Bar Nook Tips by designer Carey Karlan of Last Detail Interior Design

What do you consider when seeking out the best place to set up a bar nook in a room?

Consider the traffic flow and where you want people to congregate.  The bar, like the kitchen, is a gathering spot.  At Christmas I like it by the tree, other times I like it in the living room to pull people out of the kitchen and into the living room. 

What can I look for in my home that would suffice as a bar nook?

There are lots of spots to set up a bar that work well.  The important thing is to start with a substantial tray to mark the spot.  A desk (my house); a small rented round table with a tablecloth (my conservatory); a spot in a butler’s pantry; on top of a chest in the living room, a low-level shelf in a library; and even the kitchen counter all work well. If you happen to have a glass or lucite table or bar cart these allow the wallpaper to show and don’t appear to take up much room.

From an entertaining standpoint, is it necessary to have more than one bar?

Sometimes if there is a big crowd, I will have a beer/wine/soft drink bar as well as a mixed drinks bar.  Once the room fills up, it’s hard for people to know what their options are, so you have to tell people at the beginning of the party as they come in.

What are the fundamentals for styling a beautiful and inviting bar area?

A bar should set a fun and festive mood.  Anyone can grab a beer from the refrigerator, but it’s more celebratory to grab it from a beautiful copper container crackling with fresh ice. A bar is a good spot to go in a more glamorous direction if you so choose. You’ll want to include appropriate glasses for what you are serving; basic utensils for opening bottles and stirring; ice bucket and spoon or tongs; and reasonable range of wine or liquor.  I don’t think every bar has to offer ALL liquor and wine options, but I do think a non-alcoholic option should be available.

I also like to have room for beautiful bar accessories as well as a candle, a pretty dish with lemon/lime wedges, a small flower arrangement, a pitcher, special glasses and a handsome tray or two to help organize it all.

What advice can you give on how to keep your bar nook fresh and inviting?

Keep the cocktail mixer polished, have an amusing nut dish or cocktail stirrers and change the glasses according to the seasons.  Colored glasses or silver goblets look special on a bar. Avoid clutter by using trays. Group bottles together in order of ascending height and keep accessories together separately.  The ice bucket can be on a separate tray.  Again, you don’t have to put out every imaginable liquor/wine/mixer ever made, just select what you think is appropriate for the event.

What would you do differently when styling for a holiday party?

I like to go all out for holiday parties: special flower arrangements, perhaps a bottle of frozen vodka with rose petals imbedded in the ice surrounded by votive candles (fire and ice!) And, if it’s a round skirted table, place a mirrored top on the table.  It’s practical and the reflection doubles the glamour.  You can also hide extra bottles under the skirt…

How do you decide which glassware to put out? Or do you select a variety?

I use glassware that’s appropriate to the kind of event I’m hosting.  For example, a baby shower might call for my daintiest etched champagne coupes. While a small formal gathering, I may opt for the silver wine glasses and a casual brunch, stemless cocktail glasses.  I have pale green glasses for springtime and an assortment of Christmas glasses for the holidays. Every time I pull them out, I create a little snapshot jewel box. I collect glasses and have every size, shape, vintage and color you can imagine!  If you shop at antique stores, you can find great bargains and create special vignettes that everyone will enjoy…all while having a lot of fun for very little money!