From media rooms, lounge areas, and recreational spaces to guest suites, in-home gyms, and children’s playrooms, there are many ways to transform your blank-canvas basement into a finished, functional space that simplifies your life and makes it more enjoyable.
For homeowners who’ve always dreamed of having a grown-up space to entertain guests, a bar is often high on the list of basement renovation must-haves. Whether you’d like to create a full basement bar, a standing bar within a rec room, or a simple wet bar inside a game room, every basement bar begins with a plan.
Let’s explore five key design elements that will help you create the perfect basement bar:
1. Strike a Mood
The first — and arguably most important — element of design to consider when planning a basement bar is what sort of feel, ambiance, or atmosphere you’d like to create in your space.
Does your dream bar have a smooth, mellow vibe that matches a more modern aesthetic, or do you yearn for a full pub experience that transports you to the other side of the Atlantic?
Would you love to have your favorite beer on tap as you watch the game? Or are you an avid wine connoisseur with an endless collection of beautiful bottles you’re just longing to display?
Take time to contemplate the bar styles and moods that resonate most with you, and make a list of the qualities and details you’d like to replicate in your space. Whether you’d like your bar to match the aesthetic of the rest of your home or serve as a complete escape, your list helps guide every other element of design, from layout and materials to fixtures and lighting.
2. Pull Up a Stool
As the central element of any bar, your main counter and seating are a focal point of design as well as function. The standard bar counter is 42 inches high and 24 inches deep. The standard bar top, including the overhand, is 16-20 inches wide; it’s harder to pass drinks over extra-wide bar tops.
When considering the best countertop material for your bar, look for one that offers looks and functionality in equal measure. Ask questions and do your research — each countertop material has its own unique set of pros and cons (we’ve covered the benefits and drawbacks of quartz, soapstone, and wood countertops in recent weeks).
While most bar stools are 28-32 inches tall (seat to floor), you’ll want to make sure the stools you choose allow 12 inches of space between the seat and the bottom of the counter. You’ll also need 24-30 inches of bar space to accommodate each stool.
When selecting the best stools for your basement bar, remember that comfort and sturdiness are just as important as size and style. If you have the space to accommodate them, choose stools that have a slightly wider leg base and at least a small back for support.
3. It’s All in the Details
A basement bar’s inherent magic is its ability to transport you to another time and place from within the walls of your home. Creating the perfect ambiance may be a big part of that magic, but so is the experiential power that resides in the finer details.
Two of the most classic bar details are the foot rail and countertop molding. Bar molding is essentially a curved lip installed along the edge of the bar top that keeps drinks from sliding off; it also serves as a practical and comfortable place to rest your elbows.
A foot rail installed along the bottom of the bar about 7-9 inches above the floor gives guests the perfect place to rest tired feet, whether they’re standing or sitting on a stool.
From unique shelving for glassware and wallpapered alcoves to bold colors and statement lighting, you can find plenty of detail-oriented inspiration for your basement bar on interior design sites across the web.
4. Light it Up — in Layers
As the traditional way to light bars, pendant lighting works well over nearly all bar top styles. Most bars look best with a series of three or four evenly spaced pendants centered above the countertop; just be sure they’re hung high enough for optimal head clearance.
If you have a back work counter for making mixed drinks, it also needs good lighting — just like the food prep areas of your kitchen. Recessed task lighting works well over drink prep areas, as does ambient under-cabinet lighting.
If you’re really looking to strike an atmospheric mood, consider installing LED lighting. Highly versatile LED light strips allow you to illuminate virtually any area of your bar; they even let you change the color of the lights when you’re ready for something different.
5. Mix, Dispense, Pour
No basement bar design is complete until it addresses the very thing it exists to serve: drinks. Even if you’re not inclined to create a well-stocked bar with multiple beer taps, a full wine rack, and an array of spirits for mixed drinks, you can still offer a little bit of everything.
If mixed drinks are your specialty, make them the center of attention: display them on the back wall of the bar over a spacious work counter where you’ll do most of your mixing. Similarly, if wine is your drink of choice, you might consider installing a wine cooler wall behind your bar.
And if you prefer draft beer above all else, give your bar a full beer tap system, including taps, a drip tray, keg lines, and a kegerator to keep your beer cold.