From IKEA to Elevated: A Bar Cabinet
The truth is, design is easy if you throw budget out the window. Well, it’s a whole lot easier. But we are in our 20s, living in Los Angeles, and simply do not have limitless funds. So, we have to get creative. And I think that is where design takes some finesse. I want to share with you how I took a simple cabinet from IKEA to classy bar case.
We like to make cocktails at home (Virgil was a mixologist at a high-end restaurant through college), and so we have quite a liquor collection. We used to have a bar cart to display our libations, but there simply wasn’t space for that in our teeny LA apartment. After some internet exploration, I zeroed in on this guy from IKEA.
The cabinet is a little bland, but more importantly, it is simple. It doesn’t have too much of an opinion but it does feel like it COULD be maybe a little bit vintage, like an old glass medicine cabinet. I like that about it. It comes with two glass shelves and you can put them anywhere you want — there are notches for the brackets that span almost the full height of the inside corners. We decided to arrange ours by “visual weight”: books on the bottom, liquor in the middle, and glassware on a shorter shelf up top.
Let’s begin with the main purpose of this cabinet, the alcohol. If you’re starting from zero, a simple way to build up your collection is to stock a favorite base liquor or two. Since this is a display piece, (and let's be honest, you’ll save tons of money in the long-run making cocktails at home rather than buying them out), go for at least mid-range liquors. A good rule of thumb is no plastic bottles ;) Look for labels with textured printing techniques liek embossing or spot gloss — they’re usually the better looking ones! It’s all personal preference, though.
Two of my favorites for display (and drinking) are Hendrick’s Gin and Espolon Tequila. We don’t drink a lot of vodka in the Gibilterra house, but Belvedere is a decent looking one. For whiskey/whisky, I like (the looks of) Hudson Baby Bourbon, Lagavulin, and Bulleit — Virgil is the one who drinks those. Next layer: the liquors that you’ll use to make those delicious cocktails. Our standbys are cointreau (for margaritas), Campari (for negronis), and some fun floral/herbaceous flavors like Greenbar Distillery’s Hibiscus Brandy, St. Germain, and Stregga.
If you can find a curated bottle shop like Hi—Lo Liquor in your area, they stock some fantastic looking and tasting liquors. Arranging the bottles with the tall guys in the back and the small guys in the front is a good rule of thumb. I stagger our bottles, too, so you can see more from a straight-on view.
Above the collection of liquor bottles lives our curated glassware assortment. We’ve accumulated a variety over the years, and have made a point to hit the important ones: wine, beer chalice, rocks glass, and coupes. What you drink your cocktails out of is totally personal preference. We use our stemless wine glasses and rocks glasses the most.
The iridescent coupes are from our wedding — we got them from Kindred Black, which is a vintage curator of sorts with ever-changing inventory. I would die if we broke one, so we don’t use them much. You can buy glassware all over the place, and it’s a great vintage buy because you can always clean and use glass, no matter how old and grimy it might be when you find it. Here are some other ideas, including our wine glasses.
For one more layer of personality and style (and spacial necessity in a very tiny apartment), we keep books on the bottom shelf. I choose books by content and cover design, as a collective whole. I think I see the spines of my books more than the actual inside, soooo… it’s important that they look nice shelved! Cocktail books are always a good idea for a bar cabinet, but I think it’s also nice to mix in some lifestyle ones of your choosing for a solid variety. I like to stand a bunch of the books straight up and down, and then use a stack of smaller ones as a bookend for those — a little vintage pot on top breaks up all the straight lines of the books with a curvy, dimensional shape. Also, more personality! Make it yours with things that you love.
The icing on the figurative bar cabinet cake is a sweet little keychain for the keys that hold the door closed. It has a latch that has to be turned to open the cabinet, so I keep the keys in the door. It needed some color against the gray painted metal and I love this terracotta woven keychain. Find one that speaks to you and choose a color that adds something new to the cabinet. It’s a really cheap way to make it feel a lot less IKEA. Here are some others I’d use! Maybe I’ll switch it up and use a light leather one.
Lastly, a potted plant on top adds some much needed life to our bar cabinet. We chose a pothos so the vines would slowly drape down the sides with time — this plant guy seemed to understand exactly what we were going for. Thanks for reading, happy Friday everyone!