Building another desk in your house won’t improve your work-life balance. But creating a small bar nook might.

Emily Gilbert
A small apartment pantry was transformed into a simple, chic bar by Los Angeles-based interior designer Georgia Tapert Howe.

You may have heard of cloffices, craft nooks, coffee corners, or pantries and alcoves transformed into impossibly clever and hyper-organized spaces designed to maximize every last square foot. They’re cute. They’re surprising. And if you actually get around to building one, and it has a door, they’re a great way to hide clutter.

But our favorite iteration of the closet and alcove transformation has to be the pocket bar.

One of the drawbacks of setting up a home office over the last year and a half is that we’ve seen work and school creep into every inch of our lives—literally and figuratively speaking. A 9-to-5 schedule is a distant memory, and work time is bleeding into every nook and cranny. It’s not surprising to learn that people are running out of steam and looking for new, slightly more indulgent ways to use their living spaces. Enter the home minibar. There are ways to design one without a touch of Mad Men kitsch, basement-bar feeling reclaimed wood, or mancave swagger. With strategic lighting, built-in shelves or racks for chic barware, and either a sink or a spot for a generous ice bucket, its easier to create than you think.

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Here are some our favorite ways to set up a small, built-in adulting station. Because if we’re going to hand over a single square foot of storage space, we’d at least like to get a drink out of the deal.

Forfeit a Coat Closet

With pocket doors that disappear into the walls, flattering lighting, and handsome stained wood construction, this sleek bar has (Daniel Craig-era) James Bond vibes.

Close the door and all you see is an unassuming door. Open it, and you have a party.

A mirrored back, proper-looking brass lighting, and a pop of emerald wallpaper transform a dining room storage closet into a tiny version of a posh hotel bar.

Warm and minimal, with wood veneer shelves and two simple spotlights, this sleek closet-bar transformation would look at home in a ’40s bungalow.

Look Under the Stairs

We’re big fans of making full use of the space under a stairwell. This clever Newport Beach bar incorporates a beverage refrigerator, floating shelves, and a counter big enough to pull up a stool.

Unfinished wood floating shelves, a smooth concrete countertop, and plenty of glass would look right at home under the steps at a beach cottage or a house in the country.

Honestly, Who Needs More Bookshelves?

Built-in shelving with awkwardly narrow shelves is a home styling challenge for the ages. Do you put a couple of vases up there and call it a day? Stock it with corny family photos? Wouldn’t everyone be delighted to see it reimagined as a small bar, with a blue painted shelves, a faux marble wallpaper backdrop, and a beautifully stocked bar tray?

Easy enough to DIY, this simple built-in bookshelf could be magically transformed into a bar in an afternoon by installing a mirror in the back of a lower shelf and artfully arranging your favorite bottles of spirits and glassware.

This Came from the 2021 Waters of the West Issue—Read It Here!

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