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What's Behind Bars : Custom Counters in the Home Serve as Gathering Places


In their ocean-view Capistrano Beach home, Tom and Patricia Wallacehave had a custom bar installed to entice guests to relax in a small corner of the formal living room.

"We've found that it's a great place to entertain," says Tom Wallace. "It's a place to get comfortable and talk. My brother was out visiting recently, and he just naturally seemed to gravitate to this bar."

Custom bars are a relatively new design concept. In past decades, home bars tended to be padded, sharp-edged Formica affairs not conducive to the warm, chatty, family feeling of Irish pubs, where talk is just as important as the liquor in the cabinets.

"Ten years ago, I'd say the proportion of custom-built homes with these types of bars was 50-50," says Linda Quinn of Quinn Creations in Costa Mesa. "Now, I'd say the percentage is more like 90%."

She says many of the larger homes have two custom bars: one built in the living room area and one in the living space of the master bedroom.

"What I wanted to do was create a warm space where people could congregate, sit down, talk and feel comfortable, sort of like a big kitchen table out in the living room," says Trudie White of International Interior Design in Irvine, who designed the bar in the Wallaces' home.

White envisioned a softly curved, round bar filling out the space in the Wallace living room. The owners wanted to capture some of the ocean view inside the space and suggested background mirrors. All of them wanted to keep the high, open skylight feeling, yet felt a slight overhead cover was needed.

The end result is a rounded, double-bullnosed edged Maplewood bar base with a Brazilian granite top. The antiqued mirrors behind the bar area are free-form in design, and bleached behind the mirror backs, to give them an older, softer look.

"I wanted some sort of canopy with wrought iron," explains White, "and I got together with an artist to find out what was possible. We came up with this growing vine look, which is delicate and fits into the flow of the area."

The miniature-leafed iron vines are the trademark creation of Linda Quinn. "I didn't want (the bar) to look eerie," she explains, "I wanted it to look soft, a little more romantic and even a touch foresty."

The rows of vines swell over the 18-foot-high vaulted space behind the bar and tiny white pea-lights are intertwined around the iron vines, which give it a beautiful evening look.

Custom bars are expensive. The Wallaces' art-topped bar cost $15,000. White says the labor involved in the highly detailed artwork over the bar added significantly to the price.

Donna Shaver's birch wood and cast-stone bar in her Capistrano Beach home was also custom-built. She wanted the bar for much the same reasons as the Wallaces: to have an informal gathering area inside her living room. She also wanted an area for refreshment since her kitchen is on an opposite side of the house.

The birch wood base is topped with a jagged-edged, whitewashed cast-stone slab-top, which extends a few inches over the wood. Silk-brocaded, leopard-print bar stools encircle the bar.

The cost of her casual bar: $5,800.

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