DIY built-in bar

We had this niche in the basement, where the wall follows the outline of the fireplace upstairs. As soon as I saw it, I had to figure out the best way to use it.   A book shelf, cabinet, a banquette, a bench – I considered several options. That’s how this bar area in our basement came about. 

This looked like the perfect spot for a bar and a wine rack.

First, I had to narrow down the beverage fridge that would fit there. We toyed with the idea of putting in a full-sized fridge, but decided against it: it would be too oppressive, none would be a perfect fit and I was not willing to live something that protrudes several inches off the wall, and honestly, we did not need that my refrigeration down in the basement.  

We settled on this beverage fridge by KingsBottle.  It fit the space perfectly, measuring just under 25” in depth, which meant we would get the most built-in look. 

After I knew the hight of the fridge (34 1/4”), I could measure out the rest of the space and start planning. 

I used this tutorial for step-by-step instructions and it made it pretty easy to follow.

To create the support for the wine rack, I attached 1×2’s along the perimeter of the niche, followed by a horizontal piece of plywood that rested on them.  I added two more 1×2 pieces to go across t to create additional support for the structure.  The sides of the “cabinet” are also plywood, cut to 12” width and attached to the wall studs. 

I used 12”wide pine boards for the vertical pieces to create the three segments, attached to the side and the bottom with wood glue and pocket holes. 

Next was the most challenging part: making the 45 degree cuts for the wine rack.  The walls in this space are not perfectly straight, so I had to get creative with my cuts to make the shelves fit as perfectly as possible.  Unfortunately, I documented none of it, since I was so focused on getting it right and completely forgot to take process pictures.

I tried several different ways and found that using my circular saw set to cut at 45 degree gave me the most flexibility and control of how the cuts came out. 

Once the shelves were cut and ready, everything got primed and painted before assembling it. 

I used leftover paint from my office project, Valspar in Chimney Smoke.  It made the most sense to use this color, since it’s so similar to the color of the cabinetry in that space. The wine rack shelves are attached with pocket holes on the wall side and with wood glue and nail gun on the opposite side. Then everything got filled with wood filler and got another coat of paint.  

The horizontal shelves were the easy part: I used some scrap wood, sanded and stained it (I have this stain custom-tinted to Weathered Oak, it is my absolute favorite stain color!) followed by several layers of this top coat. Then I attached them to some shelving brackets sprayed with my favorite gold spray paint

Here comes my favorite part of the project: the gallery rail.  Every project needs a little drama, and I feel like this brass gallery rail with the cutest end posts elevates the wooden shelves so nicely! To cut the rail to size I used my coping saw.  I’m sure there are better and faster ways to do it, but this worked out just fine for me, and made me feel like I was “thinking outside the box”:) 

brass rail / end posts

Finally, the support for the counter was ready to go in.  I made it with 2×4, attached around the perimeter and across for extra support, with butcher block countertop cut to sit right on top. It is stained and sealed with the same products as the shelves for a cohesive look.  

brass rail / end posts

My original thought was to tile the back of this nook.  However, I discovered that the walls were jankier then anticipated, and that created sizable gaps on each side of the counter.  To remedy that, I had to scrap my idea of tiling and instead added the counter side splash made of the same butcher block material. In the end, I really like this look  and don’t miss the tile at all.  

Here it is, all finished and stocked with our favorite drinks!

This immediately became my favorite spot in the basement!

There is definitely more work that needs to be done building up and curating our wine collection 🙂 , but in the meantime I really love how I was able to transform this little empty spot into a bar area!

This really was a very straight forward project, even for a beginner like myself. The only moderately complicated part was making the slanted shelves for the wine rack. But with some experimenting and a little patience, it ended up working out really well!

Here are a few thoughts I had to make this project easier:

  1. Be flexible! The tutorial will only take you so far, and it leaves you in a lurch a couple of times, like when you need to figure out how to adjust for the walls that are not straight with a 45 degree cut. Don’t be intimidated by trial and error, tweak your cuts and take off a little more if needed to account for the wonky structure. I really wanted there to be a simple “this is how you do it” instruction , but there isn’t. I had to be willing to fail a couple of times before getting the right fit.

2. Make it yours! Decide what works best for your family and build accordingly. That’s the beauty of DIY – there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, every projects is as customizable as you want it to be. Our family is not into mixed or blended drinks, so this set up accommodates wine and beer more, along with kid -friendly drinks. If you are, say, into mojitos, then you would need a lower counter hight to fit a blender and maybe find a way to add an outlet to the back wall. Just remember: it is your vision, make a list of your priorities and see them through in you project! This is why we DIY:)

3. Be creative! Don’t live in a gray box. This is my second home, and both of them had an indent like this in the basement that follows the outline of the fireplace above it, and I tried to think of different ways to use it. It doesn’t have to be a bar: in our previous home we had shelves for additional storage. It could be a reading nook, a seating bench, toy storage or some ledges to display art. Whatever fits the dynamic of your family.

4. Make it personal! Fill it with things you love, that make you smile and inspire you! For me it’s things like this vintage sparrow bottle opener that I thrifted a while back, my favorite wine glasses, or the baseball shaped bottle we bought in Cooperstown on a family vacation. This spot in our home is a place I wrap up many of my days and being surrounded by things I love fills me with so much gratitude!

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