Basement Bar Design: A Tour of the Parade of Homes

BIAEvery year, builders in cities around America get together in new neighborhoods and construct a cluster of show-off houses. Maggi and I go just about every year to the one in Columbus, and this year was no exception. And no, we are not in the market for a new house, but we do find it interesting and a source of good ideas for decorating. The number and over the topedness of the homes in each year’s Parade is also a good indicator of the state of the general economy. (Don’t tell anyone, but the economy sucks right now.)
For the last several years, one feature that many of these show homes have boasted is a Basement Bar. There weren’t as many as in years past, but the ones there were ran a gamut of ideas and I thought I’d run a quick discussion here of the Basement Bar design themes that they illustrate.

Kevin Knight & Co.
First on the list is a house by Kevin Knight & Co. The whole house is built with materials like reclaimed cedar planking and has a huge Westchester or Martha’s Vineyard summer home vibe about it. The Basement Bar is mostly a wine room, but it possesses the most useful element, running water. You could mix a cocktail or two down here for guests who don’t like what you are tasting. Just beyond the counter-style bar is a lockable glass room with tons of shelving and climate control.
Kevin Knight & Co.
The coolest feature of the space, one I’ll employ should I ever get around to constructing my own cellar, is the small table in the center. It’s big enough for a foursome or so to stand around while showing off like the nouveau-riche tasting a special bottle. There is space for a favored work of art, and for a cheese board. I snark a bit on this, but a cellar like this really is meant to be shown off. You need a facility for accommodating friends, but not necessarily one designed for long term comfort.

Lakewood
Lakewood Builders constructed a very well designed Basement Bar. It has plenty of bar seating, a sink, a microwave, and a wine fridge. There is plenty of storage space and display shelving for all your prettiest bottles. The only thing this bar is missing from a functional standpoint is some facility for making ice. The only design element this bar lacks is some pizazz. It’s a great place to mix and enjoy drinks, but there is nothing to make people talk.
Fortunately, the decorator addressed this shortcoming with a suit of armor….

The next house, from the Stafford Group, has two semi-bar areas.
Stafford1
The house does not have a finished basement, but it has a large recreation room that would make a fine mantuary, if your wife doesn’t appropriate it for a sewing room first…. You reach said room via a small hallway, and they have installed a little snack area/wall bar in that space. This kind of bar is a decent place to store your booze and mix cocktails, but it isn’t designed as a place to hang out in and of itself. If you make a bar like this, do it someplace convenient to where you will be drinking, as is the case here. Also, a bar like this out in an open traffic area will require a neater personality than I have, as well as some facility to discourage teenagers who may be running around.
Stafford2
The second space is an outdoor bar. Depending on where you live, this can be a lot of space and investment for a seasonal facility. This one is well laid out for both drinks and cooking out, as you can see.
What you can’t see in this picture is the cautionary tale here. This bar top is a very expensive natural stone. If you decide to go with granite or marble for your bar top, be sure to ask your fabricator very specific questions about where they intend to put the seams in the stone. If you don’t, you may end up with a terribly obvious seam like the one on this bar top. It is directly in the center of the surface, and screams for attention.

Not every Basement Bar is a success. This one, to be found in the basement of the Duffy entry, is about as practically useful as the suit of armor shown earlier.
Duffy
The stools are too small and rickety to comfortably sit on, and there is not enough space behind there to get in and do anything, much less mix a complicated cocktail. In fairness to Duffy, just like the suit of armor in the Lakewood Basement Bar, this bar is actually a decorator tchotchke. There are plenty of small bar-in-a-piece-of-furnitures out there that are very practical, though. If you want to go this way with your bar, just spend some time behind it pretending to mix, and see if the one you are looking at is ergonomically sound.

Romanelli1
Now, Romanelli & Hughes has built themselves a serious drinker’s house. I’ll focus on the magnificent pub in the basement first, but it’s not the only booze room in the house.
There is a massive amount of (expertly seamed) stone countertop here. The material chosen looks great in the low light of the basement too. The flatscreen is placed well to be seen by everyone at the bar, and the rest of the room (equipped with poker table) too. There is a wine fridge, dishwasher, and microwave too, in addition to the sink. There is still no ice making device, even in this tricked out facility. Get with the program people! There is ample cabinet storage here, enough that you could easily give up some of it for a built in ice maker.
But aside from the general attractiveness of the bar, and its commercial quality pub stools, the thing to look at in this design is the back wall. Besides the TV, take a good look at the lighting. If you can’t afford a builder making you quite this level of bridge for your good ship Mancave, you can still get a lot of this look fairly easily and cheaply in a do-it-yourself endeavor. Most of it is done with cheap and simple to install puck lighting. The shelves for the liquor bottles were what really caught my eye, and taught me a little something.
Romanelli and hughes
I always thought to get this kind of look with shelves that you had to make them out of plexiglass and light them from below—a complicated process. But as you can see, you can simply place low profile rope lighting at the back of each shelf and get just as nice a look. Lighting through, instead of under, your bottles in this fashion will save you mucho dinero and lots of time as well.
Besides this bar, which dominates the basement, there is a very interesting wine cellar just off of the kitchen on the first floor. It has a designer window that lets you see right in from the kitchen and great room. It has lots of shelving, as well as a climate controlled wine cabinet appliance. The only problem with this design, and it might just have been temporary with the Parade going on, was with the overall air conditioning of the room. With that wine cabinet running in the confined space, the air in the room itself was way too hot to store good wine for any length of time. The lesson here is to remember that if you put in an expensive wine cabinet, remember it will heat the room it is in pretty thoroughly.
Sorry, no picture. All mine came out too blurry.

NEHomes
The last bar design, and another instructive one, is in the New England Homes house. This small, but well appointed, little bar is actually the nicest closet bar I’ve ever seen. A closet bar is sort of a glorified butler’s pantry for the cocktail enthusiast. It is a bar set up in a closet, into which you disappear when guests are present, returning with conversational lubricant. The wall bar I detailed in the Stafford house above is another form of closet bar.
The above picture doesn’t show how small this set up is. The next picture better shows the scale of this little gem.
New England Homes
Most closet bars don’t have seating. Those three sturdy stools are a neat addition, and allow the space to do occasional mancave duty. Note all the storage, wine fridge, and mini beer kegerator, as well as the sink. Since it’s right off the kitchen, the lack of an icemaker is no big deal.

I have one final picture to show you.
Portakleen
The last thing anyone wants is people using the bathrooms in all these homes during the parade, so there are portapotties set up in a muddy vacant lot to accommodate the guests. This is a portapotty, folks. If you are holding an event that requires such facilities and want me to come, please hire these guys!

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Here’s a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:

About the author

Doug

I am 48 years old, married with two young daughters. My interests are tennis, reading, computers, politics, and of course cocktails. I run a murder mystery party business that caters to both corporate and private events, Killing Time, murder consultants.

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