Everything You Need for a Picture-Perfect Home Bar

Love to get a few drinks out but hate the noise at your local sports bar? You’re not alone. Not every town is blessed with a genuine cocktail bar, but serious mixologists can get the experience all on their own with a custom home bar. Whether you want a classic cocktail experience, or just a nice place to sip a few drinks with some friends, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll run through the basics of designing and stocking an at-home bar—because nothing tastes as good as a hand-mixed nightcap!

Colorful drinks sitting on a bar

Decide on Your Layout

Most people prefer a bar-rail setup—This Old House has helpfully provided some building plans and details if you want to DIY your own. This plan is a take on the classic bar layout, with a rail, paneling, shelf and stiles. To elevate the plan, the bar is finished with an oak facade, moulding and foot rail.

However, if you’re pressed for space, there are other designs, like a wall-mounted murphy bar, standing bar cabinets and portable rolling bar carts. Whatever your constraints, there’s a plan that fits your needs!

You’ll also need to make a few decisions about how functional you want your bar. Many people will advise you to start small, but if you’re going to go to all the trouble of building a home bar, you might as well make sure it has all the features you’d like.

  • Wet Bar Versus Dry Bar: A “wet bar” just means that your bar has water—preferably in the form of a sink. Of course, adding plumbing to your bar is a serious undertaking, so at that point you’ll probably need to hire a professional remodeler to help you do some of the work.
  • To Refrigerate or Not? On the other hand, if you like the occasional chilled drink, you can get it fairly easily by installing a mini fridge under the bar. This plan, for instance, includes extra cabinet space specifically designed for a refrigerator or wine cooler.

A dog lying on the floor near a bar

Must-Have Tools of the Trade

It’s not just about the plans, of course. You’ll also need the right equipment and glassware to get your mixology on. Here’s what you need to get started.

  • A Good Cocktail Book. Some great back-to-basics beginners guides include the Mr. Boston: Official Bartender’s Guide, The 12 Bottle Bar and The PDT Cocktail Book.
  • The Right Barware. You’ll also want to get the right barware. At a minimum, that includes a jigger, a shaker (preferably a cobbler-style shaker with a built-in strainer), a separate strainer, a muddler, a bar spoon, a citrus peeler and a hand held citrus press.
  • Ample Glassware. You can’t serve a highball in a pint glass! For a well-rounded bar, you’ll want a set of martini glasses, rocks glasses, red and white wine glasses, highball glasses, and either beer mugs or pint glasses.

Colorful drinks sitting on a bar A satisfied bartender

Buying Your Basic Spirits

Of course, when push comes to shove, it all about the drinks! A well-stocked bar needs a selection of basic liquors, liqueurs—and the mixers and garnishes to complete the whole thing.

  • Liquor. Everybody has their favorites, of course, but if you plan on serving guests, you should have at least one of the following: vodka, gin, tequila, light and dark rum, bourbon, scotch, cognac.
  • Liqueurs. As for liqueurs, it all depends on what you like to drink. Dry and sweet vermouth, Cointreau, Disaronno and Campari will help you make some of the more classic cocktails, but who’s to stop you if you want a good White Russian either (in which case, you’ll need a coffee liqueur)?
  • Mixers. Ah, mixers: the refuge for drinkers like myself, who hate the taste of straight liquor. Simple syrup, bitters, club soda, tonic water, cola and ginger ale will help you make most cocktails, although you may want to include cranberry and orange juice as well.
  • Garnishes. If you want a great drink, you’ve got to top it all off with the right garnish! Limes, lemons, maraschino cherries, as well as cocktail olives, sugar, salt and Tabasco will all give your drinks a dash of something extra.

Learning to bartend is a lifelong hobby, so your bar will probably grow as you develop your skills and dry more exotic drinks. So don’t limit yourself—go wherever your tastes lead you. Cheers to that!

5 Wall Coverings that Aren’t Wallpaper

Wallpaper has come a long way, but it still has its drawbacks. It goes out of style quickly, is hard to hang by yourself and difficult to repair when damaged. On the other hand, it can be a useful way to hide imperfections in your walls. After all, there are some blemishes that paint will only exaggerate.

But some of us are just not wallpaper people. Just thinking about that sticky paper makes you feel frustrated. If you identify with that last statement, you’ll be happy to hear that you have plenty of options. Enough alternative wall coverings exist to suit any taste. From cork tiles to DIY map wallpaper, there’s something for everyone, so read on to find your next look!

a map as wallpaper
Via dustymars.net

Bamboo Paneling

It’s not just for the tiki bar anymore! When done right, bamboo paneling can make for a chic and sophisticated statement wall—or any kind of wall, really. And bamboo is especially forgiving on uneven walls and damaged surfaces. You can also use engineered bamboo planks (read: bamboo flooring) for walls as well, which allows for any number of stains, dyes and patterns. And because bamboo grows quickly, it’s a lot more eco-friendly than wood!

