Nestled in the corner of a large kitchen designed for a family of five, this small wet bar was planned to serve the needs of the entire clan. “It’s prepped and ready to hold all of the fixings for adult beverages, but instead of wine storage we incorporated a chilled fridge space for water bottles, children’s drinks and beverages,” says the design team. “With glass storage above, the homeowners can also display their glassware and china.”
Just because space is tight doesn’t mean you have to forgo the convenience of a bar area. This compact example, tucked into spare shelves beneath a staircase, is a perfect example. Says designer Leanne Ford: “You do not need to have an actual ‘bar’ in your place, just get creative with your space. Save a little bit of room on a bookshelf and let the bottles mix in with other treasures and books.”
Even the tiniest wet bar will be a boon for entertaining if you choose the right spot for it. “It makes sense to fit the bar near the traffic pattern of the party,” says Gretchen Brown, who created this diminutive 3½-foot-wide by 2-foot-deep drinks station using custom cabinetry painted in Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White.
To make the most of the limited square footage of a New York City apartment, architect Michael K. Chen created a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t “party wall.” By day all that is visible in the entry of the home is a wall of sleekly lacquered cabinets and drawers. But after dark, in the words of the architect, “the panels open to reveal a full bar with integral refrigeration and tap, and storage in a louche walnut burl with integral LED lighting. A display compartment has another dual personality, flipping from cool and white, to richly burled wood."
"A separate compartment reveals an integral custom humidor in milled cedar," Chen adds.
Bonus Dining Space
"Finally, integrated into the piece is a five-foot-long pull-out dining element that slides out, cantilevering from the storage volume on custom steel hardware, creating a micro dining room," Chen says.
During the renovation of a home in Greenwich, Conn., Anthony DeRosa of DeRosa Builders was able to incorporate a wet bar into the design of the family room without adding on or stealing space from the seating area. “We fit the bar into a little-used closet,” says DeRosa.
Closet Bar Close Up
“We had cabinets custom built for the space," DeRosa adds. "The biggest challenge was finding a sink small enough to fit within the tight dimensions.” Mission, accomplished.
If you really want a bar but don’t have space to spare, consider using existing architecture elements to corral your spirits and glassware. An example from designer Leanne Ford: “A lot of older houses have corner cabinets in the dining rooms,” she says. “If you have one, take advantage of it. This is a great place to stash your prettiest glassware and liquor bottles. Paint the cabinet high-gloss black to modernize the space and give it an extra shine.”
Beyond offering a place to mix drinks, a wet bar can play an important design role in a home with an open layout, linking the kitchen workspace with the entertaining areas of the house. Here, designer Amy Darooge used rustic materials to create a coherent style throughout. She chose distressed wood cabinetry, a copper sink and faucet, and “the material on the counter is walnut with a live ledge,” she says.
In a New York City apartment with a spectacular view of the city skyline, designer Amy Lau brought in “gorgeous, sweeping curves and natural materials” in the design of the built-in wet bar to offset the linear visuals. “Organic shapes and materials strikes the perfect balance with the cityscape,” she says.
Hide and Sleek
The clever location of this wet bar makes great use of an often-wasted space. The placement, in an entry foyer easily accessible from formal living areas, is perfect. And, says architect Alex Heyko-Porebski, “when not in use the bar can be closed off behind bi-folding joinery panels that match the staircase, so it can remain unnoticed.” Timber veneered cabinets and shelves and mirrored panels on the walls add glamour to the bar’s interior.
Concealed behind pocket doors that help it blend into the wall when not in use, this bar boasts remarkably rich storage despite its small size. “This bar was designed and fabricated in American walnut for an apartment on Central Park West in New York City,” says architect James Wagman. It not only includes storage for 32 bottles of wine, a full supply of spirits, and glassware and other essentials, but even features integrated lighting.
For flexibility in a small space, consider creating a bar from a cart or cabinet on wheels, as designer Leanne Ford did here: You can move it out of the way when you need the extra room. When styling your bar, “mix your bottles and glassware with special odds and ends that have meaning to you,” says Ford. “That will give the space some character and turn your bar into something special for you and your guests to enjoy.”
When creating a bar to service the kitchen and dining room for a client who entertained regularly, Teri Turan’s biggest challenge was space: “We only had a 47-inch space to fit a wine captain, an ice maker, storage for top shelf bottles, mixers, glassware, cocktail napkins and bar paraphernalia,” she says. Custom cabinets and careful shopping for extra-small appliances got the job done. She finished off the look with Persia Pearl granite countertops and honed travertine tile on the backsplash.
If you have a bit more room to play with, a wet bar offers the opportunity to incorporate extra refrigeration, a second sink and even a recycling center. Designer Nathan J. Reynolds fit all this and more into this project. “This wet bar was designed with entertaining in mind,” he says.
“The top refrigerator drawer is perfect for storing cold water, soda, beer — even juice boxes for the kids," Reynolds adds. "The bottom freezer drawer makes ice and is great for chilling glasses and liquor. Fill the sink up with ice and display the beverages offered to guests for the evening. The far right drawer is handy for bottle openers, napkins and bar utensils for the bartender. Below the drawer is a recycling center pull-out with trash and recycling for the empty bottles. The countertop space is generous for displaying beverages and making your favorite cocktail.”
Because it’s often an entertaining focal point, the style of the wet bar is particularly important. Says designer Robin Baron of this glamorous example: "Even a wet bar needs accessorizing. Textured walls along a sculptural and lit art installation create a great backdrop. Throw in a few key accessories that feel like they organically belong there, like decorative glasses and decanters, and you set the stage for fabulous entertaining."
“Designed for wine lovers who enjoy entertaining often, this wet bar was installed in the dining room where they host dinner parties, holiday meals and entertain most of the time,” says designer Nathan J. Reynolds. “Next to the kitchen, it’s a convenient place for additional counter space for mixing drinks, plating desserts, or serving coffee and after-dinner drinks.” The design includes a Kohler sink, Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers, and a Sub-Zero wine refrigerator.
“Glass cabinets above the wet bar distinguish it from the rest of the workspace and showcase handsome glassware and collectibles,” Reynolds adds.