Home watering holes raise bar

Contractors are seeing a shift toward larger and more complex in-home bars that would put a neighborhood pub to shame.
FELICIA FEASTER Published: June 4, 2012
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What could be more delightful than adding something to your home that gives you nothing back but hours of enjoyment, relaxation and memories?

“I've seen grown men shed tears, they're so excited,” said contractor Bob Wilson, the principal of Smyrna's Classic Bars, which has installed 600 bars in a variety of homes.

During almost two decades building bars, Wilson has seen a more recent shift toward larger and more complex bars. Where a 6-foot-to-8-foot bar was once the standard, now bars tend to range anywhere from 8 to 16 feet.

The majority of Wilson's bars are done in mahogany, his preferred material. Wilson said men and older folks reclaiming their home after children move out are the bulk of his business.

And the features contained within those bars would put any neighborhood pub to shame.

“There seem to be more amenities going in a bar than there were 18 years ago,” Wilson noted. “Used to be, it was a sink and a refrigerator. Now it's sink, refrigerator, dishwasher, wine cabinet, beer tap, flat-screen TVs.”

Wilson has even created bars with movable mirrored panels hiding antique gun rooms and disappearing doors leading into safe rooms.

Cindy Lites, the owner of E.A. Star Interiors in Johns Creek, Ga., had clients who incorporated a wood-burning pizza oven into their bar that opened to the outside pool area.

“In good times or bad times, everybody still wants a bar in their house,” affirmed Lites, who has created a variety of such structures, from full-scale walk-behind wet bars to armoires cleverly retrofitted to create a dry bar. “There are a lot of people who don't want the bar to be as visible. They want the bar to serve multi-functions, not just to serve as an alcohol-serving bar.”

But that's not always true.

West side interior designer Joel Kelly said, “I think bars are becoming more elaborate, having most of the features of an actual bar.” Some of his clients have even included high tables and bar stools to lend more of the ambience of a true watering hole.

The type of bar you install depends most often on the space allowances of your home and whether you have room for a sink and refrigerator, or if a dry bar is more practical. Atlanta designers and contractors have located bars in kitchens, foyers, libraries, in the great room, off the dining room and outdoors by the pool.

“Home bars don't have to be an entire room,” Kelly clarified. “They can be a dedicated cabinet in the kitchen with a small countertop and possibly a small sink. If there is a butler's pantry between the kitchen and dining rooms, often you can retrofit this into a service bar.”

But the majority of home design experts said that basement-level bars are still the top choice when homeowners want a full-size bar experience and all of the amenities that entails.

“Some of our clients with huge houses want a full bar in their basement that feels like a bar in a nightclub,” said interior designer Michael Habachy, who also has created a number of commercial bars for nightclubs.



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