Basement Bar Design #8: Artwork

Bare walls suck. There I said it, and it’s true. When you are working on your Basement Bar, selecting appliances, fighting with plumbers, getting your cabinets just right, and stocking it with the finest liquors in all the land, remember that it will all look and feel like a low-rent dive without the right artwork on the wall.

Oh, quit sounding like such a woman!
This is going to be my Mantuary! Or maybe my mixological laboratory! Both, actually. I need to spend my money on gas-powered blenders or eight different bottles of Single Malt. Why should I waste good money on pretty pictures?

Your wife is out of town, right?
Anyway, it doesn’t matter. You’re not understanding my thesis here: I’m not talking about making your Basement Bar look pretty; I’m talking about making it look finished. No artwork on your walls will make it look like a construction site. And the wrong artwork will make it look like a renovation in progress. This doesn’t mean you need to make your joint look like MOMA (or even BOMA), but you are going to need something to fill your walls, and that something might as well do something to make the rest of your hard work look better and feel more enjoyable.

Can’t you just feel the vibe, Man? Let’s party!

Now, wall art can be lots of things, of course. It can be paintings or photographs. It can be wall-mounted sculpture. It can be lights or illuminated signage. It can be new or old, framed or unframed. What you choose should relate to the rest of the choices you are making in designing your Basement Bar. I’ve been hinting around about an overall design sensibility in setting up your Basement Bar throughout this series, and this post is a little more explicit about it. You need to have an idea ofyour bar’s personality and its origins.

Not recommended for a
Regan’s Orange Bitters
type of joint.

It could depend on what you are mostly going to serve. Is your bar built around a tap, or even two? Then a cool neon sign from Heineken or Budweiser (the King of Belgian Beers) could really dress up a wall. Wine your thing? Posters from some wineries, or bottle display racks may be just the ticket. Perhaps, as is probably the case if your are a regular reader here, you are more the craft cocktail kinda mixer? Then try some vintage liquor advertisements, or one of the eleven billion cocktail glass sculptures out there that strikes your fancy.

It’s important to
be thematically

Perhaps your Basement Bar also serves another recreational purpose. Home theaters deserve some cool movie posters or pictures of movie stars. Or both. (see left)
Got a pool table? That cue rack does double duty; the beer signs work here too, or some billiard themed artwork.
If your biggest investment is the giant television, and the front of your bar is a brick wall, covered with ivy, a trip to will fill the bill nicely.
Plenty of other entertainment options lend themselves to specific paintings, posters, and knicknacks. The point is, if you are going for a theme, it won’t work without stuff on the walls.
Once you have an idea of the kind of items or images you are looking for, where do you find them? There are lots of places, and each has its own charms. Choose the ones that work for you, while keeping in mind that a day here and there pursuing some of them may score you points with a spouse or significant other. Arts festivals, flea markets, antique dealers, even garage sales can yield great fruit. They can also be a dry hole on any given day, but I refer you back to my previous statement about scoring bonus points. Art galleries can be fun, especially on wine and cheese nights. If you find the right one, you’ll have a field day. Be patient with options like these. Go with the intent to shop, not necessarily to buy. Tomorrow is another day!
There are tons of resources on-line, of course. eBay, Amazon, and AllPosters are a few. A really cool site I recently found online is called Red Bubble. It is a print-to-order site for artists to sell their work online. You can find an incredible variety of surprisingly good photographers and artists that you’ve never heard of before on Red Bubble. As this post is useless without lots of pictures, I’ll show a couple of examples below. A leisurely browse around will yield you something that triggers your theme.

A final option I’ll include here, if you have a little talent of your own, is this: Rather than decorate your walls, try decorating your walls. There is a mind-boggling variety of things you can do on a blank wall with paint and tape or stencil. Or with freehand brushes if you have what it takes. I’ll offer a great exemplar from a blog by the name of lolly-tots Crafty Goodness. (That’s a blog name I’ll bet you would have never expected me to link to!) Of course, you can also hire one of the legions of talented muralists near you to do the work, if you lack either the talent or guts to do it yourself.
I’ve blasted out a bunch of ideas here, but they are just a tiny part of your options. The real point of this post is to start you thinking. Care and time spent deciding what you want, and then finding it, will definitely pay off. Even though wall decor should not be a major focus or expense in outfitting your Basement Bar (unless your theme is Art Gallery), it is vitally important. After all, there are only two dashes of bitters in a Pegu, but without them… eugh.

If you want to follow this specific series of posts on the Pegu Blog, you can subscribe to our Basement Bar feed here. Or you can just subscribe to the entire blog, with all its brilliant content, here!
Here’s a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:
[catlist id=47 orderby=title order=ASC numberposts=-1]


  1. Mary

    2 December

    Hi there, Thanks for the linkage on my bit about wall art. I like how you mentioned how a blank wall makes the place look like a low-rent dive (so true!). Even a bachelor’s pad needs a bit of style.

    You have some pretty good tips here too. Movie posters would make a great piece of art.. especially bond movies. oh yeah.

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  2. Doug

    2 December

    Blank (white) space is critical to have in good design, but it is not really a design element, is it? It’s power is in accentuating what you want people to see. If there isn’t anything to accentuate, it still accentuates. It just points out rather painfully that there is nothing to see here!

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  3. Ulysses Hutchison

    22 August

    In the beginning just remember it was darked and then someone smiled! try this:
    The universe is a figment of its own imagination. There’s no future in time travel. 🙂

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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