Return of home bar toasted

It’s rare that I end up ahead of a trend, but that was the case six years ago when I embarked on a frustrating search for a particular sort of cabinet for a corner of my open kitchen/dining room.

What I needed was a place to serve guests drinks that wasn’t my kitchen counter. I envisioned a sort of hutch where I could stow liquor and wine bottles behind closed doors, and that also had shelves for glassware and a generous work surface for mixing a Cosmopolitan, pouring some cabernet or parking an ice bucket.

I didn’t know at the time that what I was looking for was a bar cabinet, a home-furnishings category that had all but disappeared since its heyday during the art deco era. Neither did the furniture dealers I visited, who just scratched their heads at my request.

But, oh, what a difference a few years can make. Bar and wine cabinets of every style are easy to find these days. And they’re not only handsome, they’re high on function as well.

“Five or six years ago, you very rarely saw bar and wine cabinets in the stores,” says Kelly Cain, product manager for Stanley, which introduced its first bar cabinet in 2003. Consumer interest has been so strong that the company is on its way to including them as a standard offering in all its furniture collections.

Why are bar cabinets so popular right now?

It could be that the big increase in U.S. wine consumption — 249 million cases in 2005, up from 205 million in 2000, according to the Wine Market Council — is creating a desire for pieces geared to stowing, and showing off, those bottles and proper stemware.

Or it might be maturing denizens of the 1990s cocktail culture looking to create a little lounge atmosphere at home, now that kids and day jobs have made bar-hopping a distant memory.

But Cain has another theory: that the trend stems from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I think after that people started staying home more and entertaining,” he says.

Shaun Melvin, lead designer for Baker Knapp & Tubbs, agrees. “We have definitely seen a renewed interest in entertaining in the home, and I think most of our major collections in the last three years have included some type of bar cabinet or armoire that can double as a bar.”

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