An icon of the Art Deco era, a drinks trolley in the home is one of the most lavish of interior statements. Spy one, be it in on display in a dining room or as a glamorous alternative to a side table in a living room, and it speaks volumes about its owner and the personality of the home. With the festive season on the horizon, now is a timely opportunity to welcome one (or another one) to the fold.
Where to feature a bar cart
Traditionally the reserve of downstairs living spaces where they can fulfil their entertaining destiny, bar trolleys live their best life in living rooms and dining rooms alike.
Image Credit: Natalia Miyar/A-List Interiors (Photo: Brittany Ambridge)
Stationed close by a dining table or dresser with handsome crystal decanters, amber-hued liquors atop and etched whisky tumblers beneath, and the setting becomes mature and majestic—very Mad Men, indeed.
In a sitting room however, a spirits-filled bar cart (the preferred term in the US) announces to guests that this is the room where the dinner party both starts and ends—it signals apéritifs and after-dinner cocktails.
Reception rooms are only one side to the story. Drinks trolley designs have begun to move upstairs to spaces such as bathrooms. Here, their (typical) double layer of shelving space is ideal for placing rolled-up towels on one level and a calming candle and selection of daily toiletries on another. Delight family and friends stopping over at Christmas by putting a fully stocked one in the guest bathroom.
Image Credit: Oliver Burns
Different styles of bar cart
Picture a bar cart and it’s likely that a gold drinks trolley will spring to mind. Their Great Gatsby glamour has lead to them being commonly associated with lustrous metallic finishes in polished brass, antique brass, chrome as well as trend-led copper and rose gold.
But if a highly decorative Deco cart isn’t to your taste, then know that more vintage drinks trolleys exist also. The design's beginnings have been traced to the early Victorian tea trolley—characterised for their wooden frames and large spoke wheels. They often had drop-leaf edges to increase the surface area of their serving station too.
Shapes and materials shift in modern incarnations. Round drinks trolleys are popular for their space-saving quality and interplay between strong metallic foundations and soft silhouettes. Some are more elaborate than others with oversized arcs on either side of their shelves—one for adding real drama to a room.
Image Credit: Studio Ashby
What to stock
The question of what to include in a bar cart, needless to say, begins with after-hours bottles, barware, flawless glasses and cocktail-serving equipment. Make celebratory fizz the focus with a champagne-on-ice bucket and a small collection of flutes or saucers. Or, if being known for hosting the best cocktails in town is the aim, decide on a cocktail menu for your event so that you don’t have too many items cluttering up your trolley—it spoils the aesthetic and leaves you no room to prepare drinks. Include mixers, tonics and all the associated paraphernalia such as cocktail shakers and jiggers for the perfect shaken not stirred Martini.
Image Credit: Kipp & Keeler/Kari McIntosh Design (Photo: John Merkl)
Drinks trolley styling tips
For less practical moments, forgo some bottles or glasses and mix in various decorative touches.
"When styling a bar cart, we like to use a collection of pretty barware mixed in with other decorative objects such as the vase with flowers and a decorative box," says Anelle Gandelman of A-List Interiors, "We also group items much like styling a bookcase."
Image Credit: Kelly Wearstler
A small vase of flowers on one side of your bar cart, an unobtrusive lamp, or small bowl filled with garnishes like lemons and limes will break things up with ease and add a burst of colour. Another novel accessorising idea is to lean or stack a few cocktail recipe books. Look for those published by the world’s most luxurious hotels, like the Savoy’s Cocktail Book or the award-winning Vintage Cocktails by Assouline to really imbue your cart with charisma. Or, during Christmastime, interlace an evergreen garland between the bottles or fill a glass vase with strand lights—the soupçon of Christmas spirit will be warmly received.
Signifier of conviviality, epitome of entertaining sophistication, conversation-starter and all-round hosting extraordinaire, the drinks trolley is the unsung decor hero for the guest-bound home, so find your match and begin taking stock.