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Anna G. Larson, Published February 02 2013

Upgrade your place with a home bar

FARGO - The Lingle family doesn’t have to go far to watch the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers today. They’ll enjoy the game from the comfort of their home bar and entertainment area.

The bar is part of a larger, family friendly area that has a pool table, theater area and plenty of seating.

“Every inch of it is lived in,” says Tanya Wrigley-Lingle.

Wrigley-Lingle and her husband, Keith Lingle, decided to build the home bar and entertainment area in their basement because they wanted their growing children to have a place to hang out. They also wanted a place to entertain family and friends, Wrigley-Lingle says.

“We enjoy hosting parties, and we also wanted a place for our kids. What better place than home?” she says.

The bar area overlooks the entire space and has seating for 10 at the counters, plus more in the home theater area.

“I can stand in the bar, serve food and see everything that’s going on,” Wrigley-Lingle says. “I really feel part of it all.”

Outfitted with plenty of storage, recycling compartments and fridge space, the bar area is an extension of the home’s main-level kitchen.

The area has finishes and colors similar to those used in the rest of the house, so the space flows together, Wrigley-Lingle says.

Flow is important in a home bar area, says Dan Elton, an architect with Stahl Architects who designed the Lingles’ home bar and entertainment area.

“Think about the overall, larger design of the space,” he says. “The materials in the bar should relate to the rest of the area somewhat. Some bars can look built-in and natural, like an element of a well-appointed house.”

While materials in the bar can be used in other areas of the house, it’s OK to make the bar stand out, Elton says.

“Don’t be afraid to make the bar out of the ordinary and playful,” he says.

It’s up to homeowners to decide if they want to play up a theme for their space, but if they do, it’s important to be consistent, Elton says.

“I’m not suggesting a radical difference like an ultra-contemporary entertainment area in a traditional house,” Elton says. “It would be more subtle than that. We might call it eclectic.”

Using unconventional materials like reclaimed wood or corrugated metal, and cabinetry that’s different than the home’s main kitchen, can help a bar area stand out. Elton also suggests statement tops like concrete, resin, soapstone, timber and granite and using vivid colors to create a unique space.

Elton estimates about half of all upper-end homes – those $650,000 or more – in the Fargo-Moorhead area have home bars, and most are tied to a lower-level (basement) entertainment area.

“It’s almost a standard,” he says.

But homeowners in any size home can upgrade space to function as a home bar.

Fargo resident Shannon Mohn says the home bar at his current residence was a major selling point when he and his wife, Tracy, viewed the home.

“My wife and I have both come to enjoy it quite a bit,” Mohn says.

The Mohns’ home bar has one counter for serving and a beverage fridge. A Vikings theme carries through the space since they often host game-day parties. The couple also uses the counter space as a buffet when they have dinner parties or family gatherings.

“It’s become a social gathering place,” Mohn says.

Bonuses of a home bar are safety and privacy, he says.

“We’re practical and frugal, and we don’t go out to bars anymore,” Mohn says. “For me, this is a way of socializing.”

Home bars come in different sizes. Typically, people want seating for at least four people, Elton says.

Smaller home bars with one single counter aren’t as popular as larger home bar spaces with islands and multiple seating areas, Elton says.

A single-counter serving bar generally costs $4,000 to $5,000, but people who want to build it themselves could do it for less, he says.

Double-loaded home bars start at $10,000, and can easily reach $50,000, Elton says.

“The sky’s the limit,” he says.

Almost all home bars will have a single-bowl sink to distinguish itself from a typical kitchen. Most beverage and wine refrigerators will be built in under the counter. Some people install dishwashers, usually a smaller drawer- type washer rather than full-size dishwashers. Storage and counter space depends on how many people clients plan to entertain, Elton says.

He shared the following tips for a well-planned home bar area:

• Think about plumbing. It can be an issue, especially in remodeled homes, Elton says.

• Don’t overdo it.

“People will be surprised at how quickly the costs add up,” he says. “It’s kind of like putting in a second kitchen.”

The Lingles saved a little money by foregoing granite counter tops in their basement bar.

• Lighting is critical.

“Good lighting does more than just let you see what you’re doing,” Elton says. “Well-designed fixtures become part of the look of the space and can put an exclamation point on the style.”

For example, narrow, aperture-down lights can accent the counter top without making the ambient light in the space too bright, he says.

• Think about the context of where the bar is.

Considering the overall design of the home and entertainment area can help ensure that the bar area melds successfully with the rest of the house, Elton says.