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Home & Garden

Drink to This

More homeowners incorporating bars into their décor.

By Rich Griset

Cocktails are nothing new for the baby boomer generation, but with the popularity of TV shows such as “Sex and the City” and “Mad Men,” intoxicating concoctions have become more in vogue with younger drinkers during the past decade.

In tandem with this development has been the rise of the at-home bar, allowing homeowners to serve friends and family in their dens or basements.

“They’re definitely going up in popularity, and it’s not just boomers: it’s people 30 and older,” says interior decorator Kirsten Nease, owner of Henrico’s Kirsten Nease Designs.

While some homeowners elect to have a bar built in their home, others create bar spaces using furniture. Options aren’t limited to traditional bars with stools; they can be as simple as putting a tray with liquor bottles atop a cabinet or buffet.

“Younger people are using multipurpose furnishings to create bar spaces,” Nease says. “They’re using other furnishings or tray tables, going back to the ’30s when you had your liquor out on a tray stand.”

If repurposing a piece of wooden furniture to create a bar, Nease recommends putting a piece of granite on top. She also advises putting mirrors near the bar, as it opens up the space and makes it seem bigger than it actually is.

For more substantial bars, some homeowners will remove a closet door and turn the closet into a bar space.

“It’s just looking to find the space in your home where you can accommodate the furnishing while keeping the flow of the room,” Nease says. “If you have a corner in a main living area that’s not really useful, you could place a piece of furniture there, or invest in a piece of cabinetry.”

For Don Files, owner of CarriageStone Cottage and Home Design in Glen Allen, the most important consideration is the type of entertaining a homeowner wants to accommodate. Files formerly worked for a construction company that built million-dollar homes, and says that many homeowners installed bars connecting the dining room and other living areas.

“At the holidays you could hire a bartender, set him up in there, and still have good traffic flow,” Files says. “People could get in and out, and yet it wasn’t right in your face any other day of the year.”

Also popular, says Files, is of the “belly-up-to-the-bar” variety – the kind associated with a man cave.

“They’re really kind of two different animals, in terms of size and setup,” Files says. For these bars, “it all depends on the space and how many people you want to entertain.”

Files says it’s important to think about what accessories you want with the bar. The incorporation of a fridge, wine cooler or ice maker will determine the size of the bar. The ease of hooking up a bar to electricity and water is also important.

“Most of the time we try to make sure there’s plumbing,” says Leslie Stephens of Leslie Stephens Designs, which has an office in Richmond. “You need a sink if you’re making something where you’re using a blender or adding water or ice.”

For bars that see a lot of use, Stephens advises creating a backsplash of tile or stone.

“The idea is that if you spill something, drywall is harder to clean,” Stephens says. “Many designers are seeing it as a design opportunity. There’s a lot you can do.”

For more adventuresome clients, Stephens recommends mirrored backsplashes.

“A mirror is traditionally used for bars,” she says. “It allows light and reflection to become part of a bar, and it’s a pretty feature to add to the space.”

Depending on the bar space, Stephens sometimes likes to make glassware visible and incorporate it in the design. The storing of wine and liquor bottles can also be included in the design of a bar. She also says she favors bar finishes that match the kitchen finishes. “That way there’s a connection between the two,” Stephens says.

By thinking about the space, the kind of entertaining you want to do and the type of alcohol your family drinks, you can turn a little-used area of your home into your new favorite hangout spot. ■