former client who sold the house to my current clients. The house was designed as a Hampton-inspired interior with wood walls throughout and bleached French white-out floors. My current client and I have added color over the last few years.'
'The current client called me during the pandemic and said they wanted to use the craft room which had a kitchenette as well as a playroom into something more functional the family could use while they are home all the time. Also, they wanted to have more color. We decided this space would work great for their entertainment,' says Chad.
3. Set up a butler's pantry in a corner
A corner bar in a cozy living room is a great option for wine connoisseurs, to enjoy new Merlots, champagnes, and long conversations. Choose an ornate, carved unit in wood to give the home a more vintage vibe, and to make the bar area stand out.
'This handsome bar, which was incorporated into the living room, was designed for a client who loved to make craft cocktails at home for family and friends,' says interior designer, Holly A Kopman, founder of Holly A. Kopman Interior Design. 'He requested a wet bar, with an ice maker and a beverage refrigerator. I took inspiration from the old Gentleman’s bars. Shopping for vintage barware was the most fun part of this job!'
4. Add a bar console in the living room passageway
In tiny homes, consider adding a bar console to a living room corner or the passageway. In doing in, ensure that the unit blends well with the living room's overall design, as this one pictured above does.
In terms of consoles, nothing says vintage like a lovely patina of grey, weathered wood. A polished, shiny leather console too can add style and class to the interior. Choose one with wheels in case you want to change the position of the unit or make it more accessible to guests as they're seated on the sofa.
5. Hide the bar in plain sight
There are plenty of good reasons to make the home bar the central feature of your living room, but sometimes, you don't want your bar to be a focus when not in use.
A great living room furniture idea is a wall-to-wall unit that is multifunctional, and that blends into the design scheme of the room. It can be used to hold coffee table books, and curios, while the shelves with fluted glass can hide liquor bottles. This is especially helpful to homeowners who do not want to overtly display their spirits. Or, those who have children and pets at home and want to keep the bottles safe and hidden away.
In this monochrome living room, this all-white unit contains crockery, kitchen accessories, and spirits.
6. Bring in a trolley in small living rooms
Even if you have a small apartment living room, and there isn't space for a separate bar unit to fit into the small square footage, you can still keep them out on display with smart bar carts that can be wheeled in and out.
This is also a great idea as it prevents the bottles from gathering dust and the cart, being a multipurpose unit can be utilized for other jobs around the house. For instance, used as extra counter space in the kitchen.
'A new or vintage bar cart creates an appealing addition to a living or dining room,' says Lance Thomas, principal designer at Thomas Guy Interiors. 'Bar carts can hold most of the bottles and stemware you need in a compact space – and will little investment.'
7. Go all out with an ornate design for a restaurant-like feel
If you're up for a complete renovation or if you're building your home from scratch, then this idea could appeal to you, especially if you're big on socializing. Consider building a fully decked wet bar in your living room for that grand, restaurant-like feel.
Choose a custom-made countertop, and make room for essentials like a sink, a refrigerator, and plenty of bottle storage. Even consider acoustical wall panels for an authentic feel. Add teak wood bar stools and bring in accessories like decanters, wine coolers, glasses, and more to fully charge up the space.
To go all out, you could even fit in a bar in the basement, and add a pool table or an electronic poker game to add an entertainment room in your home.
8. Make your bar a millwork masterpiece
'The overarching sense of fluidity in this home is accentuated by the thoughtful application of materiality and volume across the residence,' says Michael K Chen, founder of MKCA. 'A poured terrazzo floor greets visitors in the elevator vestibule and continues through the kitchen, adjacent pantry space, living, dining, and media rooms. Embedded with a custom pattern of curving brass spacers, the floor draws connections from space to space, through a playful and expressive pattern.'
'Millwork volumes open to reveal a hidden liquor cabinet in the living room; an integrated display for a collection of glass artworks by Yoichi Ohira. All can be opened and closed with ease, catering to a range of scenarios,' says Michael.
If you prefer having a DIY bar in your farmhouse style living room then consider repurposed crates for an industrial-edge bar and shelving units. You can move these around to the outdoors too, during summer barbecue months.
9. Integrate it within a niche in the living room
A living room niche is often utilized as a compact storage, but that doesn't always have to be the case. See how in this home, the owner has squeezed a fully fitted bar into the narrow living room. This means that an instant party is always on hand.
Having a mirror splashback in tiny rooms is always an advantage as they do not make the corners look bulky, packed and closed, and open up the visuals of the room. Mirrors also reflect light and help brighten up the room. Plus, it's always nice to see your reflection as you fix yourself a cocktail!
10. Add a glam vibe with a metallic bar design
For added glitz and glamor, consider adding a bar unit in metallic (gold or silver) to add a glow to the living room color scheme. This is also a good way to include metallic tones without going over the top.
This particular unit is a wonderful addition to the room as its sleek design and open storage do not add visual weight to the room. It also adds a touch of color to an empty white corner of the room.
How do I style my home bar?
A great feature to include while designing a modern living room is an in-house bar. It will not only increase the functionality and use of the living room but also take it a notch up in style.
Consider a whitewashed antique brick wall behind the bar nook to add a rich architectural touch to the space, and to highlight the bar. Even colorful splashback tiles in a bold pattern can enliven up the space.
Add eye-catching brass shelf brackets that look like jewelry to accentuate this space. Clear glass shelves look sophisticated and are timeless. If you're planning on building a bar unit, reclaimed wood continues its streak as a popular material to add a rustic touch to the living room.
No space is complete without mood lighting. If the living room is big enough, add special pendant lights above the bar to bring this section into focus. For a more moody ambiance, choose spotlights or dimmed floor lamps, combined with under-counter lighting.
'A bar is a great space to add a bit of personality,' say Hollis and Jordyn. 'We are a huge fan of natural stone and so were the clients. We decided to mimic the copper and brass tones in the stone with the plumbing. We added mesh to display the glassware and alcohol. To add a bit of lightness to the space we added an antique mirror backsplash which reflects the exterior light coming from the sliding door to the backyard. Glassware and vintage bottles along with a vintage brass tray are displayed on the counter with a few personal items from the client.'
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Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.
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