Cork Tiles

Of course, when you decide not to use conventional wall coverings, you’re probably looking for something just a little bit quirky. Cork wall tiles have beautiful, warm geometric patterns that allow you to appreciate the beauty of natural wood. And like bamboo, they’re much gentler on the world’s forests than wood planks. Try them in a room that could use some soundproofing—the soft texture of cork gives it great insulating qualities.

Maps

A space shouldn’t just feel comfortable—ideally, it should be an expression of who you are as a person. And there’s nothing more personal than your travel memories—whether they’re ones from past trips or ones you hope to make in the future! This tutorial from Yankee Magazine teaches you everything you need to know to DIY your own.

Book Pages

If you’re more into armchair traveling than anything that requires actually leaving your home, you might appreciate this next idea. Buy an extra copy of your favorite book, and use the pages to paper your walls. It works just like the map idea—except you’ll get read an excerpt of your favorite novel every night before drifting off to bed. Try with an older book for that extra vintage look.

Starched Fabric

Every browsed through a fabric store and thought, “gee, I really wish I could have that on my walls”? Well, now you can. Liquid starch and fabric is a great solution for getting any lightweight cotton fabric on the walls—Apartment Therapy walks you through the full technique here. Best of all, it’s a lot less permanent than wallpaper. In fact, you can remove it just by wetting the wall and peeling the fabric off. It’s basically commitment-free! Decorating won’t have you climbing the walls anymore!

8 Easy Eyesore Disguises for a Picture Perfect Home

No matter how much you love your house, there are probably one or two blemishes on your otherwise impeccable decor: ugly spots like tangled cords, trash bins and cat boxes and the like. While you can exactly live without them, you can hide unsightly devices, appliances and other areas, especially if you use one of the clever disguises described below!

beautiful, blemish-free home

Hang Cafe Curtains to Hide a Window AC Unit

Your window unit may feel like a godsend on a hot day. But with its big, boxy frame, it’s certainly not going to win any design awards any time soon. We’ve got the perfect solution: hang a short, quaint cafe curtain over the window. Curtains made with sheer material won’t block the cool air, so you’ll get maximum chill with minimal cringe. Learn how to DIY a set here.

Install a Drawer Pullout for Your Trash and Recycling Bins

Ugh, trash bins. No matter how careful you are with your garbage, they’re not exactly what you want to see when you walk in the kitchen. Give your eyes a break with one of these pull-out trash cans. They fit right in the cabinet for easy refuse concealment.

Create a Popcorn Ceiling Disguise

One thing’s for sure: whoever decided that popcorn-textured ceilings looked good was definitely not thinking too far into future. This ubiquitous surface definitely had its heyday back in the 50s, but now it’s pretty much synonymous with outdated decor. Luckily, you’re not stuck with a ceiling you hate. You can remove or cover the surfaces for a whole new take on decor. Before you do anything, though, have the walls tested for asbestos—older popcorn ceilings were often made with this toxic substance. Once you get a clean bill of health, you can either have the ceiling scraped and resurfaced, or cover it with stylish wood planks or new drywall!

DIY a Charging Station in a Desk Drawer

Empty desk drawer or discrete charging station? Why not both! This handy hidey-hole keeps your devices powered without the clutter of fifteen different cords. And you can build one in any existing drawer—this helpful tutorial teaches you how!

Mask Unsightly Concrete Foundation with a Stone Veneer

No matter how great the outside of your home looks, dingy, grubby concrete foundation will cast a serious pallor on the whole motif. Concrete is a lightning rod for water stains, rust, moss and dirt, and often comes in a dull gray color, giving homes a rough, unfinished look. Instead, we love the idea of building a more attractive stone covering around your home’s exterior. Stone panels are easy to install by yourself and will provide an elegant finish from top to bottom!

Make a Custom Cover to Camouflage Cords and Routers

As much as we appreciate the marvels of modern technology, routers, cords and other internet paraphernalia are definitely built with efficiency in mind, not design. Thankfully, there are some clever ways to hide routers from sight, however. Turn them into a pleasing stack of books or pop them into a customized decorative box for a much more polished living room!

Build a Crafty Litter Box Cabinet from Scratch

We wouldn’t trade our cats for anything, but their litter? Well, that we could do without. If you’re tired of unsightly litter boxes in your bathroom, try this convenient kitty litter cabinet project. The tutorial teaches you how to build a handmade box from MDF board and glue, which you can then use to give the cat some privacy for his or her business. It even masks some of the odor, as well, a feature that’s more than welcome in any cat-dominated household.

Design a Discrete Storage Box to Hide Just About Anything You Want!

