A Guide to Selecting the Right Size Bar Cabinets


Right Size Bar Cabinets

The right bar cabinet can be a great addition to a home. Not only can it store what you need for that magical hour of libation, but it can set the tone for a room as a stylish centerpiece.

But how do you know what size bar cabinet to get for your room? This answer to this question has many components that you need to consider:

  • What you want to use the bar cabinet for
  • Existing Decor
  • The size of the room you want to put it in

As you read on in this guide, you will discover all the ins and outs of selecting the right size bar cabinet for you.

What Is Standard Bar Height?

For a built-in bar whether in your kitchen or in a restaurant or pub, the standard height is 42 inches. This height gives people the ability to both stand and sit at the bar and comfortably reach their drinks.

However, the standard height of a bar for a bar cabinet is a little different. The height can vary in inches including about:

  • 32 inches
  • 35 inches
  • 39 inches

It depends on the design requirements of the cabinet itself, but overall, the height tends to be lower than a typical bar.

How Height Accommodates Use

Bar cabinets are not intended to be something that you stand at for long periods of time or sit at ever. The purpose of a bar cabinet is to hold:

  • Liquor
  • Wine
  • Glassware
  • Mixing essentials and tools

This can vary depending on your own personal preferences, but in general, this is what you use a bar cabinet to hold. To the extent that it is a “bar” is that it provides you a surface on which to pour or mix the drinks that you are serving.

The idea is that you will stand at it long enough to pour or mix the drink for yourself or for someone else, then leave the cabinet and bring the drink to the person. So Bar cabinets are not a focal point in the sense that people will typically congregate around them or sit at them, but they are a focal point in the sense that people return to them.

What Can Affect the Bar Height?

The height of the bar surface of the cabinet can be affected by the design of the cabinet. Bar cabinets can be simple or intricate, but typically the bar surface is going to be in one of two places in the bar cabinet:

  • The top of the cabinet
  • Somewhere within the structure of the cabinet

The only time you will find the bar surface on top of the cabinet is if it is enclosed and sitting around 42 inches high or less. Typically these kinds of cabinets have to be wider than they are tall to accommodate the items that a tall cabinet would. Otherwise, they are intended for less storage.

However, bar cabinets that are tall have the bar surface somewhere within the shelves and drawers. It can be either a permanent surface or a surface that opens to a compartment and drops down to lock in place. These types of cabinets can also be enclosed.

Different Bar Cabinets and Their Sizes

Bar cabinets come in a variety of sizes depending mostly on their design for accommodating liquor and supplies, but also on their style as well. When selecting the right size bar cabinet for you, it is best to understand the general categories of sizes and shapes in which they come.

For the purpose of this article, bar cabinets are divided into two general groups:

  • Bar cabinets taller than 42 inches (tall cabinets)
  • Bar cabinets that are 42 inches or shorter (short cabinets)

There can be some general fluctuation in 42 inches. Some short cabinets can be as high as 45 inches, for example. But for the most part, this dividing line holds true.

Tall Bar Cabinets

Tall bar cabinets are generally going to be between:

  • Around 60 inches tall
  • Around 75 inches tall

Tall bar cabinets are also going to be around 35 to 42 inches wide when closed.

As mentioned above, tall bar cabinets always supply a counter space somewhere in the middle of the cabinet. How this is done depends on the overall design of the cabinet. Tall bar cabinets come in two general designs:

  • Open
  • Enclosed

Open bar cabinets that are tall can look somewhat similar to a bookcase or a hall tree. The shelves and glassware racks are open to view with usually only a drawer or small cabinet area that is closed off. In this case, the counter space is a fixed area, like a wide shelf.

Enclosed bar cabinets that are tall look much more like an armoire or a standing desk. They can be enclosed in similar ways. The armoire look has two doors that meet in the middle. These doors sometimes have shelving on the inside that makes the cabinet wider when open. These models can also have inside them a fixed shelf or pulldown door that fixes into place for a counter.

The standing desk look has a pulldown door that fixes in place to form counter space while opening up the cabinet area. Inside is a much small area for storing liquor bottles and glassware.

