How I Revamped My Home Bar On A Budget
Everybody loves a home bar. There are many reasons for this. You don't have to leave the house when it's cold. The drinks are much cheaper. You can play your own music. You can be choosy about who you are drinking with. You can fall asleep at it if you want. And mostly, it's only a short stagger up the stairs when you've had one Prosecco cocktail too many. A winner on all counts. It's only a small corner of our dining room but the family and friends excitement level was off the scale when we announced we had a bar. I think they expected me to start wearing leopard print leggings and bouffant my hair.
When we moved in, the room had been used as a games room. It's an extension on the side of the house so it's a long room with no focal point. The bar was already there but it looked a bit crap and had red tiles and no character whatsoever. Obviously, Joe loved it on sight and wanted to keep it exactly as it was. Not a chance in hell. I immediately called Miles, the Worlds Best Decorator, and asked him to come and transform it. He painted the whole lot in Downpipe including the bar and it became 'The Party Room'.
So do you fancy a bar of your own? Here's how you can recreate what I've done with maximum impact and minimum cost.
Create The Bar
So mine was already in place, but you can go on to eBay and buy a wooden bar structure that you can then paint. I've had a look and you can buy a ready to go version for just under £300. If, unlike Joe and I, you are very good at DIY, it wouldn't be hard to make this yourself. I've shown photos below of how mine is set out. It's basically made from slats of wood and tiling to the top. We have a boiler room behind the bar (that's the door that you see in the photos) that we keep a fridge in but it would be perfectly possible to put a small fridge in the main bar area.
Those Who Can, Paint. Those Who Can't, F**k It Up
Seeing as the bar and the room were going to be proper social areas, there wasn't a chance in hell I could inflict my truly slapdash decorating skills on them. Miles The Worlds Best Decorator came to the rescue. He painted the bar the same colour as the room to blend in. The tiles were originally pillar box red but that's not a good colour for the skin tone after a few bottles of Prosecco, so Miles painted them with tile paint in white. Using tile paint on a work surface isn't the greatest and it tends to chip. In an ideal world I would replace them with some cool Moroccan style tile but that's beyond Joe's DIY capabilities.
Light It Up Baby
The front of my bar has spot lights which are holes cut out in the panelling and operated from a plug. On the top of the bar I have my favourite light ever, my Abigail Ahern poodle, which makes it look a bit more cosy. Subtle lighting. You need that after a few Aperol Spritz. I have to say - and don't hate me, dark side lovers - one of the downsides of having a room that is entirely in a dark colour is lighting. Basically, you need bloody loads of it. I've moved lights over every inch of that room and I'm still never happy with it. But hey, it's a party room and people are usually trollied so they don't tend to mind.
Make It Look Like The Real Deal
So you can buy optics for your wall on eBay. The best ones are Beaumont and you can get four of these for around £20. They look super cool and immediately give the bar area authenticity. They screw to the wall and you can mix and match the bottles. As a 70's child, I've got Malibu, Campari and Vodka on the wall at the moment. I once made the mistake of putting Negroni ingredients up there, a move which ended in trauma. My cousin Ellie introduced me to the Negroni. Every year, they go camping with friends and then at 6.00 pm, they all meet under a gazebo to have one. I thought this sounded quite cool so once tried to replicate it for pre dinner party drinks. If you've never drunk a Negroni, it's Campari, Gin and Vermouth. Straight. Just ice. You drink it. Then you fall over. There was twerking and memory loss. Tragic Facebook photos. We haven't drunk them since.
Take A Seat
Bar stools are a serious bone of contention in our house. The kitchen breakfast bar ones are a constant source of stress for Joe and any overnight guests who visit our house - they are black metal and putting your bare feet on the ledge will literally slice your sole. I bought them because they are in the style of some design classic machinist stool. Style before comfort every time. Obvs. If Joe had his way we would be sitting on fully padded white PVC with arm rests and electric pump action. So when it came to sourcing two for the newly painted bar, I quickly found some that I liked and ordered before he got a chance to even offer an opinion. They are actually really comfortable and I've seen them in loads of bars and restaurants. No one with the exception of Joe complains about them so I think that's a win.
Fill It With Kitsch/Crap/Tat
I think every bar area should have a hint of kitsch about it. Home bars were the social hub of the 70's and I like the idea of replicating this. Currently, mine has a plastic flying dolphin, a paper pineapple, a wooden goats head from Greece and copious fairy lights. And JH Lynch's Tina, of course. No bar is complete without a bit of 70's artwork. Home bar decor is never restrictive. I've also got a Pop Fizz Clink banner which I keep up year round. You can buy these on Etsy. As a transient/obsessive decorator, I've changed what's above the bar door at least five times. Currently there's a Discotheque picture which I blatantly copied on my home printer after I'd seen it on someone else's feed. I think that may be plagiarism.
It's A Whole New World Of Accessories
So obviously if you've got a bar, you need all the bits that go with it. For Joe's last birthday I bought him a full selection of bar tools including a beer bucket, wine holder and cocktail shaker. I picked these up in Homesense and they are a lovely battered copper. Not a self gifting episode in any way. Friends like it too as an addition to the bar is always something to bring when they come for dinner or parties - we've had bar ornaments, mixing spoons (gorgeous ones from Oliver Bonas) and wine stoppers. When I was 40, I dressed up as Margot from The Good Life and had a 70's birthday party - everything from cheese and pineapple sticks to bottles of Babycham with mini straws and Snowball cocktails was in theme. Black Forest Gateau abounded. Even the serving dishes were authentic - the one below still actually makes me cry with laughter.
No More Kitchen Discos
In our previous houses, our kitchen has always been the hub. Our last house in Caversham had the smallest, most shit kitchen you've ever seen (not assisted by my horrific painting job) but STILL people would congregate in it every time we had a party. It was madness. So in this house we make them bypass the kitchen and go straight to the bar where quite frankly, they stay all night. I've just added an old study sofa to the opposite corner which extends the area even further. It's unbelievably uncomfortable but once you've had a few drinks you don't even notice.
So How Much Does It Cost?
Basic bar structure, eBay seller jsatimberproducts: £300 (unless you are Handy Andy in which case the cost of materials)
Paint for wood and metal, Valspar match to Downpipe, B&Q: £30
Beaumont four bracket optic, eBay seller whatsyours15: £22
Four spotlights, eBay seller speedytradelighting: £20
Fairy lights for decoration, eBay seller trend-hotline: £10
Bar stools, eBay seller living_wonder: £129 each for the same as mine
Pop Fizz Clink Banner, Etsy seller All Her Glory: £25
Alcohol to go in bar: Lifetime direct debit to Majestic Wine Warehouse
So you could feasibly achieve the same effect in your own home for around £650 and significantly less if you are able to build the structure yourself and are that way inclined. It can fit into the smallest of spaces and never fails to look super cool. It's a perfect faffing base. Last month, we had an Instameet up and finished the day in my bar drinking copious Aperol Spritz. You'll save a fortune on pub visits and your friends will love it. Your only problem will be getting them to leave.