the best gatherings are usually those that are impromptu, so that's why maison21 thinks it's important to have a small area in your home dedicated to a bar area to make guests feel welcome and special- even if they've just dropped by for a quick visit. m21 has had an array of bar carts in his home over the years but for the last year or so, he's kept his bar inside a cabinet, but given that he is not hosting a large holiday party this year(not alone on that one, we think), he decided it was important to move the bar to a more visible location for impromptu events this holiday season, and that involved finding a new (vintage) bar cart. we've actually been looking for a brass vintage modern bar cart for over a year, since setting up a similar cart in a client's home during the holidays last year, but haven't found anything in our price range, as alas, our client's budgets are often a tad larger then our own; but with the holidays fast approaching, and m21's need recently launched to a fevered pitch by his friend habitually chic's well-edited compilation of decorator bars, maison21 knew it was time to set the junque whisperer™ to warp drive 10, and find a damn cart! (btw, congrats on the recent lonny magazine feature, chic- both you and your client's kitchen look terrific! yay for you!)
anyhoo, this last weekend, m21 and his inner junque whisperer™ made it their goal to find a bar cart, so we hit the road, and thankfully, our inner voice came through with exactly what we wanted- and for a price less then the cost of a single cocktail! woo hoo! thank you, junquey santa! mind you the cart is a bit rusted, and was never the most expensive thing back in it's heyday (the wheels are plastique, and the frame? cheap steel sprayed with a yellow lacquer finish to look brass), but maison21's #1 rule in decorating is, screw provenance- if it looks good, it IS good. another rule from m21 when buying vintage is "it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that ding", and our definition of "ding" is the opposite of bling (ie shiny and new)- maison21 likes his vintage to show a little history, a scratch or too, and of course, dents and dings... do we want it to look like it was unearthed from a junk yard? not necessarily, but then again, see rule #1- if it looks good, it IS good!
maison21 thinks bars should always be in a public room- living, dining, den, library, etc- so ours is tucked in a corner of our living room. we don't like bars set up in a kitchen (too utilitarian to entertain in, in our opinion), nor a family room (not child appropriate), and again, in our personal opinionwe advise setting up a bar in an entry hall (though you often see this in magazines). true, an entry hall welcomes your guests to your home, an da bar sure is welcoming, but it shouldn't also say "hi, i'm maison21 and i'm an alcoholic!" not exactly the first impression we want to make- our guests will figure that out later, as the evening proceeds... :-)
maison21's advice for filling the cart is similar to the david hicks quote used in habitually chic's post: a bar should create a "generous, welcoming atmosphere"- but we of course want to break it down into less airy-fairy decorator speak, and give you the real skinny! the goal of the cart is to gather everything you need to entertain a few guests at the drop of a hat- it doesn't work for large parties, and isn't intended to- BUT it should be crowded with enough crap, so it looks like it could host a hundred! that's how you establish "generous, welcoming atmosphere"- by cramming your bar (table, cart, cabinet) with lots and lots of stuff, so your guests feel free to partake of your generous abundance (kind of like with a birthday cake- people feel free to get second helpings when there are lots of slices available, but when down to the very last piece, suddenly everyone is shy and stuffed. don't want your guests to feel shy about helping themselves to a cocktail, do you?)
m21 likes to keep the bare basics on his cart- always vodka, gin, scotch and vermouth, maybe a bottle of red, and a few random liquor bottles just to prop it out. for mixers, one should always have soda and tonic waters (a must, but not shown in picture because we ran out of tonic- sorry), maybe add in some juice, or soft drinks, if those are your personal faves (soda cans are fine for your display but never a 2-liter bottle of soda or gallon of juice). it's important to have multiple bottles of mixers to keep the bar looking welcoming, yet not junked up, so keep the variety slim, but lots of each (the little individual servings are our preference, but we used tall bottles to make our cart look prettiest for our photo- remember, if it looks good, it IS good). also, you won't please everyone with their particular liquor and mixer requests, nor should you try, but with the above items, you can please 80%, and if the other 20 % bitch about it- oh well! they are guests in your home, not paying customers at a bar; you are a welcoming host, and do your best to accommodate, but you aren't a doormat either... ;-)
for accessories, the most important is the ice bucket- you want to go to the kitchen once to fill it, then spend the rest of your time in a prettier room, enjoying the company of your guests! m21 keeps a bucket, a carafe or shaker to mix, tongs, knife and bottle opener on the table at all times, along with a selection of double old fashioned glasses and stemware (we have skinny wine glasses that can double as champagne flutes if one of your guests- hopefully- brings a bottle of veuve clicquot)! m21 keeps bowls of whole lemons and limes out, because they are pretty & colorful, and if unsliced, last forever- so you are always prepared. last, make sure you have a stack of nice linen cocktail napkins- remember, we are going for pretty on the cart, so save the paper napkins for large events. ps, thanks for the napkins sferra- in our gift bag from a kelly wearstler party, hosted by ronda @ all the best).
finally, please note our choice of vodka: monopolowa, from trader joe's @ just $9.99 a bottle- the old school cool label is beyond chic, and it's just as tasty as brands many times its price. m21 is NOT ashamed to serve it in his home, because (here we go again): if it looks good, it IS good! if ya want grey goose, carry a flask!
cheers, everyone! stop by the atelier for a cocktail some time!