best of

best of bars and bar carts

by Maxwell Tielman

A few Best-Of posts ago, I discussed the somewhat ambiguous relationship between collecting and hoarding. Although the traits of each vary, what often sets collectors apart from hoarders is their choice of display. While there are certainly exceptions to every rule and nobody should make generalizations, collectors seem to more consciously display their various accumulations in beautiful, thought-provoking ways. Hoarders, on the other hand, seem to be less discriminating in the way that used styrofoam cups, shoelaces, broken toys, obsolete devices and dead cats are given equal consideration in their homes.

It’s amazing what a good display can do. It can make all the difference between an informed collector of biological curiosities and a total psychopath with bones and animal corpses strewn about his basement. The same goes for everyday items like books. When you walk into a friend’s house and see reading material arranged artfully along a series of beautiful hardwood bookshelves, you can rest assured that this person is likely a clear-thinking, rational human being. If you walk into a friend’s house only to find various books and magazines stacked in misshapen piles around every room, you know that concealed jars of urine can’t be far away.

The above is definitely true of alcohol. If you buy bottles of top-shelf liquor only to leave them on coffee tables or perched atop TV sets à la undergraduate frat boys, don’t be surprised when your guests ask where the beer pong table is or worse, refer you to a counselor. Whether or not you are, in fact, a popped-collar frat boy or a closeted booze fiend, it’s always best to impart your chosen lifestyle with a touch of class — in the form of a bar cart! Bar carts and at-home bars are wonderful for two reasons: 1) They make your home instantly more inviting. No longer will guests be confused about where to congregate at parties or what to do if the conversation suddenly goes south. 2) They make you look like a connoisseur, a person who appreciates the finer things in life — even if all you have is a bottle of Georgi Vodka and some Mountain Dew. Never underestimate the power of a good display!

To celebrate the beauty of bar carts and to bid adieu to the last days of summer, I’ve chosen some of the best examples of at-home bars and bar carts from the Design*Sponge archives. May they guide you as you plan your own end-of-summer parties and upcoming autumn soirees! Also, be sure to check out our Behind the Bar archives for some choice drink ideas! Cheers! — Max

Image above: Zoe Johns and Max Catalano transformed a midcentury console into a chic bar by placing a gold tray with various libations on top of it. The bar also doubles as storage for tumblers and drinking glasses when they aren’t in use.

Image above: Photographer Jen Altman adds a touch of glamor and decadence to her family’s Park Slope home with this glimmering bar cart.

Image above: Jane Cameron of Fête Magazine created a beautiful yet low-key bar with a junk-shop table and a simple wooden tray.

More bar cart inspiration after the jump . . . 

Image above: Designer Kristen Davis used a coat of pink paint and some wrapping paper to transform a drab yard sale table into a cute bar fit for any party.

Image above: Photographer Raya Carlisle created a cheerful makeshift bar in her kitchen through a combination of small trays, beautiful glasses and bright color.

Image above: Caitlin and Eric Flemming illustrate how practically any surface, even a bookshelf, can be turned into an attractive space for serving drinks.

Image above: The bar cart in the corner of Kimberly and John Canale’s living room creates a warm and inviting atmosphere and lets guests know that it’s okay to sit back, relax and linger.

Image above: Photographers Andrew and Gemma Ingalls use a writing desk as a bar large enough to accommodate even the most intimidating crowd.

Images above: Blogger Joslyn Taylor created a charming multifunctional bar in the space between rooms through the use of wallpaper, paint and some complementary accessories.

Image above: Blogger Monica Cruz-Hernandez transformed a rusty old bar cart from a yard sale into a beautiful like-new serving station with storage to spare!

Image above: Paul and Megan Wilkes use a brightly colored vintage bar cart in their Dallas home.

Image above: A windowed cabinet doubles as a miniature bar in Kate and Alden Woodrow’s home. Cocktail books and go-to favorites are kept on top, while additional liquors and glasses are stored below.

Image above: Naomi Stein, owner of the boutique construction firm Design Manifest, created a glamorous nook for a vintage bar cart she won at an auction.

Suggested For You


  • the first shot with a picture of the sea really looks like i could be looking out of a window to see that lovely view. xox

  • Chicago freelancer Lauren Viera has the coolest vintage bar cabinet, it too has glass doors like the cabinet above. It’s also lit inside.

    I think lighting matters for cocktail cabinetry and makes your storage unit more of a conversation piece. Btw, this storage ideas work for yarn too!

  • I’ve been on the look out for a good bar cart, but now that I’m seeing all these creative alternatives, maybe I’ll just clear some space and invest in a good tray for the short term. Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

  • I don’t appreciate your comments in paragraph two. I realize you are trying to be clever but you didn’t achieve it here. A neat person is not necessarily a sane person and an untidy one is not necessarily an incipient lunatic!

    • Dorothy: Oh, I am well aware. As somebody who struggled with OCD for much of his childhood, especially as it pertains to obsessive neatness, I can attest to the fact that tidiness is not necessarily symptomatic of mental stability. However, I feel it’s much better to poke fun at oneself than to dwell on the negative things. It’s was certainly not my intention to have my somewhat hyperbolic statements taken completely seriously. As you rightly pointed out, it was an attempt at humor and I apologize if this particular bit of it was not to your taste.

  • I love seeing what kind of liquor other peeps are drinking! I’m partial to tequila but apparently it’s not popular among the design community from the looks of the bar carts you’ve got here! ;)

  • I love the pics! The only disagreement I’d have is the artfully arranged books part. One can never have too many books, and although artfully arranged is nice, it always makes me wonder if they’re just props and actually read. I’ve known many a sane person to have them scattered everywhere. It just means they’d rather be reading than aiming for house perfection :)

  • Max, I appreciated the humor! It was a bit out of the ordinary and refreshingly down to earth (no offense design sponge, the writers just aren’t usually jokey). I was going to scroll past to the pictures but I noticed it was longer than usual and I had to see what the writer had to say about bar carts for 4 paragraphs.

  • Love this. My husband is a homebrewer so I’m always looking for ways to artfully incorporate various bottles, lab flasks & barware in our decor. Some great ideas here. Thanks!

  • I can’t help but brag about my own bar: http://bit.ly/RKfvIX

    My parents bought this 2 piece wardrobe for me in high school from an Amish shop. It was natural wood with very simple knobs. After schlepping it to my Brooklyn apartment, I painted it black and added crystal knobs. The lingerie drawer now holds napkins, jiggers, bar spoons, sugar cubes, coasters, etc. The large sweater shelf holds more than enough bottles and an ice bucket and the upper shelves allow for every kind of glass one would need for pretty much any cocktail. Cheers!

  • I’ve discovered that piles of books everywhere is also an apparently incurable symptom of a humanities PhD in progress… take heed and watch for the early warning signs before it happens to you or someone you love!

  • The first thing in this lovely post that I noticed was how many carts featured Hendrick’s Gin. Obviously these are people of refined taste!

  • Since I was a child, my favorite houses have always been the ones with books. Books everywhere. Books on built-in bookshelves. Books in battered bookcases. Books stacked on the stairs. No matter how they’re arranged, books add warmth and humanity to a house. They say, “a reader lives here.” And he pisses in the toilet.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.