Tips/Advice - Building a home bar with kitchen cabinets
This addition is not meant to be a comprehensive design outlet…..but to provide the basics and starting point for further decision making and research.
Building/Planning your home bar
Before starting the bar company in 2000/01, I originally designed kitchens for 10 years…..and sold over 600 projects. In that time, I also designed numerous home basement bar projects, second kitchens, or various kitchenettes or other small projects. Naturally, projects of this nature pale in comparison to the complexity of old English bar design – or my vision of it.
Fortunately, this experience in kitchen and home design prepared me for the installation issues and problems associated in furniture design and its next step toward permanent installation.
In some applications, bar cabinets work better then a movable piece of furniture. Yet, the typical gripe with cabinets is that ‘kitchen’ look. However, with a little ingenuity and effort, you can transform a basic set of cabinets into a reasonable home bar.
Reasons you might consider building a bar from stock cabinetry include:
- Ease of ordering cabinets to arrive within 14-40 days.
- Stock cabinets can be purchased from the home improvement stores, but will be value cabinets and not something worth purchasing long-term.
- Flexibility in designing a configuration that fits your needs.
- Ease of designing all your appliances in the bar.
- Wider choice of options – granite, stained color.
- Wide variety of budget options.
The cons in building from stock cabinetry
- Having to deal with the carpenter.
- Maybe since the housing boom is over – price, quality, service, and arrogance will come back to reality.
- The mess.
- Labor and materials can add up to be similar to a free-standing bar furniture unit.
Our company still sells cabinets. It’s the main staple of our business. Our store is over 40,000sqft stocked with 1000s of in-stock cabinets and hundreds of vanities. We sell our value cabinet line and deal primarily in one order line – Kabinart (don’t confuse this with Kraftmaid).
I want to briefly discuss Kabinart. For the few of you watching your budget and want a quality cabinet at a reasonable price, then Kabinart should be on your short-list. The cabinet is all-wood, features under-mount glides, hidden hinges, 5/8” dovetail drawers and should please 95% of the average customers.
Kabinart’s negatives include a lack of specialty pieces and a small selection of moulding/accessories. Kabinart does not serve the uber cabinetry niche....but is worth finding your local dealer for a price. It’s a price sensitive world now and saving money is a priority.
And I also wouldn’t classify Kraftmaid or Jim Bishop Cabinets as top-of-the-line either, but these companies would be your next step up. Your final step will be a total custom solution which then hinges on the quality, experience, and design of your custom fabricator.
Just because you have custom cabinets doesn’t make your job look better! A good designer can take stock cabinets, add a twist of custom magic, and create beautiful projects. The problem with that is finding the designer-installer.
I will say this….and pay attention closely. Any design whether it be kitchen or bar project will hinge primarily on your attention to detail…..your design around the cabinets, use of other elements, lighting, countertops, flooring, etc. Your cabinets, although important, must work with the other elements to make a ‘scene’. Buying the best cabinets will not make the best design.
So, to summarize
- ‘Value’ stock cabinetry.
- Typically in-stock at your big box stores.
- Made-to-order, stock cabinetry.
- Some made to order companies will accept custom requests.
- Some made to order companies have a wider selection of pieces for construction.
- Sometimes called semi-custom.
- Custom solution.
So, you want to buy cabinets and make a bar….where should I go?
If you just want a simply project without much flair, then a Big Box designed project might be what you want. Yet, don’t expect the Big Box employee to be a ‘designer’. They are trained – trained in how to provide a quality kitchen project with little trouble. Each store will likely have their ‘expert’ that has actually stayed around 5+ years. Again, this is hit or miss. I’m not totally discounting the Big Box employee, but this is the place a lot of kitchen designers will break a tooth.
If you really want to step outside the Box, then you need to visit your smaller shops. They may charge for their designs or have other fees, but ultimately your budget will make the final decision.
Finish Top-coat on cabinets versus furniture.
In 2005, we started an experiment that measured the durability of our finish to other importer finishes AND the standard stock cabinet lacquer finish. Obviously, you can see from the results how fast the lacquer broke down.
