The concept of an outdoor bar is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners, as the trend for home entertaining gathers pace. There are few things more fun and relaxing than hosting a party from your own back yard, especially when the evenings are warm and the air is full of the scent of flowers. If this idea appeals to you, and you want to look into it, where do you start?
What Type of Outdoor Bar?
Your first step, obviously, is to decide what type of outdoor bar you want. You could construct a permanent built-in bar, or decide on a portable outdoor bar set. If you are thinking of a built-in bar, obviously the location is all-important.
It could be on your patio if the patio is big enough, but remember to leave plenty of space for all the outdoor bar furniture you will need, plus room for guests. If you locate it in the garden, you could pick a spot that’s under a big tree, or a trellis or awning — but make sure it’s convenient for the house as well.
You also need to decide whether it’s going to be a dry or wet bar. A wet bar is equipped with running water, and possibly a refrigerator, ice maker, and even taps for beverages — and of course needs access to electricity and water supply. It’s a lot more expensive than a dry bar, and you would only really need it if you do a lot of partying.
A dry bar will have storage for bottled liquor, and perhaps have coolers for drinks. It will be all you need if you just have a few friends round from time to time. However, having a custom-built bar means it can be tailored to your exact requirements, whether dry or wet,simple or elaborate. You can usually find a local contractor to do this for you.
Stylish Outdoor Bar Sets
If you have less space to play with, or if you want more flexibility, many retailers are offering very stylish outdoor bar sets, which can be easily installed in your garden or on your patio.
Outdoor bar sets come in so many different designs and combinations that you will have no difficulty in finding one which will both fit into your available space, and complement your lifestyle and the style of your home. They are also available in a wide range of prices to suit every budget.
The most popular material for an outdoor bar is timber, especially hardwood like eucalyptus. Pine and cedar also look very attractive and elegant, although for all-weather use they need to be stained and given a polyurethane finish. Other often-used materials are wrought iron, steel and aluminum, which are particularly serviceable in less dry, sunny climates.
Outdoor Bar Furniture
The basic outdoor bar furniture you will need for your outdoor bar will comprise a bar, bar tables, and outdoor bar stools and/or chairs. Remember you don’t want to overdo the outdoor bar furniture. You don’t want everyone sitting down — there needs to be room for standing guests, so that they will move around and mingle.
A bar table is tall, with a small top and often with long spindly legs — it should be near the bar, so people can stand near it and put their drinks down on it. Outdoor bar stools can be both beside the bar and by the table. They can be found in all styles and shapes — with or without backs and arms, and even with footrests.
They can also have swivel seats, so that guests can easily turn round and talk to each other. As well as wood and metal, another very attractive material for outdoor bar furniture is rattan or wicker. There are a wide range of rattan outdoor bar stools available, with and without back and arms, as well as high rattan bar tables.
This type of rattan garden furniture often features a piece of tempered glass covering the table top, to provide a smooth surface and make it easy to clean.
Try an Outdoor Tiki Bar
If you are keen to add a touch of the exotic to your entertaining, and make your guests feel they are on vacation on a tropical island, you can decide on an outdoor tiki bar. This will usually have a bamboo structure and a thatched roof, with outdoor bar stools and bistro tables made of bamboo.
It can be built on a sand base, to give it the feel of being on a tropical beach, or on a wood base covered with sand, for a stronger foundation. Most tiki bars have open shelving. It’s not difficult to design your own outdoor tiki bar, by simply adding a bamboo panel to an ordinary wood bar, and erecting a thatch roof or canopy. Alternatively, you can assemble your outdoor tiki bar from a kit, or buy a ready-made one.
A Bar in an Outdoor Kitchen
As an alternative to having your outdoor bar as a separate unit, it can of course be part of an outdoor kitchen. Outdoor kitchens vary a lot, from very simple to very elaborate, but most will at least have a sink and cooking facilities, plus more comfortable seating.
Outdoor kitchens need quite a lot of space, unless they are very simple, but if space is limited, you have the option of converting the kitchen island into an outdoor bar. You can increase the overhang and height of the counter at the back of the island, to turn it into a serving and seating area.
The Most Versatile Outdoor Bar
Another attractive option for limited space is an outdoor bar cart on casters. This is obviously the most versatile type of outdoor bar of all, offering the ultimate in flexibility. An outdoor bar cart can be made of metal or wood, some in very pretty designs, varying from traditional to contemporary — most are rectangular, but some are circular. Most have two tiers, but you can also find them with built-in storage.
Kitting Out your Outdoor Bar
However large or small your outdoor bar may be, it can’t just sit there empty — it has to be kitted out. A small refrigerator is ideal, but if you don’t have power, you can keep buckets, either plastic or galvanized, filled with ice, for wine, beer and soft drinks, plus basic spirits and a variety of mixers.
One good idea is to mix one big cocktail and set it up in a dispenser so people can serve themselves — this means you can mingle, instead of mixing cocktails all the time.
You need a good supply of glasses — ideally good quality plastic, to save on breakages. Mix and match with different colors. Target sell acrylic wine glasses, including palm-tree sets, perfect for your outdoor tiki bar. Don’t forget napkins, a trash receptacle and bug spray.
Of course your party will carry on into the night, so you need the right lighting for your outdoor bar. Keep lighting warm and inviting, not bright and dazzling. Downlighting or accent lighting in different colors can be dramatic and effective.
There are plenty of reasons for having an outdoor bar, and it could be the best investment you ever made. Installing an outdoor bar can transform an ordinary back yard into a spectacular place of celebration. Every summer afternoon and evening will become an occasion — and you and your family will be the most popular folks in the neighborhood.
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