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The wet bar: A luxury nook to slake your thirst

Most grand homes being built these days have a wet bar in close proximity to the dining room. A wet bar is a service area where a host can prepare a tray of vodka-tonics, say, for a boozy book club meeting. Such a nook is a luxury, it's true. But grand designs often employ principles that we can put to sound use in more modest spaces.

The wet bar in this home may be my all-time favourite. It's slate grey, and just a few paces from an elegant and well-lit dining room. In deciding on the room's concrete elements – the "what" –we were forced to address questions both abstract and aesthetic – the "why."

Why is everything dark?

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Most of the homes we design have relatively light colour schemes. In each, though, you can find dark rooms, and they do the important work of securing the design. Just as an anchor is always smaller than its ship, a home's dark rooms are always smaller than its light ones.

This wet bar is located across the hallway from the kitchen and just off the formal dining room. Making it bright and white would have drawn too much attention to it, disconnecting the eye from the elegance of the dining room.

That's because the common areas of a home – kitchens and living rooms – tend to look out, to a view, a yard, to the light. Darker spaces – venues for intimacy more than colloquy – should feel thicker, more insulated. Good spaces to experiment with a dark anchor: media rooms, powder rooms, libraries and wet bars. "Noirish" characters look better cast in shadow.

Why the glass mosaic on the backsplash?

We almost never use small mosaic tile in kitchens. With all the grout lines, it's a pain to clean, and over time can look dingy and tired. Unlike in a kitchen, though, in a wet bar you needn't worry about splashing grease and tomato sauce. Empty of cooking equipment, the wet bar functions only as a service area and cocktail bar.

For this reason, we were free to choose the backsplash on aesthetic merit alone. This one has wonderful sparkle. It's a lesson worth remembering: in a monochromatic scheme, the way to create dimension is in layers of texture and reflection. Without it, a dark room looks flat.

Why the fancy hardware?

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Too often, in a kitchen or service room, people skimp on the knobs and pulls. It's a wasted opportunity, akin to spending all your money on a cake you end up slathering with store-bought frosting.

Decorative hardware is an excellent way to underscore the charm of a room. In this case, we wanted to amplify its dressy mood; simple stainless or chrome knobs would have looked humdrum. The orb-shaped glass pulls we used brought an extra glint of class to the room.

We did look at cut glass and crystal options for their added detail and reflection. But these, we felt, would clash with the backsplash, not compliment it. The glass orbs kept things pretty and simple.

Why the glass cabinet doors?

I'm not a fan of freestanding china cabinets. They're unattractive and old-fashioned. I do, however, love a tasteful display of serving ware and crystal.

This is the reason we've lately been designing display cabinets into kitchens and service areas. Generally, they're floor-to-ceiling units, with glass above and concealed storage below. The display allows homeowners to impress their tastes upon the room.

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Here, we opted to put the display case over the sink because that's the spot most visible from the dining room. We wanted the feature's charm to be felt most strongly in the evening entertaining space.

Why the white ceiling?

The design team had a great debate over this one. With the room's being so dark – the walls, too, are deep grey – a white ceiling would be less than subtle. A darker ceiling, though, would run the risk of excessive weight, intimidation, oppression.

In the end, practicality prevailed. We went white to keep some light bouncing around the room and to avoid the challenges of replacing the pot lights' white trim kits with stainless steel or black.

Why not conceal the wine fridge?

More often than not, we put a millwork panel on the fridge, concealing it within the cabinetry. Here, though, we decided against it. It was the cost. The economical unit you see was roughly $900; a unit that receives a panel and looks "built in" is around $2,000 (plus the cost of the panel).

In spaces where a bare fridge would look too conspicuous I'd argue for going to such expense. But here, the unit is tucked neatly in the corner and really only visible when you're in the room itself. No problem.



Wall paper - Mimosa 69/8131, Cole & Son,

Millwork Paint - CL3176N "Racoon," General Paint,

Counters - Concrete 2003, Caesar Stone,

Faucet - "Harmony" Bar, Blanco,

Door hardware - Round Glass Knob, Restoration Hardware,

Glassware and tray - Homesense,

Silverware -miscellaneous thrift stores

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About the Author

Kelly Deck has been advocating for West Coast design since 2002, when she 
 opened an interior decor boutique on Vancouver's Main Street. Since then, 
 Kelly has immersed herself in the lifestyle and community that makes West 
 Coast design unique. More

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