I’d say it’s safe to assume many of you built forts as a kid. It was a way to let your creativity flow while constructing a space away from everything else, apart from the rest of your home. And while your sweetest memories may be doing so with siblings or friends, there’s something special about going solo and having full reign on every single decision. Rarely did you have that much control as a kid (despite the fact that mom would never let you use the kitchen chairs and such).
While you can more or less determine how you live your adult life, many factors still limit you. Your job’s a big one, while your kids provide a beautiful yet frequent distraction. Building a man cave (or a she shed) affords you something gloriously like building a fort—a place apart that you have control over. In a man cave specifically, you’ll want the sophisticated comfort of a bar to complete the picture. To create this aspect, consider these must-haves to build the ultimate bar for your man cave.
The Bar Stools
Aside from the spirits themselves, bar stools are the most practical elements in your home bar. Not only that, but if you put any effort into buying them at all, they can also serve the aesthetic you’re going for.
Backed vs. Backless
One fork in the road you’ll have to choose between is whether to go backless or backed. Backless stools are low-profile and simple—they don’t draw the eye away from the rest of your setup and do their job. Plus, if you watch any TV show from Cheers on down that features a bar, you’re sure to see backless bar stools—they have a clear timelessness about them. Meanwhile, backed stools can be more comfortable if you envision plopping down for an hour or more with friends and/or family. If kids are likely to pop down occasionally, perhaps go with the safer, more secure backed variety.
The second fork is more a continuum of choices about cushioning. While cushioned chairs are typically more comfortable, some people prefer the look and feel of solid metal or wood. There’s a rugged charm about a pared-down wood stool that matches many rustic aesthetics. That said, some cushioning wouldn’t do away with all this charm, but it may feel worlds better on your behind than something barer.
Next up, lighting. It’s the aspect that makes everything else you’re proud of in your dark cave come alive. You have a couple routes you can go here, including neon and wall sconces.
One bar hallmark extending back several decades is the neon light or sign. There’s something about neon’s boldness mixed with soft edges that fits the easy comfort of a bar. These don’t cut through like kitchen or bathroom lights tend to, yet they don’t leave you in the dark either.
As you ponder the merits of neon, you should also realize you can save lots of electricity lighting things up this way—presuming you go with LEDs. Those savings aren’t tiny, plus LED doesn’t break down light like other lights can.
The wall sconce doesn’t ask for attention—it isn’t a main lighting fixture—but many appreciate its unique décor powers. It’s primarily a tool for emphasis, and it draws the eye to where the magic happens when placed around your bar cabinet or table. In addition, sconces have the benefit of a darkening shade so they aren’t obnoxiously bright. These thrive in places you want a muted, low light look. Of course, there are a bunch of options when it comes to shades and how they disperse light. Explore your options and you’ll find sconces to add depth to your bar lighting.
The Drink Accessories
Let’s start with some must-haves to build the ultimate bar in your man cave that relate directly to your drinks.
Ice is great, but it melts and messes with the constitution of your beverage. If you’d rather escape the fuss and truly drink your whiskey on the rocks, pick up some whiskey stones. Made from soapstone, you can keep them cool until an occasion and then use them instead of ice. They’re also plain cool looking—a nice black color mixes well with your dark liquors—and make you look way more sophisticated than you have grounds to look.
Also ice-related, a cocktail strainer allows you to put the finishing touches on your drink creation. As you pour it through the strainer, it catches the ice and other solids that remain and lets the rest of the goodness pass through.
The fine wine connoisseur can’t afford to run a bar out of their man cave without some corkscrews on hand. These twisty tools wind their way through corks to unveil your fancy wine of choice. There are plenty of options to pick from—just make sure you have one or two so the festivities don’t have to come to a grinding halt.
On to the drinks. This may be surprising, but there isn’t much to say here—just buy what you want to imbibe. There are tons of drink snobs, but you don’t need to follow their lead. If you like ambers and turn your nose up at most everything else, don’t waste money on “everything else” and clog up your shelves. Know what you like, experiment with a few drinks you may enjoy, and go from there. Maybe pick up a bottle of whatever your friends prefer, but only if they’re nice enough to deserve it.
Last in this guide are some ideas on unique barware décor. One overarching note: read the room and don’t oversaturate your bar unless it’s the focal point of your man cave. Otherwise, here are some suggestions.
Neon lighting has its merits, but this is also an apt medium for expression. If you’re all about the drinks themselves (perhaps you bartended a decade or two ago), there are plenty of retro beer signs to explore. Otherwise, there’s little more eye-popping than a neon sports logo or mascot to proclaim your love of a local team.
Another décor idea is to place a couple of tasteful drink books throughout, perhaps even on a book holder. These books are practical tools for trying new concoctions while also looking great on your table. The best part is there are so many to choose from, and each of them takes on a different tone, ranging from sassy to dignified to everything in between.