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Posted by on Dec 21, 2012 | 0 comments

Matt’s Mid-Century Modern Built-in Bar

Matt’s Mid-Century Modern Built-in Bar

I was so thrilled when I found this mid-century modern shelf unit (in pristine condition) at a thrift store. I thought the shelves would be perfect for books and decorative items and the cabinets would be ideal for storing and concealing toys. But really, do you think a shelf like this was designed for storing Legos?


And then a friend remarked that it was probably used as a liquor cabinet back in the 1950s. But of course it was! So I set out to give it a fresh new look with a nod to the past. Inspiration and deadline: my husband Matt’s birthday.

Matt had already moved some liquor bottles and barware to the cabinet, but look how boring the space looks. Neat and orderly, but blah.


It needs color, light, and bar accessories to match the quality and flavor of Matt’s delicious beverages and to go with the LP record player he gave himself for his birthday.

To start, I bought a big piece of mod paper at Paper Source to line the back of the bar. The choices were endless.


I chose a pattern that was subdued but had dynamic pattern to it and felt retro. I cut it to fit the back of the cabinet and used some double-sided tape to secure it to the wood.


After shopping around for the perfect (and affordable) crystal decanter…

vintage decanters

I finally settled on one from Potomac West with the perfect size and heft.

Matt already has a cocktail shaker, strainer, and a jigger, so I also looked for an ice bucket and tongs. I found one in Old Town from The Hour. The Hour is jammed front to back, floor to ceiling with glimmering barware, much of it vintage but a lot of contemporary choices too. I bought a small bamboo cutting board there as well.


Then, I hit up Matt’s friend John for advice on bourbon choices. Armed with his list of recommendations, I went to the liquor store and came away with a Woodford Reserve to pour in the decanter and a small bottle of Blantons that would look nice in the tableau.

Underneath everything new, as you can see, is a cut-to-order mirror from Del Ray Glass and Mirror. What’s a vintage liquor cabinet without a mirror? I called up and told them what I wanted to use it for and they recommended a sturdy mirror, knowing exactly what would work. Best part: it only cost $15.

After a little rearranging so everything would fit and make a nice first impression, I added a big silver ribbon to the door.


It didn’t take much — some fine paper and new (vintage) accessories —  to give a drab but serviceable bar some much-needed style and pizzaz, and to impress my husband.


Of course, I could have presented him with a nice aged bourbon and he would have been equally grateful.

As Matt mixed drinks for friends later that night, I added a vintage “California” tray for him to use — black with orange poppies and a state map — that I had bought at Matt’s Grandmother’s yard sale last summer.


Matt was inspired by his gift to install some glass racks in the cabinet. Next we may add some lights. And then perhaps some vintage barware and swizzle sticks. On and on it goes. It’s the kind of gift that we can update and add to over the years.

Happy Birthday honey!


Have you discovered that something in your home was originally intended for something else? Or have you made simple changes to something to make it a little more special?

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