How to Create a Bar Nook for Entertaining

Carey Karlan of Last Detail Interior Design shares how you can create a chic bar nook in your home.
Bar Nook wall with blue accent color.

Photography by Paul Johnson.

You don’t have to have a custom bar built to create a lovely bar nook in your home. Carey Karlan of Last Detail Interior Design chats with us about how you can achieve a makeshift bar that looks like it was custom made for your home.

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

Carey Karlan: Consider the traffic flow and where you want people to congregate. The bar, like the kitchen, is a gathering spot. I like it in the living room to pull people out of the kitchen and into the living room.


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

Carey Karlan: 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, a small rented round table with a tablecloth, 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.

Decorative bar nook with fun wallpaper and lucite cart.

Photography by Paul Johnson.

C&G: From an entertaining standpoint, which rooms do you find work better than others? And is it necessary to have more than one?

Carey Karlan: 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.


C&G: What are the fundamentals for styling a beautiful and inviting bar area?

Carey Karlan: 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.

Bar Nook table with decorative pieces.

Photography by Paul Johnson.

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

Carey Karlan: 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.


C&G: What would you do differently when styling for a party?

Carey Karlan: I like to go all out for 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…

Bar Nook complimented with fun wallpaper.

Photography by Paul Johnson.

C&G: How do you decide which glassware to put out? Or do you select a variety?

Carey Karlan: I use glassware appropriate to the kind of event I’m hosting. A lady’s baby shower might call for my daintiest etched champagne coupes; a small formal gathering, the silver wine glasses; and for 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!