Whatever needs hiding, this box has got your back! It’s essentially the same concept as the router box above, except it stands upright so no one will have any idea that you have anything to hide. And that means you can cover up any number of household eyesores. And that’s just about as perfect as home decor is going to get!

3 Plumbing Projects You Can Do By Yourself

Plumbing can make you feel like a very accomplished DIYer indeed. After all, there’s nothing more satisfying that finally fixing that running toilet. That said, with plumbing projects, it’s easy to get in over your head. A few wrong turns of the wrench and you may need a raft to get out of the house.

But plumbers are expensive—and of course, notoriously bad at arriving when they say they will. So if you can avoid the hassle of finding a reliable plumber and waiting around all day for them to show, it’s usually worth it. Here are three projects you can comfortably manage on your own, without calling in the pros.

black kitchen faucet

Replacing a Shower Head

A brand-new shower head can be a bathroom game changer—so long, weak water pressure! And making a direct replacement is no big thing, really. To do this project yourself, you don’t really want to mess around too much with the shower head style. That is, if you want a rain-style shower head, you’ll probably need a pro’s help. But if you’re just putting in a new single-head sprayer, it’s easy enough to do.

Start by shutting off the water to your bathroom. Then grab a pair of adjustable channel-locking pliers and affix them around the shower head. Gently turn the shower head counter clockwise until it’s loose enough to pull off.

Apply Teflon tape counter clockwise around the base of the shower arm. Thread the new shower head onto the base by turning it clockwise with your hands. Once it becomes too difficult to turn with your bare hands, use your pliers to tighten it into place. Turn the water back on and check for leaks—nothing to it!

Replacing a Kitchen Faucet

Nothing adds more swank to your home than a shiny new faucet. Changing it out lets you to stay on top of interior design trends and is a simple fix for a leaky, aging faucet. Swapping out faucets is a little more complicated than changing the shower head, though, particularly if you come across problems like corroded pipes or hard-to-reach nuts. But it’s still well within the reach of novice home repairers.

First, you want to locate the hot and cold water shutoff valves on your kitchen faucet. Typically, these are located in the cabinet directly beneath the kitchen sink. Turn them to the off position, and then reach up to you faucet and push the handle up to relieve pressure. Move back down below the sink and use an adjustable wrench and channel-locking pliers to disconnect both the hot and cold water lines from the faucet.

Next, switch to a basin wrench or a socket wrench and use it to unscrew the nut holding the faucet tailpiece in place. Now you’re ready to pull the old faucet out and put the new one in—at which point, it’s merely a matter of following the instructions that came with it.

Fixing a Running Toilet

Nothing is more annoying than a running toilet—not to mention the extra money tacked onto your water bill each month! Luckily, this is a pretty swift repair that even moderately handy homeowners can tackle on their own.

Most running toilets are due to a flapper that doesn’t seal properly, which means you need a new one. To replace it, shut off the valve to your toilet’s water supply. Then flush the toilet to drain the water out of the basin. Unhook the flapper, clean it off, and take it with you to the hardware store to buy a replacement piece—that way, you know you’ll get one that fits.

Install the flapper by carefully following the instructions on the package. Altogether, it should take you less than an hour or two, depending on how close you are to the nearest home improvement store. Running toilets: 0, you: 1

There you go! All you need to go from homeowner naif to pro in no time. Looking for more DIY projects? Check out our latest articles for more improvement ideas!

4 Repairs Better Left to the Pros

So you watched a few DIY videos, and now you’re itching to test out your newly-learned skills? By all means, give it a whirl! Just make sure your experiments don’t include one of the four areas below. These kinds of projects are strictly for pros. Hands off, weekend warriors!

hammer on board

Plumbing

Small plumbing repairs are fine, but get in over your head and you could quickly be up to your neck in hot water. Basically, that means anything more advanced than a running toilet or a faucet replacement should be handled by a professional licensed plumber.

Pros will know how to deal with permits and have professional training that allows them to find and fix repairs quickly and efficiently. They also understand how to minimize damage, and are able to solder pipes together if the job calls for it. And they can handle jobs that combine plumbing and electrical work, like installing a brand new dishwasher.

Last of all, plumbing companies often offer warranties for their technician’s workmanship. So if anything else goes wrong, you can just call them up and have them visit again. You’re not going to get that kind of a guarantee with a DIY job!

Electrical

You may have tackled small electrical jobs in the past, like replacing an outlet or installing a new ceiling fan. But that doesn’t mean you have the technical prowess to compete with the pros! The benefits of calling a professional electrician are pretty obvious: You won’t be putting yourself at risk of electrical shock or monkeying around with unfamiliar wires.

In most states, electrical work also needs to be handled by pros to ensure that it’s up-to-code. DIY wiring can result in overloaded circuits that makes them a fire hazard.

