Toasting the return of the bar cabinet

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 12:01 a.m.
It's rare that I end up ahead of a trend, but that was the case six years ago when I embarked on a frustrating search for a particular sort of cabinet for a corner of my open kitchen/dining room.
What I needed was a place to serve guests drinks that wasn't my kitchen counter. I envisioned a sort of hutch where I could stow liquor and wine bottles behind closed doors, and that also had shelves for glassware and a generous work surface for mixing a Cosmopolitan, pouring some cabernet, or parking an ice bucket.
I didn't know at the time that what I was looking for was a bar cabinet, a home-furnishings category that had all but disappeared since its heyday during the art deco era. Neither did the furniture dealers I visited, who just scratched their heads at my request.
But, oh, what a difference a few years can make. Bar and wine cabinets of every style are easy to find these days. And they're not only handsome, they're high on function as well.
  • Crate & Barrel's sleek console-size Sutter Bar Cabinet ($999), for example, has swing-out doors with shelves, a stemware rack, a bottle-storage grid, and a removable tray.
  • The Calais Wine Bar from Hooker Furniture looks like a massive antique armoire, with big doors that conceal wine and glass racks, a mirrored serving area, and space for a small wine refrigerator ($2,199).
  • Martha Stewart's Opal Point Collection for Bernhardt includes the glamorous Larkspur Bar Cabinet, which has nickel wire inlay, tall, graceful legs, and plenty of interior storage ($1,457).
  • The Lincoln Park Kingston Bar from Stanley Furniture ($1,590) has a laminated drop lid for serving, three drawers, and wine storage behind doors.
    Why are bar cabinets so popular right now?
    It could be that the big increase in U.S. wine consumption - 249 million cases in 2005, up from 205 million in 2000, according to the Wine Market Council - is creating a desire for pieces geared to stowing, and showing off, those bottles and proper stemware. (Pottery Barn's Modular Wine Bar, whose individual units start at $19, certainly seems aimed at this segment.) Or it might be maturing denizens of the 1990s cocktail culture looking to create a little lounge atmosphere at home, now that kids and day jobs have made bar-hopping a distant memory.
    By now, you get the idea that these cabinets have no connection to those clunky stand-behind bars some of us associate with tacky bachelor pads and 1970s rec rooms.
    These are pieces that can serve as focal points in a room. Like the tall Cosmo Bar Cabinet from the Michael Weiss Modernism Collection for Vanguard Furniture ($3,350), which features a rich walnut veneer, a grid of picture-frame molding on the doors, and a fretwork of X-patterned bracing around two open-bottom shelves.
    Even those with the bare minimum of square footage can enjoy bar-cabinet function in the form of a diminutive bar cart.
    Restoration Hardware, which has helped revive this once-standard accessory of the bon vivant, has two handsome wheeled bar carts: the oval-shaped Hanover ($659), with glass shelves and a nickel frame; and the Campaign cart, with shelves of polished black marble and a brass frame ($799).
    Another key feature of this new generation of bar cabinets is versatile, multi-functioning storage - removable racks and grids, adjustable shelves, and pull-out work surfaces adaptable to the needs of both wine connoisseurs and amateur mixologists. And almost all aim to hide their utility when not in use.
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