Home & Garden

6 ways to spice up your outdoor home bar this summer

A fun way for imbibers to toast a staycation

Trays, rain chains, and potted plants are great outdoor bar ideas Credit: Mark Ashby Design / Clay Grier

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When your favorite spot to relax with a cocktail is in your own backyard, consider it true summertime serenity. And many are: Living Spaces, a home decor chain and retailer, recently published a report on outdoor living trends for 2020, that showed outdoor bars saw a 192% increase in searches over the past six months.

What’s even more relaxing is when you don’t have to walk far to fill up your drink, whether you’re mixing margaritas or spritzing a Bellini from a chilled bottle of your favorite prosecco. Just imagine: You’re warming in the sun on your patio, maybe you’ve even got a toe in the pool—or a kiddie pool—and you’ve got a ready supply of ice cold sippers.

To help you achieve this dream, we’ve tapped a few experts for their top home bar ideas. Each offers advice on how to choose the best outdoor bar accessories, trays, appliances, and weather protection. Whether you like simple design or tiki torches and pink flamingos galore, Solo cups need not apply.

Determine the vibe of your home bar

Do you see your outdoor home bar as an intimate place or party central?

Patrick Knowles, of Patrick Knowles Designs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says, “The starting point is typically in defining the intended use. When the bar will be used (formal or informal), how many are expected to be at the bar, and will it be fully or partially exposed?”

“Once such fundamentals are established,” he continues, “the balance of the details will follow much easier. There are so many bells and whistles one can add to a bar to make it a true oasis of an experience.” Of course, as with everything in life, budget is a factor.

Once you’ve decided on your patron, it’s time to approach the layout. While some home owners employ builders to create high-end outdoor bars (think marble bar tops and triple tap kegerators), others find it’s easier to perfect their backyard hot spot themselves.

Mark Ashby Design senior designer Michele Lorenz says you can turn a basic table into an elegant outdoor cocktail bar by approaching it from a visual perspective.

“Style your bar with small potted plants, flowers, a candle, and decanters in various shapes and sizes,” she suggests. “Flank the area with potted palms and eclectic rain chains for more visual interest.”

And, if you have home bar ideas of the DIY variety, there are plenty of ways to create the perfect bar from something as simple as pallets and paint.

Put the “fun” in function with outdoor appliances

frozen margarita
Credit: Getty Images / pjohnson1

Margaritas go down fast when you have a frozen drink maker installed at your outdoor bar.

Your outdoor bar might be a good distance from your main kitchen, so try to limit the commute back and forth. If budget allows, Knowles suggests investing in durable outdoor appliances, such as refrigeration, like a beer fridge or beverage center or an electric ice maker (although a nice ice bucket also does the trick).

“Another appliance to have on hand is a frozen drink maker, which makes a wide range of frosty drinks perfect for lounging pool-side on a hot day,” he adds.

“Not to be overlooked are the smaller appliances such as a canister blender or a hand-held unit for preparing smaller, individual drinks.”

Favor practical bar accessories that are still pretty

When it comes to outdoor entertaining, nothing stops a party faster than smashed glass on the patio.

Marny Baxt, owner of TRACE, an art design and gift shop in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, says, “Durability and lightness are the top two motivators for me,” when choosing glasses and pitchers for an outside bar. “Acrylic and synthetic crystal are two of my favorite materials right now. They look luxurious, won’t break by the pool, and are a lot lighter than glass or real crystal.”

When you're shopping for bar accessories, consider Vivocci unbreakable stemless wine glasses, which were the most durable unbreakable glasses in our testing—they even stood up to a rubber mallet and claw hammer.

Mix form and function with colorful trays

nicolette mayer acrylic tray
Credit: Nicolette Mayer

This Nicolette Mayer acrylic tray is as naturally artful as it is useful in carrying cocktails to an outdoor home bar.

Consider the aesthetics of your outdoor bar. Baxt suggests, “Big bright and colorful trays add a tropical feel and are extremely helpful as you carry items to your guests.”

If Andy Warhol and Lily Pulitzer collaborated, the result would be these printed acrylic Nicolette Mayer Dapper trays. Perfect for pool or garden parties, these trays are easy to carry and wipe clean.

Get lit and generate a soft glow

Keep the party going into the night by choosing fun and festive iridescent and glow-in-the-dark barware that looks even better when the sun goes down. For example, Pallina Pitchers are playful, acrylic vessels available in dual colors or white with a glow-in-the-dark handle.

Baxt also suggests votives as an excellent item for an outdoor bar. “You can drop in a candle for extra light,” she suggests.

Protect your outdoor home bar from the elements

Knowles says, “Weather is the biggest nemesis of any outdoor bar. It can ruin the finest looking one in very short order. If the bar is not under cover, designing the means by which to add protection as needed is key.”

Instead of having umbrellas seated on a steel plate, Knowles suggests installing ports in the deck or bar itself where the umbrella pole slides and locks into place seamlessly to keep it securely in place during windy or gusty days.

For a more interesting take on sun shelter, look into tie-up shade sails.

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