Home Bars Come Back in Vogue
You know bars are back in fashion when people trade “mixologists” business cards. These are people who perform chemistry experiments on alcoholic substances and come up with nifty combinations that win bartenders such as Erik Lorincz of the Connaught Bar in London standing ovations. There are now regular pilgrimages to sample his Bloody Mary with celery “foam.”
One would have had to be on a prolonged vacation not to have noticed the amount of bars, private members clubs and watering holes multiplying across Europe. What sparked this trend is a matter of debate though one cannot underestimate the influence of the Golden Globe and Emmy-winning American television series “Mad Men” on our habits. Even teetotalers are polishing up their Baccarat crystal glasses and filling them with ice—just for the sound effects.
You can, however, credit David Collins, the designer behind the Blue Bar at the Berkeley and the bars at Claridge’s and the Connaught, for making hotel bars the most glamorous destination places in London. Clients (Madonna and Tom Ford included) often ask him for exact replicas. “People tend to entertain on a different scale now. It is not always the commitment of cooking dinner, so a great way to be hospitable with relatively low inconvenience is to have people for pre-dinner drinks, but with all the trimmings: martini, lemon, sliced apple, etc., and of course great glasses,” he says.
Parisian designer India Mahdavi Hudson, who updated the interior of the Coburg Bar at the Connaught Hotel, has a more pragmatic explanation for the trend. “No SMS,” she says, inferring that bars may be the last place where people communicate as opposed to staring at their Blackberry screens. Ms. Mahdavi Hudson has just designed a retro ’60s style bar for the 10th anniversary of French Architectural Digest, which was installed at the Hôtel Marcel Dassault in Paris in September and features jungle wallpaper and rattan furniturea. Her idea is to create “daytime” bars, she says, “where you meet with friends and leave the mobile at the coat check.”
Taking this face-to-face approach to heart, these designers are increasingly bringing their expertise to the home, with customized bars allowing their private clients to entertain and perform for their guests. “There is a certain amount of showmanship in mixing a killer cocktail, the ‘just so’ mixture of drinks that is the alchemists dream,” Mr. Collins says.
Candy & Candy, the designers behind the new residences at One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, London, incorporated a luxurious bar into their £33 million showcase apartment. Made of onyx and mirror, and filled with crystal, it evokes the days of cigarette holders and Cary Grant.
London-based interior designer Tara Bernerd, the name behind London’s Raffles private members club and the Night Lounge at Morton’s Club, was recently asked to convert a basement into a nightclub/ bar for a client in Mayfair.
“The family had a fabulous home cinema in the basement that they never used because they also had flat-screen cinemas in the bedrooms and study,” she says. “We made the whole room into a club room with a bar (and space for a DJ), which can be used after coming home from a party or for drinks before dinner.”
The room features hemp-lined walls, a bronze-covered bar, studded leather doors, two bespoke wine fridges, mink-covered bar stools, plus a color-changing light system. Such projects, the designer says, start from £25,000.
“The space is completely seductive but I think the real reason home clubs are in fashion is because people can’t smoke in public,” she says. “Many people collect fine wine and cigars. The home bar is where you come to really let your hair down.”
Another factor is age, Ms. Bernerd notes. “At a certain point, hanging out at China Whites (or any nightclub) is no longer so appealing” she says.
Meanwhile, intimate evening spaces, where one can withdraw after dinner (unlike the drawing room where one meets before dinner), are being requested as part of the architectural brief.
Architect Alfred Munkenbeck of Munkenbeck & Partners was asked to design a room for a wealthy London-based investor. “He wanted a space for a small group to retire after dinner to have a nightcap,” Mr. Munkenbeck says. “I put it around the corner from the living room so you could invite someone here to chat whilst you made them a drink, without bringing them into the kitchen where the dinner might be in preparation. After making the drink, you could take them back to the living room to join the party,” he says. The bar unit, which cost around £10,000, comes with shelves, lighting and mirrors, as well as wood-paneled doors that conceal a fridge and sink.
For those whose space is more limited, there are ample compact bar units on the market. Sawaya Moroni in Milan has three versions of the home bar: the “High Boris,” (around €15,000), designed as an homage to Boris Yeltsin; the sculptural bar cabinet “Acqua di Fuoco,” around €11,000), which is shaped as a condor with a huge, long beak and the “Roxanne” (€16,500), which got its inspiration from the hit song from the Police.
Ralph Lauren is also finding a rise in sales on the Duke Bar (£12,500), a 1930s-inspired bar cabinet styled in rosewood, with polished stainless-steel trim, and the Metropolis Bar Trolley (£3,500), with a glass top, polished nickel casters and a swiveling rosewood shelf.
Likewise, Armani Casa suddenly looks all the rage with its Circle revolving drinks cabinet (around £13,000),made from rosewood.
The return of the home bar—which evokes the grand days of the 1920s and ’30s, when people dined in black tie and removed themselves for after drinks where a soon-to-become-famous composer would be on hand to perform—is part of the general zeitgeist. Salon life has returned: dressing up is back, as is sitting down with a stiff drink poured elegantly from a decanter into a crystal tumbler. After years of casual dining in the kitchen, we all long for something different, according to Ms. Bernard, who says: “I think we’re back to indulgence, decadence and glamour.”
By Helen Kirwan-Taylor for http://online.wsj.com/