Hints on Designing a Functional Home Bar

Home bars have become a popular upgrade in any contemporary home. They are so common that N.J.com, a website for local New Jersey news organized a competition for the best bar in New Jersey. If you would like to have a functional home bar you can be proud of, take the following into consideration.

Anatomy of a home bar and dimensions

  • The standard bar height is 107 cm.
  • The overhand should be 20 cm minimum.
  • The width of the bar top should be between 41 cm and 50 cm including the bar moulding.
  • The bar moulding is an essential part of the bar: it keeps spilled drinks from dribbling into the lap and it provides an armrest.
  • The drink rail is a place where you will pour drinks.
  • The drip lip is a piece of protruding wood next to the drink rail: it keeps spilled drinks from running off the bar on the side of the bartender.
  • If you are planning to install a sink, you will need the lower counter, too.
  • The foot rail should be between 18 cm and 23 cm.
  • The bar can be as long as the space allows it.

Building materials

The frame of the bar is usually made with hardwood plywood. If you decide to have built-in cabinets, consider particle board, plywood, or laminate for the interior shelving and jambs. When it comes to countertop, granite is the most expensive natural material. It requires low maintenance, but if you choose light colours, it can stain. Marble should be avoided since it is extremely fragile and porous. Stainless steel has an industrial feel to it. It is durable, but it will show fingertips and water spots. If you would like a wooden bar top, choose oak, teak, walnut, or cherry. You can play around with ceramic tiles to create a unique bar top, but one disadvantage of this material is grout. Laminate is durable, inexpensive and it comes in all colours, textures and patterns.


Recessed, wall-mounted, or track lighting are usually opted for ambient lighting, a main source of light. Pendant lights provide task lighting for finding liquor bottles, mixing drinks and cleaning glassware. For under the bar lighting, you should install LED light strips. For bottle and glass display, you can use accent lighting in the form of wall scones, track lighting, or recessed lights.

Stocking a home bar

Having at least one bottle of so-called essential spirits will allow you to make any cocktail at any time. Gin, brandy, bourbon whiskey, scotch, vodka, dark and light rum and tequila are bottles any bar should have. Liqueurs, including amaretto, orange liqueur, dry and sweet vermouth, Benedictine are alcoholic drinks used as flavouring agents. Mixers are non-alcoholic drinks which add flavour to cocktails. Some of the most common mixers are: cranberry juice, lemon juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, coffee, milk, tea, agava syrup, tea, club soda, ginger ale and tonic.

You should store all bottles according to these three groups. Each group can be placed in wooden crates in built-in cabinets. On the other hand, your carefully selected liquor specials should have a special place in your home bar. You can store them on speed rails and liquor bottle displays.

Bar tools

There are two basic types of a shaker. A Cocktail shaker has a top covering a strainer fitting onto a bar tin. A Boston shaker does not have a strainer, so you will need a Hawthorne strainer in this case. For cocktails, you will also need a mixing glass. It is used for drinks which need to be cooled by stirring with ice. A bar spoon and a jigger for measuring drinks are essential tools, as well. A muddler is used for crushing ingredients in the bottom of a glass. A smaller model of an electric blender will come in handy when you are preparing frozen drinks. A corkscrew, a cutting board and pairing knives should also be on the list.

Glassware essentials

Highball glasses are great for drinks that are not shaken and for summer cocktails. Martini glasses come in a variety of size and they are a must for a home bar. A champagne flute is perfect for champagne as well as for sparkling cocktails as they have a shallow bowl. Choose wider-bowl glasses for red wine and smaller-bowl glasses for white wine. Finally, you cannot have enough old-fashion glasses as they are versatile for any drink. Hanging glass racks are convenient solution for storing glassware.

Everything from location and dimension to storage and tools should be planned ahead. If building a bar is your DIY project, make sure you build a mock-up first.

About Lillian

If one thing is true about Lillian Connors, her mind is utterly curious. That’s why she can’t resist the urge to embark on a myriad of home improvement/DIY projects and spread the word about them. She's also deeply into green practices.

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