Home bars serve new purpose

An at-home bar was once predictably located in what used to be called a club basement. That liquor would be served there was an equally safe assumption back in those days.

Today, however, a bar in the home might be dispensing juice and other soft drinks in place of alcohol. And with the club basement also no longer an American cultural norm, a bar can now be found in any room of the house where friends and relatives gather.

As a result of these changes, bars for the home have become rather sedate in their styling. They're now typically designed to mesh with a casually furnished setting, not to serve as a focal point.

Q: After equipping our great room with a custom-made built-in unit for storing books, games and CDs, we realize that the piece should have been made larger to accommodate a serving bar and a rack for bottles. Can you suggest where we might find a freestanding bar unit that would complement the look of our home? It can best be described as transitional in its styling.

A: The marketplace offers a number of choices for stand-alone serving and storage bars intended for residential use. Most would fit into a relatively small area, though you don't say how much square footage you've got available.

You also don't define what you mean by transitional styling, but in my lexicon it's a term used for settings of no particular style.

That said, I'll suggest the "Naples Bar" shown in the accompanying photo. It comes from the Howard Miller Co., which, by the way, claims to have coined the term "wine and spirits furnishings." The company sells a variety of well-designed pieces for serving spirits and for storing their accoutrements.

The umber finish on the hardwood and veneers contrasts appealingly with the black columns on the side facing guests. It's a look that could work well with the other furniture in your great room since this piece is made to play a supporting rather than a starring role.

Attention has been paid as much to function as to styling. The bar provides ample storage space, as you can see.

My own preference is to situate a bar in a corner of a room or perpendicular to a wall. But whatever placement you decide on, do make sure there's at least 3 feet of space at both the rear and the front of a free-standing bar. Neither the server nor the drinkers should be made to feel tight.

Rita St. Clair is a syndicated columnist with Tribune Media Services Inc. E-mail general interior design questions to her at rsca@ritastclair.com.