before & after: salvaged wood bar

Whoa. My jaw dropped when I saw this project in my inbox, and over the past week I’ve kept coming back to admire it and dream about a space where I could do something like this. Brooklyn-based interior designer Jen Chu and her boyfriend recently built out this reclaimed wood bar to act as a gathering space for interactive media company InTheMo. It was important for the company to have a casual, inviting space where employees, friends and clients could gather over a beer or coffee to discuss projects and ideas. But the space also needed to provide a lasting impact and accommodate larger social events and film screenings.

Jen did an incredible job creating a space that could serve these multiple functions, and she struck the perfect balance between friendly coziness and modern elegance. Plus, she managed to keep the costs reasonable by using salvaged materials from Craigslist and budget-friendly furniture and fixtures. The results are gorgeous! I could easily spend all my time here: working, playing or just hanging out. Amazing job, Jen! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Brought to you by CB2, who’s giving you the chance to win a $15,000 Novogratz Room Makeover. Now through June 15.

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: about 2 weeks

Cost: $6,000 for all the materials and fixtures

Basic Steps: Like most people, we started by collecting inspiration images. Even though we were building a bar in a very tech-savvy office, we wanted to give it a rustic feel to contrast that. Most of the inspiration rooms incorporated reclaimed materials and industrial or vintage fixtures, which was a great direction to go in for a big bar on a budget. We drew out some plans in SketchUp but found that the most useful way to determine the perfect footprint was just to tape it out on the floor.

First, we built the back of the bar, which would serve as storage workspace for a bartender. There will eventually be beers on tap and more refrigeration, so we stuck to a very simple structure mode of plywood that could easily be altered in the future to accommodate their needs.

We had barely enough reclaimed wood to wrap around the bar, so we cut it into smaller pieces to minimize waste and stacked the planks in a contemporary pattern. The footrest was covered in steel, and the bar top was given a contrasting trim and a high-gloss finish. We stained some slightly moldy wood lathe 15 different colors, which gave it the perfect patina. We staggered the pieces and nailed them to the wall surrounding the custom liquor shelf. I ordered custom-cut mirrors for the back of the shelf, and we hung pendants across the length of the bar.

If you don’t have the time and/or budget to buy lots of unique vintage pieces, sometimes classic industrial furnishings and fixtures can give you a similar feel. My favorites are industrial supply and academic supply websites. Everything is really affordable, and they ship nationwide.

Take your time roaming through home improvement stores. Sometimes you’ll come across the perfect material that you didn’t know existed or hadn’t thought of using. Also, get a really good respirator. All the sawing produced a massive amount of dust. A lot of reclaimed wood has old paint, mold, and dried animal waste stuck to it, so protect your lungs!

Figure out where you’re going to put your trash ahead of time. It’s amazing how much scrap lumber and general construction waste accumulates on a job of this size. Finally, always have a few cookies stashed away for those late night hours of exhaustion and despair. :) — Jen

Reclaimed wood: Various vendors that we found under the “materials” category of Craigslist
Lumber and metal for bar and cabinets: Home Depot
Stains and varnish: 10 different Minwax wood stains (our favorites being Classic Gray and Dark Walnut)
Pendants: The Foundary (on sale)
Sink and faucet: Overstock
Stools: School Outfitters
Moose: Lowe’s

  1. matthew says:

    Wow, this is beautifully done.

  2. Jo McCarthy says:

    Rustic Tech…..absolutely love it!

  3. jodi says:

    that is absolutely fantastic!!

  4. Courtney says:

    Beautiful job! I love the contrast between the rustic wood and the high gloss finish on the bar top.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Anyone know of a DIY tutorial for creating a salvaged wood wall like shown here?
    I’ve seen those more and more and would love to know some different ways to do it.

  6. Kathleen says:

    When I saw this my exact words were ” WHAT? NO WAY!!!”
    So beautiful and unexpected

  7. Jillian says:

    This is SO Impressiv and very inspirational – love the wood world!

  8. eric says:

    beautiful project. the varying textures and colors are wonderful.

  9. This is the BEST before and after I’ve ever seen. EVER!

  10. Linsi says:

    what a change ! Good job !

  11. Susan says:

    Whoa, incredible!

  12. Diane says:

    Incredible! I did a double-take when I saw those stools— We used to sit on them in art class in school! It’s really cool to see them used so well in a new setting.

  13. Gorgeous! I dream of incorporating a bar into my dining room… and now my dream bar looks a lot like this!

  14. Oscar says:

    Fantastic job! I really want to take a visit!

  15. Marion says:

    Wow, that’s awesome! Great work!

  16. Absolutely amazing. Fantastic job!!!

  17. Simon says:

    The finish on the counter top is stunning. was that bought or did they do that as well?

  18. Homeroad says:

    I love this! Beautiful wood, it is timeless and gorgeous!

  19. paul says:

    gorgeous!! where are the stools from?

  20. Joy Smith says:

    Love it and want to do this with one wall of my kitchen for a coffee bar!

  21. Grace kim says:

    This is great. Love all the differences in color~

  22. Tara says:

    It’s amazing! Love it. One question – did you have to pull permits to do the work? I only ask because here in San Francisco this would require permits (due to plumbing, electrical and building fixed elements) which would make this pretty much twice the cost listed above. Not that I plan on building a bar in my house anytime soon…
    Still – very, very lovely. My office is jealous of your office. ;)

  23. Love all the different wood stains…such a great feel! What office wouldn’t benefit from a bar like that? Awesome!

  24. Janet says:

    Where can you get barstools like that?

  25. Nadia says:


  26. So this on pinterest, very nice…

  27. VIRGINIA says:

    There are many stools available on the School Outfitters website. Here is a link to a stool that is similar to the one shown in the above pictures. Enjoy!

  28. monika says:

    WHOA! That’s some serious talent! I’m in awe and green with envy–all at the same time. I went through those pics several dozen times as the transformation is incredibly hard to believe. Jaw-dropping in execution and price tag. BRAVO!

  29. Stacy says:

    Second the request for links to a tutorial! *OR* can you tell us what has to be done to prep/treat the wood? (I really want to cover a couple of walls in my SF apt w/ reclaimed wood.)

    This is so amazingly beautiful, I had to come back a few days later and look at it again!

  30. la jardinier says:

    totally and completely inspired for the bar i am dreaming up in our tasting room….beautiful

  31. Very original – just love it!

  32. Ms. Clean says:

    As my mother often says about such projects, “How am I going to clean that (rough wood)?”

  33. Per the requests for DIY tutorials, here are two links I found that will give you some ideas:

    For the Bay Area folks, as a former SF apt dweller who did not have access to all the power tools needed to create some of these creations, check out reclaimed lumber dealers like Bug at Heritage Salvage in Petaluma

    He might be able to mill something for you that you can just install on your own.

    We can do it too, but depending on the size of the project, shipping costs can be prohibitive.

  34. Jo Kin says:


  35. Amazing transformation! There’s nothing better than preserving the history and charm of reclaimed wood ~

  36. Joe says:

    Those stools looks just like the ones here:

    I actually want to say that those might be them. Very nice looking furniture!


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