Short Bar Cabinets

Standing between 35 and 42 inches high, short bar cabinets are easily identified because the top of the cabinet acts as the “bar” on which you can mix or pour drinks. Short bar cabinets can also be open like the tall cabinets described above, but they are most often enclosed.

Short bar cabinets can still hold a lot of liquor and supplies and they gain that extra space through width instead of height. Short bar cabinets can be between:

  • 32 inches wide (when closed)
  • 47 inches wide (when closed)

Some short bar cabinets can even extend their width to 62 inches when they are open. The advantage to the design of short bar cabinets is that counter space for pouring drinks is already taken care of. Everything else in the cabinet can be devoted to storage.

Decide How You Will Use It

One of the first questions you have to ask is what you want to use the bar cabinet for. The obvious answer is to store liquor and be a place where you can pour it without spilling or having to go all the way back to the kitchen.

But the question is more about whether or not you entertain and how often. The size of a bar cabinet can vary depending on whether or not you:

  • Entertain regularly
  • Entertain occasionally
  • Just drink alone or with your significant other and how often

If you entertain regularly you will need more bottles of liquor on hand and possibly a larger variety than if you entertain only occasionally or not really much at all. What you want to use the bar cabinet for will determine what size bar cabinet that you need.

So the first thing you need to do when selecting the right size bar cabinet is to figure out how much liquor you need to store in order to accommodate the guests that you have coming in and out of your house.

How Much Liquor Will Your Cabinet Need to Hold?

You have probably known at the end of every party how many drinks you and your guests consumed, but whether or not you can recall that information is doubtful. So you can estimate it in a couple of different ways:

  • A 750 ml bottle is good for about 15 drinks, so if you know how many people attend your parties and how much they tend to drink you can reverse engineer it to figure out how much liquor you need on hand
  • If not all your guests appreciate hard liquor or mixed drinks, then consider how many bottles you go through in a month.

Either way, you should know how much liquor you need to keep on hand for a month, a week, or from party to party. Of course, if you buy a bar cabinet for looks rather than practicality, you can always use the 15 drink rule and invite the number of people that your bar cabinet can accommodate rather than the other way around.

How Much Variety Will Your Cabinet Need to Hold?

There is probably no systematic way to figure this out. You simply have to think about what you and your guests tend to drink at your parties, or what you alone like to have on hand to drink. Knowing what you want for yourself alone is pretty easy.

But if you have trouble remembering what your guests and companions often like to drink, try going through the hard liquor categories or the typical ingredients for mixed drinks. Are you or your guests whiskey drinkers or do you typically just pound margarita mixes? How do you feel about brandy?

Once you have an idea of how much liquor you typically consume and how much variety you need to have on hand you have a practical way of evaluating the right size bar cabinet for your needs. But the considerations do not stop there because the considerations are never just practical.

The Right Bar Cabinet Size and Your Room of Choice

When selecting the right size bar cabinet, you need to consider it in light of the room you want to put it in. Your room choice really depends on how you want to use it. You can put it in the:

  • Living room
  • Formal and informal dining room
  • Kitchen
  • Study

The room, and in particular the size of the room has a lot to say about the size of your bar cabinet. Typically the larger the room the larger the cabinet, but that may not always be the case. Take a look at the ins and outs of different rooms below and how they affect what size bar cabinet you chose.

A Bar Cabinet and Your Living Room

The living room is probably the first room that comes to mind when thinking of a bar cabinet. This is the room in which:

  • You will likely be entertaining (if that is what you will be using the bar cabinet for) either for a party or before and after dinner
  • This may also be the room where you simply want to relax with a quiet drink

The living room is the room where the bar cabinet size is the most variable. You can make a lot of options work here, and there is probably a style that will work better for you than others. Take a look.

Large Bar Cabinet

Tall, short, narrow, or wide bar cabinets could all potentially work in this room. So in one sense, you can have your pick. This means that if you want to go with a large bar cabinet to be the focal point of the room both stylistically and functionally, you can.