Electricians have the proper devices to test wires and outlets to ensure that they’re safe to touch. They also know how to completely shut off the power to outlets, circuit breakers and appliances before they start working on them. All in all, you’re almost always better off calling in a licensed electrician, rather than trying to catch up on wiring through a few videos.

Roofing

Your roof is often the only thing standing between you and the elements—do you really want it compromised by shoddy work? Properly shingling a roof can be difficult for a novice to do properly.

Meanwhile, climbing up on the roof is trickier than it appears. Even if you pride yourself on your excellent balance, you’re taking a major risk when you get up on your house. In fact, even the pros have difficulties sometimes. Roofers are about three times more likely to fatally fall on the jobsite than workers in other construction industries, so it’s safe to say that they have a dangerous job.

And have you ever tried to lift shingles yourself? Shingling often weighs in the tons—not the kind of stuff you want to try dragging around without professional help. Unless you’re just making a tiny repair, it’s best to call out the pros for this one.

Anything Involving Gas Lines

Just bought a new gas stove? Leave the hookup to someone who knows how! Gas furnaces, appliances and water heaters should always be handed off to the professionals.

The issue here is that it’s very easy to create a gas leak. Slow leaks could go undetected for a long time—at least, until you start smelling gas. And by that time, static buildup can cause the gas to ignite, which is a huge risk to your family and your home.

Instead, always call in a pro to handle repairs and installations, and use extra caution when hooking up gas grills outdoors. A worry-free home? Now that’s something anyone can appreciate!

5 Homemade Burlap Accents for a Rustic Chic Fall

Did you see that leaf fall? Can you feel the tang of apple cider and pumpkin-flavored everything in the air? Autumn has definitely arrived—in spirit, if not in any official capacity—which means for the next three months everyone will describe the air as “crisp” instead of “chilly” and you’ll get to trot out your softest, coziest sweaters.

Now, while we have nothing but good things to say about fall, its seasonal decor could use, well, a little help. The line between “rustic chic decor” and “cast-off scarecrow sweater from your fourth grade teacher” can be awfully thin sometimes. And burlap, everyone’s favorite fall fabric, is even easier to mess up—use just a little bit too much and suddenly everything in your home looks like the set of Green Acres.

To help, we put together this list of fashionable burlap decor that looks chic and celebratory—many are even DIY, to boot. That will give you plenty of spare cash left over for all those pumpkin spice lattes you have to drink!

burlap mat

Get Your Farmhouse Style On with Burlap Throw Pillows

Throw pillows are the perfect way to experiment with a new style, and you can switch them out seasonally to keep things feeling festive all year long. There’s no fabric that captures that fall feeling quite like burlap. Plus it’s sturdy enough to set outside for a dose of autumn on your porch and patio as well. Throw them in a seating area around an outdoor fire pit and instantly raise the coziness quotient.

Or Make This DIY Roman Shade

When at home, do as the Romans and hang a Roman shade! These simple, minimalist window coverings are back in vogue after a long stint out-of-style. And since burlap is so affordable, you can easily sew one yourself for a fashionable alternative to store-bought shades. The beauty of a tutorial like this one from Sew a Fine Seam is that the finished product really lets you admire the simple variations in the fabric. It’s a great way to get rustic without going full-hoedown.

Greet the Season with a Burlap Wreath

An autumn-inspired wreath on the door gets you instant fall flavor—and says “welcome home” all in quick, easy-to-make dose. Even novice crafters are able to crank out whimsical, fun fall decorations with the help of this two-minute burlap wreath tutorial. Dress it up with some ribbons and mums and you’ll be all over this homemade crafting thing. Plus it will instantly signal to anyone walking through the door that your heart lies with fall, and fall alone.

Feel Fallish While You Eat with a Homemade Burlap Place Mat

A stylish and autumnal place setting is just a DIY away with these helpful burlap printing instructions from Two It Yourself. Use them to create a set of uber-unique place mats that will rival anything you can buy at Pottery Barn. If you’re new to fabric stenciling, you can use this guide from The Spruce to hit the ground running. You’ll be able to make all kinds of burlap accents, and your dinner guests will never guess that it all cost under $10!

Dress Up Your Table With This Tasseled Burlap Runner

Thanksgiving is pretty much peak fall, and it’ll be here closer than you think, so it’s never too early to start doing some planning. This handmade table runner from Sutton Place is practically dripping with fall charm and requires absolutely no sewing to make, earning it big ups in our book! Just imagine the turkey and all the fixings sitting on top of that. It practically makes your mouth water just thinking about it!

These projects should give you something to do on those cozy nights by the fire—in fact, there’s enough here to keep you busy all the way until peppermint mocha time. Until then, happy home decorating!