This Is One of the Coolest Home Bars You’ll Ever See

Bebe Howorth, Produced Cynthia Frank and David M. Murphy
Photo credit: Courtesy of John Demsey
Photo credit: Courtesy of John Demsey

From ELLE Decor

These days, few things bring more cheer than a beautifully stocked home bar. In this new series, ELLE Decor international design editor Cynthia Frank is reaching out to designers and tastemakers for a glimpse of their own bar setups and their tips on making the most of cocktail hour at home.

Whenever John Demsey, the executive group president of the Estée Lauder Companies, would have guests over to his Upper East Side townhouse—anywhere from 15 to 300 people—these lucky visitors would always find themselves drawn to his one-of-a-kind bar. The bar exemplifies the spirit of his home, Demsey says—it’s a combination of energetic color, mementos from his past, and portraits from his collection of 750 works of fashion photography.

“The bar is a reflection of the house setup and the way I live my life,” Demsey says.

Here, Demsey shares how he makes his bar and an evening around it as standout as the colors within it—any of these ideas are sure to provide inspiration for your own home entertaining.

Surround Your Bar With Color

As would be expected for someone who runs a cosmetics empire, Demsey has a passion for color. The interior of one side of the bar is painted in a color similar to Farrow & Ball’s St Giles Blue, while the interior of the glass cabinet on the opposite side is painted in an Yves Klein blue. Both sections are surrounded on the exterior by a paint color similar to Farrow & Ball’s Worsted.

Use Vintage Barware

The bright colors and eclectic collection of glasses on the shelves hold special meaning for Demsey. Among them are Baccarat glasses from Demsey’s grandmother, a set of orange-red early-1950s glassware his mother received as a wedding gift, and a Scalamandré ice bucket that reminds Demsey of the iconic (and now closed) Upper East Side restaurant Gino’s.

Don’t Forget the Essentials

Demsey says his bar always includes a bottle of Cristal pink Champagne, Baccarat glasses, and cocktail napkins from D. Porthault.

Keep It Fashionable

Above the bar, a selection of David Bailey photographs from the mid-1960s are showcased—featured are fashion icons such as Twiggy and Penelope Tree as well legends like the Beatles and Mick Jagger, among others.

Curate a Great Guest List

Who is undoubtedly always on Demsey’s list? Cornelia Guest—who lends a hand with the catering, from her company Cornelia Guest Catering—and Alina Cho.

Serve a Specialty Drink

Demsey’s drink of choice is Absolut Citron on ice with a wedge of lemon, or a glass of chilled Lillet. If there were a nonalcoholic drink named after him, he says it would be an old-style Lipton iced tea with a little sugar.

Above All, Have a Philosophy

“A bar is a center for entertaining and welcoming—that’s the way I view it,” Demsey says.


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