As the air turns crisp and the darker nights creep in, social gatherings and family meals move from alfresco settings to the warmth indoors. As an area of the home we naturally gravitate to, it’s no surprise that social kitchen features such as central islands and bespoke bar areas are becoming ever more popular. A recent study by Rated People revealed that one in 13 UK-based homeowners want to build a home bar in 2022, with more of us wanting to stay in the comfort of our homes to socialise and relax.
With months of cosy entertaining at home upon us, it’s the perfect time to introduce you to our beautiful bespoke bar designs and ideas for creating the ultimate social hub.
Your floor plan and architecture will often determine your kitchen layout. Due to their flexibility, open or broken-plan kitchens offer more opportunities when splitting your space into functional, efficient zones. As well as your core primary zones, further zones can be set up to suit your lifestyle. For example, when designing a social kitchen, you could consider a zone for practical culinary activities, a bespoke bar for individuals to easily access drinks and a hub for multiple guests to gather comfortably. Kitchen islands are also a fantastic way to bring people together, especially when they incorporate stylish stools, perfect for creating a bar-style aesthetic.
When designing a kitchen for entertaining, you must ensure it’s tailored to your lifestyle so it becomes the go-to place in your home that guests and family gravitate to. To achieve this, we recommend considering how you like to socialise outside of your home. Opt for a dedicated barista station with a cosy seating area if you prefer lounging in cafes and sipping artisanal coffee. Alternatively, bespoke bar areas with integrated appliances can be the perfect addition if you enjoy meeting friends for evening meals and cocktails. You don’t need a huge amount of space to create a home bar. Bespoke bar units can be built seamlessly into an awkward alcove, incorporated into kitchen cabinets or positioned in a dining area, creating the ultimate backdrop for social gatherings.
Along with a beautifully designed Tom Howley kitchen, a bespoke bar area can be expertly crafted to suit any layout, for social gatherings. As well as being striking on the outside, it’s also what’s on the inside that counts. Intelligent storage can make a world of difference when entertaining, so, whilst you’re cooking up a storm, your guests can quickly help themselves to glasses, bar snacks and their favourite tipple.
Open shelving or glazed cabinets create an abundance of storage, plus they double up as a striking feature that can help set the mood within your space. Mirrored backs can be intelligently used to enhance the display, perfect for anyone with a glassware collection calling out to be shown off. For a clean and clutter-free aesthetic, closed cabinetry should be used to store seldom-used crockery, bulky mixers and table linen out of sight.
State-of-the-art appliances with integrated technology make hosting a breeze. Whether you’re a lover of wine, need extra space for artisan ingredients or can’t resist a refreshing fizzy drink, an essential for any bespoke bar area is a separate fridge or wine cooler. Positioning all the appliances within a workable distance of each other provides the host with complete flexibility and ease of use.
“I think a second under-the-counter fridge or separate wine cooler can really benefit a client who loves entertaining.” says kitchen designer, Emily Rumble. “When planning a dinner party, we often buy in a lot of fresh food, and maybe even do a lot of preparation in advance. This can put a lot of pressure on the main fridge and make it full. A second small fridge can be very beneficial for overflow and can also store all your soft drinks, beverages or bottled water for the evening. A wine cooler offers the same advantages, allowing the main fridge to be clear of wine and fizz, prioritising it for food.”
As well as helping drinks flow, bespoke bar areas can bring all manner of entertainment to your kitchen space with an integrated TV and sound system. Finished in the same cabinetry style and in keeping with the proportion of the kitchen, this bespoke bar features an integrated TV, surface space for the clients’ favourite gins and closed storage for dinnerware and wine storage.
Create a layered look with a sleek quartz work surface. This practical feature is ideal for prepping drinks after dark and doubles as chic storage for your favourite bottles, books and cocktail-making accessories. If space allows, adding a prep sink and all-in-one tap into the mix will boost the functionality of your bar countertop, making serving your favourite tipple simple.
From an intimate brunch to lively evening cocktails, a kitchen bar can look gorgeous at any time of day through the use of considered materials and clever lighting solutions.
Design Director, Tom Howley explains, “For social kitchens, the most effective lighting solution is to specify a scheme that allows bright task lighting over the countertops where the food preparation is taking place, and warm, low lighting for the guests. There may only be a couple of metres between these two very different light sources, but it makes a world of difference to a guest’s entertaining experience and the chef’s or the host’s cooking experience. Strategic lighting and seating solutions like this will encourage guests to relax and enjoy the kitchen and the informal dining experience.”
Choosing a painted kitchen means that you can work with your designer to create something truly unique to you and your tastes. When it comes to a bespoke bar, you can opt for a timeless colour that flows with your kitchen cabinets or have fun with it and choose a contrasting shade that adds a wow factor, successfully defining the two zones.
It could seem counterintuitive to paint small spaces or isolated furniture in a dark colour. However, a moody palette can actually help to create an intimate, homely ambience. Here we’ve paired our striking Avocado paint colour with warm metallics, a mirrored backsplash and glazed shelving for a luxurious layered look. With a growing demand for kitchens with a lived-in/ curated look, open shelving and glazed cabinets are increasingly in demand, perfect for styling your favourite glassware, bar accessories and other curiosities—such a simple concept with the power to change the overall look and feel of a room.
When styling a kitchen or dining space, we like to think about the season ahead. In autumn, we choose key pieces such as handmade glassware from LSA International, artisanal ceramics and natural textiles. Whether you opt for a casual centrepiece, or something a little more striking for your table or island – squashes in different shapes and sizes, autumnal twigs, foliage, and even sunflowers can look fantastic. Whilst you may want to make a statement when setting the table for a dinner party, try to opt for a smaller centrepiece to ensure the conversation flows wherever your guests are sat. Remember that sometimes less is more!
Whether you’re hosting cosy drinks with friends or an all-out culinary experience, these top tips are bound to help you create an unforgettable experience.
Request a free home design visit to see how our experts can bring your bespoke bar dreams to life, or pop into your nearest Tom Howley showroom and explore our innovative ideas bound to inspire your next project.