Without question, the way we entertain or relax at home is changing both as floorplans open-up and as our comfort levels with dining out fluctuate during the pandemic.
A wet or dry bar—or, if you don’t imbibe, a beverage center—may seem unnecessary but, if well-located and well-designed, reduces congestion in the kitchen and serves as another stylish focal point in your home. Wet bars require plumbing because of their sinks and, though nice, are likely not necessary if the bar is located near a sink or are simply stocked with a water pitcher.
Virtually any feature can be accommodated as part of new house construction, but the beauty of, especially, dry bars is that they can be easily incorporated into a remodel or even be the sole focus of a mini-makeover. Enterprising homeowners and their contractors have tucked dry bars into little used closets, under stairs, between doorways, into alcoves, under windows, and even in corners or large rooms. The trick is to not block traffic flow, yet not situate the bar in a spot so out of the way that it will never be used. Once you identify the ideal location, effort should be made to ensure that the bar look seamlessly integrated.
The components of such a bar are quite basic. A counter is non-negotiable. Beyond that, most bars are outfitted with a beverage cooler and storage cabinets below with more cabinets, open shelving, or a combination of cabinets and open shelving above. Electricity is necessary for beverage coolers but, while you’re at it, an electrical outlet for a blender and a coffee/espresso maker greatly expands the functionality of your bar. Your contractor can help ensure you have adequate capacity for any sconces and cabinet/undercabinet lighting, as well.
But basic need not be boring. These small spaces can serve up loads of style without busting the budget. Not unlike powder rooms, these spaces should harmonize with the overall look and feel of your home but, because of their intimate scale, can afford to sport a bit more flare without being obnoxious.
Generally speaking, a symmetrical design, beveled cabinets or those with glass fronts, and crown molding will lend a more formal and traditional vibe to your bar, though your choice of finishes can either enhance or counter that look and feel. When considering materials, keep in mind that anything that works in a kitchen will work in a bar.
For countertops, marble, granite, quartz, solid surfaces, stainless steel, butcher block, and even concrete are all suitable options. Backsplashes might feature a slab of marble or quartz, tile—either subtle or boldly patterned—stainless steel or other metals, brick or stone veneer, shiplap or reclaimed wood, or wallpaper, with the latter being most practical for a dry bar.
For appointments, open shelving, if offset left or right, leaves room for a sparkling mirror or dramatic artwork. But, since these spaces are usually intimate, avoid sacrificing function for form. Consider keeping additional appointments to a minimum and choosing instead pitchers, trays, glassware, and bar tools with pleasing forms, whether casual, bold and sculptural, or elegant.
Cabinet hardware in a range of metals, like the right accessory for a fashion statement, can complete a look. But lots of bar appointments, from glassware to bottles of wines and liquor, are sparkly on their own. So, consider opting for integrated pulls or understated hardware. Similarly, light fixtures, unless incorporated with restraint, can add a bit too much shimmer.
For such a small space, there are a large number of critical decisions for homeowners to make in conjunction with their contractors in order to stir up a little visual excitement without overindulging.
Virginia Beach native and JMU graduate, Chris Ettel, is founding partner of VB Homes. Ettel serves on the Tidewater Builders Association board of directors and is past chairman of the TBA Remodeler’s Council.