I’m not here to argue for or against cabinet finishes. They meet a standard that is acceptable and will likely last 20+ years. In our experiment, we had the glass sitting on top of the finish 24/7. In vertical cabinetry, this isn’t the case. After you have your cabinets installed, you use a standard laminate countertop, some synthetic stone version, or actual stone.
Tips on making simple cabinetry look more like a bar.
Use base moulding at the bottom of the peninsula.
Use cabinet doors or shadow-box the side veneer.
Sometimes the cabinet company will sell premium ends called furniture grade ends.
You must use a crown moulding!
Use of corbels.
Mouldings or moldings – crown, base, accents, corbels.
I will argue that your design primarily hinges on MOULDING!!! Proper use and detail of moulding is critical to a high-quality installation or design. Why do you think our designs look so good? Our moulding changes are endless……I never cease to experiment with new designs, build-ups, or profiles.
I believe the biggest mistake in most new designs today centers around their lack of moulding detail. It’s awful…..too small or just not enough. Honestly, I don’t understand how something so obvious is so neglected.
Occasionally, you will see a moulding too big….yet, this is hard to find. Sometimes, I will see a moulding that is out of proportion. In this case, they will push out horizontally too far without making a vertical transition UP. This makes the crown look funny. If you want large crown, you have to proportion the transition in height by a vertical move….not just big.
The end of any cabinet should not be left flat. Again, another minor detail that is often overlooked by others. The ends of all cabinets should look as if they finish with details, not a lack of detail.
It could be as simple as buying a cabinet door ($30-$150), shadow box it, or any other stock/custom moulding.
I remember a Horchow vanity from their catalog that was about $1400……and it had flat side panels. I just don’t understand if promoting quality and heirloom status, how this can be ignored?
Designing a canopy into a bar cabinet installation.
There are no rules here…..nor instructions. A cabinet shop/manufacture is not going to have such a unique piece…..
If you plan to design a canopy into a home bar constructed with cabinets, you can expect to call an experienced carpenter.
There is a leading moulding manufacture called Enkeboll. They design and manufacture mouldings, accents, corbels, and a wide variety of accessory pieces to complement a home bar project. Of course, there are others……but I’ve been particularly impressed with a few trade magazine articles.
I’ve included two custom-made bars using Enkeboll products to highlight what a high-quality constructed job would look like.
The first design is more of a stand-alone project assembled with Enkeboll’s mouldings in more of a custom furniture project.
The second design is more of a cabinet installation mixed with moulding to make a permanent bar. Although this installation likely involved custom cabinets, you can construct this bar idea using stock standard cabinets and moulding. The basic cabinet installation would not be that difficult. The lower section wrapped in moulding would also not be that difficult. The bar tabletop and canopy would likely take the greatest time (and money). If you like what you see, they probably call the main piece an arched valance.
Recently, I was watching an episode of Flipping Out from Bravo…….and I saw Ryan and a client discuss a magazine advertisement from Enkeboll. It was an elaborate 10’-12’ kitchen centerpiece centered around the oven.
I have to admit I am guilty of watching this crazy show…..Jeff reminds me of an old boss when I worked on Hilton Head Island.
Obviously, these designs are impressive….and as such, you should expect the cost will also be impressive. The client in the show was spending millions.
There are other moulding and corbel manufactures……and it seems there are more and more each year. If you are on a tight-budget, you can find other alternatives to Enkeboll. Just check the search engines for moulding, molding, corbels, etc.
Technically, there really isn’t much to discuss about a custom bar-type canopy. It could be designed as a furniture piece or it could be as simple as a hanging 2x4 structure covered in veneers and moulding.
Glazes, Cabinet Doors.
The picture to the right is a basic run of cabinets 60” with a simple 4” crown moulding. Although this cabinet run is for an office, the leaded glass doors would look good in a proper setting. Also, notice the doors in this picture are not full-overlay. You still see the frame.
The cabinets above in the Enkeboll features full-overlay doors….and you don’t see much of the frame.
Cabinet Accents and Corbels sold by The English Bar Company.
If you decide to go the cabinet route, we will be adding various mouldings & corbels specifically for bar installation in 2009. Since 2005, we’ve used our bar wood excess to laminate and make large beautiful corbels.Take a look at a corbel from us and some Asian importer.
|These are actual pictures from our corbels and theirs.|