It’s been years since trendsetters declared the comeback of the bar cart as a living room fixture.
But as Washington interior designer Skip Sroka says, “Bar carts never left. They have always, always been around. Anyone who has been hospitable has one somewhere.” Stand-alone, movable bars are helpful for guests because they allow them to make their own beverages, but they also help hosts delegate drinks while they manage the other details of hospitality.
“There’s no good manners in asking your hostess for a drink,” Sroka says.
Think about width and where you will put it, whether you want to see the liquor bottles or whether you want them behind closed doors. And what about wheels? If you want to move the cart from the dining room to the living room occasionally, you might want the ability to roll. It seems that every home-furnishings retailer sells bar carts now, so there’s one to match every style.
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Even more proof that the bar cart is here to stay: Kevin Sharkey finally bought one. The executive editorial director of decorating, home and style for Martha Stewart Living loves a good cocktail party but has lived with a silver tray on a sideboard for years. Last month, he decided it was time for his own serving station.
“You don’t think a bar cart is an essential, but it is becoming an essential,” Sharkey says. “You don’t seem pretentious anymore if you have a bar cart. It’s not just a trend; it’s really a modern way of living.”
Some bar cart possibilities:
▪ A clear bar cart blends into the background, adding a useful hosting tool without adding visual clutter. The SAIC Tonic Bar Cart, designed by students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, recedes into a corner with its compact, triangular form — ready for a small dining room ($599, cb2.com). Bottom cubbies even hold 12 bottles of wine.
▪ Consider how the bar cart material will stand up to guests’ cocktail making. “Mirrored surfaces wipe up beautifully,” Sroka says, but spills on wood will add patina over time. (Note: Alcohol will etch marble surfaces.) The Noir Bar Cart, with its smoke-mirrored shelves and tubular metal, will endure the holiday season, summer cocktail season and more, ($599, crateandbarrel.com).
▪ “There’s a lot of personality going on with a bar,” Sharkey says. “The basic design should complement your collections, whether its alcohol or glasses. “It shouldn’t scream, ‘Look at me, first!’ It should just say, ‘Come over and make a drink.’” A wooden cart, such as the Blaine in walnut or cherry, makes for a warm, humble home for drink supplies ($499, roomandboard.com).
▪ As soon as Ikea debuted the trim little Raskog utility cart, bloggers and DIY-ers started testing its versatility, resulting in Raskog nightstands, craft stations, vanity carts, toy storage, bookshelves, potting benches and, of course, bar carts ($30, ikea.com).
▪ Sroka’s pick for a classic option is the Threshold Metal/Wood/Leather Bar Cart in gold ($130, target.com). “That’s really nice sort of transitional look,” he says. “You could mix that in a lot of interiors.” Railings prevent bottles from tipping.
▪ Look beyond home furnishing retailers for creative options, Sroka advises. Luxor, for example, manufactures specialty carts for work environments, but many of its utility carts could stand in as bar carts. The industrial feel comes with industrial function, too: The SSC-3 has casters with locking brakes, a one-inch lip around the top and middle shelves, and 300-pound carrying capacity ($148, webstaurantstore.com).
▪ If you think you might move the bar cart around, even seasonally, look for wheels, Sroka says. “I just think it’s a rather Jetsons-like convenience to roll your bar cart to whatever room you’re in, and that way nobody is having to go far. I think you should bring the good time to the group.” Shades of Light’s Rolling Bar Cart comes in black, turquoise and white, and also has a bonus lift-out serving tray ($490, shadesoflight.com).
▪ Small bar carts, such as the Monarch White Bar Cart, are ideal for tight spaces, but they can’t hold an entire bar’s worth of bottles and glasses ($136, overstock.com). Use them instead to set out ingredients for a special cocktail, designed just for the occasion, and teach your guests a new recipe. “Whatever you put out someone will use,” Sroka says. “Someone may prefer Scotch, but if you’re serving lemonade with iced tea and vodka and mint, then that’s what they’re going to drink.”
▪ We talked to Sharkey, decorating expert at Martha Stewart Living, days after he went bar cart shopping for his own apartment. The Gramercy Bar, from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, was the one that met his criteria: transitional style, medium size, open shelves and no wheels ($1,995, mgbwhome.com). “It’s not going to become dated,” he says.
▪ If your bar cart doesn’t have drawers, think carefully about the items you put on it, Sharkey says. Consider what you want to look at and what will save space. He recommends getting an all-in-one tool such as the Bar10der to reduce clutter (Stainless steel or vintage oak, $40, bloomingdales.com).
▪ Protect the surface of your bar cart (or the dinner table) and hold on to your cork with High Street Market’s Silver Wine Coaster With Cork ($26, highstreetmarket.com).
▪ What to stock for libation making? Besides glasses, Sharkey recommends a cutting board, bar towels, cocktail napkins, tray, strainer, shaker, bottle opener, jigger, knife and ice bucket. For an extra shot of style, see Kate Spade New York’s Raise a Glass Ice Bucket ($54, katespade.com).
Roberts is a freelance writer. She can be found at www.lindseymroberts.com.