There is something I just love about a stylish bar cart. Our home in Los Angeles doesn’t have the space for one, so when my husband and I purchased an apartment in NYC, the first thing I bought for it was a bar cart. Although we’re not big drinkers, I love the concept of having a small entertaining area stocked with a few cocktail tools and libation essentials. Bar carts are clearly functional, but when styled right they can also become a chic focal point in your living room or dining room. Today I’m sharing how to style a bar cart and turn it into the central point of any party (even if that party is just for one or two).
How to Style a Bar Cart
For me, the key to cart styling is to keep things simple. Start with cocktail essentials, add in glassware, then fill in gaps with decorative objects, plants, or anything that matches your overall design aesthetic.
Choose a Bar Cart
Before you can even start to style your bar cart, you need to have one. When choosing a bar cart, the most important thing is that it must fit within the space where you plan to put it. Do you want your bar cart to be a focal point in a room or liven up an otherwise dead corner? If you already own a lot of cocktail items, do you need a cart with more shelving than another style? If you are dealing with a tight space, you can even get a small shelving unit to act as one of your side tables and a bar cart. Keep in mind that wheels and handles also play into the size of your cart.
Our bar cart is high enough to serve as a mixing/prep area, has hanging space for glasses to utilize empty vertical space, and has a small round middle shelf to store tall bottles. It’s a great piece of furniture that’s super functional and holds a lot despite it’s relatively thin profile. I love it.
Shop bar carts at Urban Outfitters
Start with The Essentials
A bar cart is first and foremost, for entertaining with drinks, so make sure you have the essentials: a cocktail shaker, a jigger for measuring, a bottle opener, and a mixing glass and spoon.
Contrary to what you may think, you do not have to stock your bar cart with every type of booze out there. Trying to figure out what kind of alcohol to buy for your bar cart can be overwhelming and expensive. Pick a couple of drinks that you like and buy the proper ingredients for them. You don’t have to learn how to make every cocktail in the universe; there is something super sophisticated about pouring up a signature cocktail with ease and really perfecting it.
A lot of cocktails have the same alcohol base, so alternatively, you can grab a few “basic” bottles like vodka, gin, and tequila and find cocktail recipe ideas that use those as their foundations. (If you’re new at mixing cocktail at home, this is a great book for beginners.)
Decant Your Liquor Bottles
Transferring your alcohol into glass decanters is an easy, relatively affordable way to instantly elevate your bar cart.
Alcohol and liquor bottles, when put together, can tend to clash given their variety of colors. And – let’s be honest – many of the labels are not *aesthetically* pleasing. Clear glass decanters provide a much cleaner, chicer, and streamlined look. Utilize interior design fundamentals here and work in odd numbers. If you have multiple glass decanters, make sure they are different heights so that there is some visual interest.
You can find glass decanters for your bar cart at places like West Elm, Crate and Barrel, and even Etsy. You can even thrift them if you have the patience and time to wait for the right one(s).
Curate Your Glassware
Similarly, to purchasing alcohol, bar glasses can also get overwhelming. I recommend starting with these three types of glasses:
- Wine glasses
- Coupe glass (to use for champagne and select cocktails like martinis and Cosmopolitans)
- Old-Fashioned glasses (works for drinks on the rocks and other mixed cocktails like margaritas)
Look for glasses that are multi-functional and can work for a variety of cocktails, and then purchase specialty glasses if you find you need them.
You can also invest in a couple of fancier glasses, for functional pieces that also double as decorative items.
Less is more when styling your glasses on your bar cart. You don’t want to put all of them on your cart otherwise it’ll look really crowded. Display a few glasses in each style, then store the rest elsewhere.
Utilize a Tray
I’m a big fan of using trays to help section off specific areas. Depending on how you choose to style your bar cart, you may want to use a tray or two to help physically and visually define a separate area within your cart.
I have a round gold tray on the top of my bar cart to hold my glass decanter and bar tools, and then another on the bottom shelf to showcase my Cosmopolitan glasses, a wine decanter, and my cocktail recipe book.
Think of using trays as a way to organize chaos.
Use Fresh Ingredients as Décor
Liven up your bar cart area with fresh flowers or a small potted plant. (I love the idea of a plant with vines cascading down a cart!)
You can also turn cocktail ingredients into bar cart décor, too. Grab a decorative bowl and put your limes, lemons, and oranges on display.
Add Books and Trinkets
The last step to a stylish bar cart is adding those final décor touches with things like trinkets and books. This helps your bar cart fit in with other furniture in your space.
For me, our bar cart doubles as a little music area, so I have a record player and some records on hand as my trinkets.
I also utilize bookends to keep my records in place and have a candle and some cloth cocktail napkins on the top surface.
Try not to overstuff your bar cart with these items. Pick a few things, and let them stand out so that they can work in harmony with the functional pieces of your bar cart and your home décor.
Style with the Season
If you like seasonal decorating, here are a few tips to update your bar cart for special occasions:
- Trade some of your glasses for holiday glasses
- Fill a glass decanter with a more seasonal type of alcohol
- Hang or weave garland on your cart
- Add a scented candle that fits the season
- Remove any existing trinkets if you bring in holiday items to avoid cluttering your entertaining space
So there you have it! Remember to vary your heights, work in odd numbers, and when in doubt, less is more for a truly chic bar cart that offers fashion and function. Cheers!