Probably the best way to make a statement like that with your bar cabinet is to choose one that:

  • Stands tall and prominently with closed doors
  • Is wide when the doors open up

That way no one in the room has any doubt as to where the refreshments are.

You could also achieve this with a squat cabinet bar that is very wide. Some models have a central area that is closed off with doors and shelves on either side. With the look of an entertainment center, this could also make quite a statement.

The downside to this approach may be that you sacrifice a bit of class and refinement in order to make the booze front and center in your living room. This is not always the case because there are so many large and beautiful bar cabinets, but you may want to consider another approach.

Small Bar Cabinet

The bar cabinet does not have to dominate the room in order to accommodate the needs of you and your guests. It can simply have a presence in the room that you can direct people to for a drink.

If you want to go with a tall cabinet, you can still do so, but you can try to minimize it by choosing a narrow size. Or you can choose a cabinet that is wedge-shaped and fits into a corner of the room.

Another approach to take is with a squat cabinet that sits off to the side, noticeable but not intrusive. With this size cabinet, you would be setting a classy, tasteful tone but you may sacrifice some functionality because the smaller the cabinet the less liquor it will be able to hold.

Aesthetics aside, if there is one room where you can almost always go large and get away with it, it’s the living room. It really depends on how much liquor you will need to hold and how much you want it to be a centerpiece in the room for entertaining. And of course, if it is just for you and your significant other, smaller is probably better.

A Bar Cabinet and Your Dining Room

Another room where a bar cabinet is going to make the most sense is the dining room, whether it is formal or informal. The dining room is where you are going to eat with guests or just with you and yours.

It makes sense to have a cabinet bar that could function in tandem with a buffet (if you have the room) or by itself. This gives you close access to wine and other drinks. Here are some approaches to consider when selecting the right size bar cabinet for your dining room.

Large Bar Cabinet

This approach, while possible, is pretty much a non-starter for several reasons. The dining room already has a focal point. It is the dining room table. That is the whole reason that you go there. To have a bar cabinet that competes with that would appear grotesque, especially if you also have a buffet.

Another reason why this approach may not work is that most dining rooms are small. Even formal dining rooms have a limited amount of space. You want guests to feel comfortable, not cramped and cowering under the shadow of liquor bottles.

That said, to each her own (or his own). If you have the room and you enjoy the upscale bar-like feel that a beautiful large bar cabinet can bring, then go for it. 

Small Bar Cabinet

If you do not want to be prominent, then a bar cabinet can be something that is serviceable but not overbearing in a dining room. Once again, the wedge-shaped design of some bar cabinets would give it the ideal ability to occupy a corner of the dining room.

Also, being in relatively close proximity to the kitchen, you probably would not need as much storage as if it was in the living room. In the dining room, the bar cabinet would probably function less as a terminal for liquor and more as a way station for drinks on their way to the table.

A Bar Cabinet and Your Kitchen

As strange as it may sound, a tall bar cabinet is ideal for the kitchen:

  • It has a china hutch kind of look except it does not make you feel old
  • In an open kitchen format, a bar cabinet would even work in a transition area between the kitchen and dining room

Having a bar cabinet in the kitchen also has other advantages. You have direct access to ice without having to refill a bucket. You could also save some space in the bar cabinet by keeping glassware in the kitchen cabinet.

Large Bar Cabinet in the Kitchen

As mentioned before, the kitchen is the part of the house where a large bar cabinet would really work, especially if it is tall. Wide bar cabinets are probably out of the question here simply as a matter of available wall space.

Tall bar cabinets work here because the kitchen already has a lot of tall things in it such as:

  • The refrigerator
  • Upper cabinets
  • Stove and hood

Given all that, the tall bar cabinet is no problem, unlike a living room where it stands the chance of being the only tall piece of furniture in the room.

The other nice thing is that you can scale the bar cabinet to the size of the kitchen. If you have a large open kitchen, you can go for a tall monstrosity, but if you have a standard-sized kitchen, you can scale down your tall bar cabinet proportionately by picking something that is narrower with a more delicate design.

