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7 Best Unexpected Uses for a Bar Cart According to Designers
Heralded as one of the entertaining hubs of our homes, the bar is an area that deserves just as much attention as you lavish on your coffee table, bookshelves, or mantel when hosting family and friends. But not every home comes with that perfect spot for a home bar or an outdoor bar.
Enter the bar cart, which just may be the most versatile piece of furniture you can buy for your home.
Although a rolling cocktail cart may conjure Mad Men–era visions of drinks at the office well before five o'clock, the bar cart has far more sober origins. The rolling beverage caddy dates all the way back to the Victorian era, when it was known as a "tea trolley" and was wheeled out to serve tea and biscuits during tea time.
It wasn't until after Prohibition ended in the 1930s — and really until the mid-1950s — that the bar cart began rolling out again, this time to serve boozy confections. The watering-hole-on-wheels soon became a staple in American popular culture, making its way onto movie sets, restaurants, and living rooms across America.
Today, the utility of the bar cart extends well beyond serving drinks. In fact, thanks to its mobility and small size, there's almost no room — from living rooms and dining rooms to bedrooms, kitchens, and even bathrooms — in which the bar cart is not useful.
We've tapped some of the country's most renowned interior designers for their tips, tricks, and ideas for how to use and style this essential piece. Here's how to make the most of your bar cart (hello, multitasking!) when not mixing cocktails for the neighbors.
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1) Turn It into a Bedside Table
"I have been fascinated by people’s night tables since I was a young girl. Doesn’t it just say so much about a person by what is on their night table?" says the Bahamas-based Lindroth.
"When we dress night tables for clients, we have a cup with matching pens and a stack of notecards or little tablets, a carafe of water with a glass with a pretty linen napkin on a rattan or lacquer tray, [and] an orchid in a rattan basket or a tiny posy of flowers from the garden."
This handwoven table's design was inspired by a vintage piece the designer has at her home, Hope Hill.
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2) Use It as a Storage Caddy for Your Office
Meg Braff gets extra mileage from her dining room's bar cart in her New York home office.
"In my home office in Locust Valley, I have a bar cart that I use to serve tea from and hold any overflow materials while I'm working," says Braff. "On the lower level, in the window, I keep dormant orchids until they are ready to rebloom."
The cheerful turquoise hue of this bar cart echoes the room's color scheme, and the chairs are covered in Braff's Vienna Woods fabric.
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3) Roll It into the Bathroom
Massachusetts-based designer Liz Caan understands the power of the bar cart's mobility.
"I’d venture to say that bar carts are actually one of the most versatile pieces of furniture," Caan says. "Their footprint is generally small, and they’re a breeze to move from room to room (wheels!)."
Caan loves styling a bathroom with a sleek metal-and-glass cart, especially in master bathrooms where one has the room for an extra piece of furniture.
"Rather than investing in a boring piece of storage furniture that you’ll probably never use again, use a bar cart to hold towels, fresh flowers, and bath accoutrements," she says. "They look great in any bathroom, but if it’s one featuring a freestanding tub, [that's] even better."
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4) Make It Feel Collected
When styling your bar cart or table, San Francisco–based designer Ken Fulk puts the emphasis on the creating a mood and look - no matter whether cocktail hour is just for yourself or you are entertaining guests.
"I prefer to treat a bar cart as a tableau rather than simply a dispenser of drinks," says Fulk. "I often include flowers, favorite objects, or a framed photo. This cart has this fantastic built-in ice bucket. Otherwise, I often utilize an interesting cachepot (with a plastic liner) for a collected look."
This already-handsome wheeled bar cart gets an upgrade with malachite accessories and fresh flowers.
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5) Outfit It with Herbs
Even if your bar is not one that can easily move about, it's imperative to keep it styled in interesting ways to keep the space feeling novel, especially when entertaining. New York City interior designer Young Huh knows the power of this.
"I say: Always style a bar with herbs. Some thyme or rosemary in a cocktail is a little surprising, smells so wonderful, and looks fantastic on a bar."
Dramatic drapery, fresh herbs from the garden, and a bud vase of blooms turn this bar a beautiful moment.
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6) Put It to Work During a Dinner Party
Suzanne Kasler, an Atlanta-based designer known for timeless interiors, looks to the bar cart for extra help while hosting dinner guests.
"I love the idea of using a bar cart as an island in a small kitchen," she says. "It is especially perfect when entertaining: You can prepare everything in the kitchen, set it on the cart, and then roll it out to the table or space where you are entertaining."
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7) Organize It with a Tray
This artfully arranged bar scene by New York City designer Miles Redd has us dreaming of cocktails by a crackling fire.
"I've always been a big fan of drinks tables. I just love the way they look, and how they make a room feel. A bar just makes you comfortable. It's as if someone is telegraphing the message: I am going to take care of you," he says.
"As for what I put on them, the more elaborate the better, with all the usual suspects, of course. I do love the small bottles of mixers lined up like soldiers, and if you have the space, an array of snacks is always nice," says Redd.
"I love smoked almonds and various crisps, but do mind the packaging. No one wants to see a bag of Doritos. It's style over substance. If you do have to have a bag of chips, put them in small straw basket, like you see in a hotel mini bar."