How To Design The Perfect Wet Bar- Home or Office
Wet bars are totally underrated in a home situation and they are the hero of office flex space. In both home and office, the design industry is seeing a trend in multipurpose, flexible use spaces.
Bar carts are cool looking, but let's face it- they are mostly decorative, minimally functional. It's a glorified liquor shelf. You still have to make trips to the kitchen to get ice, wash glasses, and grab mixers. A wet bar is the real deal.
For this post I enlisted the opinion of another wonderful interior designer so that together we can capture all the elements of the perfect wet bar. Margaret Winter of Margaret Winter Interiors, designs incredibly thoughtful, personal spaces. Her wet bar suggestions incorporate the same thoughtfulness. Keep reading to find out exactly what you need for the perfect wet bar!
When You Need A Wet Bar
In homes, wet bars are great for: entertaining, large or sprawling floor plans where living rooms/dining rooms/outdoor areas are farther from the kitchen, in non open floor plans, and finished basements.
In offices and retail spaces, wet bars are key for flex spaces. As more and more businesses expand the scope of their building uses, a strategically placed wet bar can make a flex space even more flexible. It allows for co-working spaces, pop-up events after hours, and easy to host open houses.
For both home or office the perfect wet bar should be properly sized and properly located. What exactly will it be used for? Only drinks? Snacks & drinks? How many people will be using it at a time? Where will it get the most use? Does it interrupt circulation? These are the overriding considerations.
What Makes The Perfect Wet Bar
Assuming you've taking into account the above design parameters, the specifics that make the perfect wet bar are the following:
Pull Out Trash/Dishwasher
The need for an ice maker is based on the idea that the wet bar is most likely not close to the kitchen. In fact, part of the reason of having a wet bar is to keep it and its functions separate from the kitchen, or break room in an office setting.
Margaret and I are in total agreement on this one. As she puts it, "Who wants to be running into the kitchen for ice every time a guest needs another drink?" She also suggests concealing it behind cabinetry. The example below isn't concealed but it's pretty darn close.
Here's a nice concealed ice maker: (you'll see this wet bar again, it ticks off so many of our "must haves"!) I mentioned bar carts before and the #1 thing you are going to get from the kitchen if you have a bar cart is ice! Ice is key.
Design by Driscoll Design & Decoration
Closely related to ice is refrigeration. This covers so much ground! Mixers, sodas, juices, beer, and white wine all need refrigeration. Here's a beautiful example of an integrated cabinet panel fridge. The only giveaway is the vent at the toe kick. Btw, That cabinet color and that wallpaper are a glorious combo!
Design by Katie Ridder
Of course you can customize your refrigeration needs based on your usage as well. Lots of wine being uncorked? Get a wine fridge. More beer and sodas entertaining? Get a regular fridge. Up for both? Do both!
Pull Out Trash / Dishwasher
I think there's a fine line between a wet bar and a straight up kitchen without a stove. I think a pull out trash/recycling is a must. No matter what scale wet bar you have, you will always have empties, garnishes, straws, paper napkins, etc.
Design by Charlotte Lucas
Once you get into larger volume entertaining or entertaining with a food component and more dishes than just a few glasses, a dishwasher is also a key component. Consistently large gatherings, offices with a big number of employees or spaces that want to host more elaborate events should consider incorporating a dishwasher. Smaller versions, like the one shown below (horizontal cabinet pull), are a nice addition to a larger wet bar.
Design by Emily Henderson
Storage is a big deal in a relatively small design element (wet bar) that incorporates some pretty specific serveware, utensils, and possibly appliances. This brings us once again back to careful consideration of the usage of the space. Large amount of users equals more stuff. More function i.e. food and drink vs just drink equals more stuff. Margaret suggests, "Decide what you want on display, what you want stashed away, and design your cabinetry and open shelving around these needs. Short on space? Consider a shallow shelf just above the counter. It frees up precious work space while keeping the essentials within easy reach."
Back to this beauty. Several storage types going on here: countertop, open shelves, niches, drawers, and cabinets. In a non-judgmental way, I'm going to call this one's function "basic bitch". There's either a refrigerator or ice maker, small liquor selection, wine niches, and some glasses. Most of the countertop is taken up with storage of items so this is a good one-person-at-a-time wet bar; fix a drink or pour a glass of wine and beat it.
In contrast, here is a wet bar with nothing stored on the counter. Glasses & liquor are on the open shelves, everything else is stored in cabinets. Large amounts of counter space is perfect for setting up DIY style entertaining. Lots of space for, say, a mimosa bar.
Design from Amuneal
This bar may not have all the necessities but it has my favorite type of cabinet storage- drawers! Drawers are so efficient. You can see and access everything in them. They can be sized for utensils or appliances.
Design by D2 Interieurs
This chic black wet bar also has drawers but takes storage to the next level with counter to ceiling storage cabinets. This is nice because it adds storage to the room itself adding to the integrated design. (I'll get to integration in a minute...)
Design by Studio McGee
The more functions you're trying to accommodate, the more counter space you need. As mentioned before, more counter space allows for things like DIY cocktail bars, snacks, even coffee prep. Especially in an office setting, there might be a higher volume of users to consider.
No design element should be plopped in as an afterthought. Wet bars are no exception. Because of their size and ability to be in a home or office setting, there are unique opportunities to integrate wet bars.
Probably the most common is to allow the wet bar to be covered with the doors of cabinetry. It's like the wet bar itself is something to put into the cabinets and you only get it out when you need it.
Design by B.E ARCHITECTURE
Photo from Circa Lighting
Spatial integration is especially key in the office place. Office place wet bars can be integrated using the same door method but you can make the surfaces of the door glass to be used as a white board, cork for a pin boards, or if you're a retail establishment, you can put shelves on the door panels to display merchandise.
The size of smaller wet bars makes them the perfect candidate to take advantage of the space under stairs or other tight spaces. This one doesn't pretend to be cabinetry but is straight up a secret panel.
Design by Miles Redd
Margaret has some great ideas for spatial integration. "If your wet bar is not in a dedicated butler’s pantry, consider incorporating furniture elements that marry with the rest of the room. For example, if your wet bar is in a niche in your family room, frame it out and add armoire-style doors to blend it in with the rest of the room when not in use."
This also includes making the wet bar an actual armoire!
Using furniture elements and elaborating on the details is well done here. (Can you tell I love this one?) The faux side columns on the counter hide the open shelves, unique niches, trim moulding continued on the back wall of the wet bar.
Material choices in all wet areas are important. Margaret has another classic tip to make the wet bar seem like part of the space: "keep it open to the space and play up some of the elements with a mirrored backsplash – something that provides function while staying away from the typical tile used in kitchens. Make sure whatever materials you choose around the sink are waterproof and easy to clean after your party is over; you don’t want to be stressing about cleaning up the inevitable spill when you’re in the midst of socializing with your guests." Great advice! Easy to clean materials are especially important in an office or retail setting.
This bar from above has a nice arched opening and antiqued mirror backsplash. The mirror reflects the space and the antiquing adds texture.
I hope this helps you understand the critical elements of a wet bar and inspires you to add one to your home, office or both!