The disadvantage to a large bar cabinet is that you are potentially inviting more traffic into the kitchen area. This could make the kitchen very crowded if you are entertaining, and that could have an adverse effect on the meal if the poor cook gets pushed out of the way.

Small Bar Cabinet in the Kitchen

Having a small bar cabinet in the kitchen is probably not a great idea. In a room that is full of large and highly practical items, you should not have to go searching for booze (especially if meal prep is a drag).

Where the smaller, low-to-the-ground bar cabinet works as an understatement in the living room and the dining room, in the kitchen it just looks out of place.

A Bar Cabinet and Your Accessory Room

You could replace “ accessory room” with any room that is associated with a hobby or distraction, such as:

  • Mancave
  • Study
  • Craft room
  • Garage
  • Finished basement

Any of these areas could be ideal for a bar cabinet, especially if they are places where you would invite your friends to join you.

The other advantage of having a bar cabinet in these rooms is that they are usually informal so you do not have to worry as much about the aesthetic implications of size.

However, you would want to be aware of the fact that cabinet bars tend to strike a more formal tone, so you would still want to choose one carefully. Here are some more things to think about.

Cabinet Bar Options for Less Formal Rooms

You will want to consider the size of the room. If you have a large, finished basement or garage, then the sky is the limit. Get as big of a bar cabinet as you want. Heck, build a whole bar. These rooms or areas tend to be a jumble of things away.

If on the other hand, you are looking at a smaller room such as a craft room or a man cave, you will want to choose a smaller bar cabinet that can fit in between your bookcases, craft supplies, or gaming consoles.

Understand the Measurements of Bar Cabinet Sizes

When you are selecting the right size bar cabinet for your room, you need to be sure that you:

  • Understand the measurements of bar cabinets
  • Are able to translate them to the space that you have

You do not want to get a really cool bar cabinet home and not be able to use it because you measured it wrong, or because you didn’t understand what it meant about its width when it was open or closed. Take a look at these tips.

Measure Out the Height

When you look at the measurements of a bar cabinet you want to pay careful attention to different heights. Under the specifications of each bar cabinet, you will find both overall heights and, in the case of tall cabinets, the height of the counter space.

For tall bar cabinets, you have to pay attention to both measurements and be able to translate them to the space that you have. Measure the overall height against the wall where you want the bar cabinet to stand so that you have a clear picture of how high it will be. Also, measure the height of the counter against yourself to see how low you will have to reach or stoop to mix and pour the drinks.

For short bar cabinets, the overall measurement and the countertop measurement are the same, so measure that number against both the wall and yourself for the same reasons as mentioned above.

For both types of bar cabinets, look carefully at the pictures and compare them with their overall heights against the proposed wall. Think about where you will have to reach to grab items and how low you will have to stoop. That may be a deal-breaker for the cabinet that you are looking into.

Measure Out the Width

The same principles as above apply here. Look for the measures of the width of the cabinet when open and when closed and compare them against the wall on which you want to set the cabinet.

This can be one reason why large bar cabinets become the centerpiece of a room. They need room on either side in order to open up to their full width for use or display.

Additional Measurement Tips

Sometimes the measurements listed in specifications can be incomplete. You find, for example, that for a short bar cabinet only the measure for the width when closed is provided. Or for the tall cabinet, only the overall measurement is provided.

You may find that, with some careful arithmetic, you can figure out the measurement you need, either through adding or subtracting other key measurements or through observation. For example, if you want to know the width of the cabinet when the doors are open, you can safely double the width when closed if the doors meet in the middle of the cabinet.

Sources:
www.bobvila.com/articles/standard-countertop-height/
www.choicecabinet.com/how-to-choose-a-bar-cabinet/
www.wayfair.com/furniture/sb0/bar-wine-cabinets-c531621.html
www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/best-bar-cabinets
www.mydomaine.com/best-bar-cabinets-5087532
www.liquor.com/best-bar-cabinets-5088893
www.thespruce.com/how-many-drinks-for-a-party-1197338
www.potterybarn.com/products/grillo-bar-cabinet-mp/?sku=9510847
www.westelm.com/products/mid-century-bar-cabinet-small-h2253/

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