Styling a bar cart, plus an introduction to wine collecting

Styling a bar cart, plus an introduction to wine collecting

Bar carts are an Instagram/Pinterest favorite, and it’s no wonder. They are almost as fun to look at as bookshelves, and they give your home an instant feeling of hospitality. You can find any number of bar cart rules online, but there really should be no rules. It’s about you and your lifestyle. However, I some guidelines for you to either follow or break:

It should reflect your actual life and entertaining habits. Sure, a bar shelf full of top shelf liquors is pretty to look at, but it’s very expensive and can be impractical unless you are a serious mixologist or throw regular parties. I’m mostly a wine girl so my cart reflects that. And if you don’t drink much, but still like the cuteness and hospitality that a bar cart conveys, consider creating a coffee cart instead of a bar cart. Who wouldn’t want to be a houseguest in a home with an adorable coffee cart?

Consider investing in matching glasses if your glasses are mismatched. As an Official Clumsy Person, I have broken many wine glasses and water glasses in my life. Glasses don’t have to be expensive. Mine are from Target (red wine, white wine). You can also get pretty glasses from Home Goods or TJ Maxx and you can even find full sets at thrift shops, but it’s necessary to consider the replacement issue as you may never be able to find the exact same glasses if you break one.

Add some visual interest. This can be art (hanging above your cart, or propped on it), plants, flower arrangements, a small sculpture, or even pretty paper straws or a candy bowl. In general, I would encourage you to add a decorative element that has nothing to do with alcohol. Mine consists of a photograph that my sister took in Paraguay, which has been one of my favorites for years, and a plant.

Display your interests. If you collect glassware, show it off. Whisky snob? Arrange your bottles by geographical area. My interests can be seen in the wine books on the very bottom shelf.

Treat your bar cart like an extension of your house.  If you have a farmhouse look, add some farmhouse signs to your bar cart. Mid century mod? Go for a sleek cart with metallic accents. Honestly, my cart is a bit more industrial in style than my house, which is mostly a boho/mid century blend, but with accessories it works. Had I purchased it after I bought most of my decor rather than before, I likely would have picked something different, but I do like it.

If your bar cart is primarily wine, here are some suggestions:

  • Always keep one white, one red, one rosé, and one sparkling on hand. There are exceptions (such as if you truly despise rosés and judge the rosé all day crowd), but in general, having one of each prepares you for unexpected situations.
  • Match your wines to your diet. If Asian food is your go to, keep Rieslings on hand, which can hold their own with spicy foods. If your special occasion dinner is steak, you’ll want bold reds like Cabernet or Malbec on your cart. For pescatarians, Sauvignon Blanc and Albariño pair with seafood.
    • To start, Google the wine pairings for your most-cooked meal, or your favorite meal, or your comfort food meal and seek a bottle or two out.
  • Sample some offbeat choices. Most of us only know (and can pronounce) the wines that our grocery store offers. But there are countless wine varietals out there, and many are on the verge of extinction because the wines known as the noble vines are the top sellers. So many countries have great winemaking traditions: Greece, Hungary, Romania, Lebanon, Israel, Georgia, etc. It’s possible your favorite wine will be one you haven’t heard of yet. Flexibility is also important because climate change is affecting the wine industry more with each year.
    • One place to start: Gruner Veltliner (groo-ner velt-lee-ner) is an Austrian white that pairs with difficult-to-pair foods like sushi or asparagus and you can find it in a well-stocked grocery store. (Hint: Look near the Rieslings.)
  • Make friends with the employees of your wine store or grocery store’s wine department. Wine people love to talk about wine, and they will steer you towards the hidden gems.
  • Have at least one special occasion wine. It could be a bottle of champagne or a Barolo with a price tag that you can’t justify for everyday occasions, but there should be at least one bottle that you look forward to opening.
  • If you open a wine and you don’t like it, get creative. Make a sangria or a mulled wine and perhaps the addition of  new flavors will mellow out the flavor of a harsh wine or intensify the flavor of a flabby one. (Yes, “flabby” is an actual wine term; it describes wines that lack acidity. I did not make that up.) Remember, sangria was invented when the working classes had to improve cheap wines, and these days, we all pay good money to drink it.

Happy shopping!

Dinner in Casablanca. Or something.

Dinner in Casablanca. Or something.

I like to think that my dining room is Rick’s Cafe Americain on a small scale. It’s not an overtly Moroccan style decor, but while decorating, I kept thinking of Casablanca. The film, that is, because I am not well traveled enough to have visited the city at this point in my life. It’s probably just because of the arch, but I’m still claiming a Casablanca themed room.

When this project began, I was working with an arch decal (after becoming obsessed with painted arches on Pinterest), a dining room table and chairs, and a bar cart. The image I had in mind was clean and simple, and when I put the items all together, it was that. It was also impersonal and had that dollhouse feel of merely adding furniture to a box, which is probably a common problem in rooms that lack windows.

This is the first lesson I learned in decorating my home: Keep layering details until it feels warm and homey. 

And then stop. (I have a suspicion that this is actually the most important and intuitive step.)

I moved the faux banana leaf plant from the living room to the dining room, which introduced some cool tones. However, it didn’t really start to come together until I found this capiz shell art from World Market. When I first saw this artwork on the World Market website, my reaction was, “Wow, that’s tacky.” But then I kept coming back to the “tacky” piece until I decided I had to have it. I kept scrolling the reviews and noticing that it looked amazing in (minimalist) peoples’ rooms.

Second lesson learned in decorating: Each room needs one eye-catching item. It’s okay if it is bordering on bad taste.

And I absolutely love it. Given the lack of windows in the dining room, I love how it reflects light from the chandelier. Isn’t it in the spirit of Madeleine Lebeau’s shimmering top from the movie? 

My absolute last item was the area rug because the room needed one more textured element. I was on the fence on whether I should get a green or blue rug (or a combo). Green is my favorite color, and I love how it looks with the terracotta color of the arch. Blue, on the other hand, is an accent color in my living room, and given the lack of separation between the two rooms, it made sense to link the color schemes. The question was settled when I found a blue rug I loved at a price I couldn’t say no to at Home Goods. And no regrets. I love the way my rug brings things together, and my little room is complete.

So come on over. I will pour you a drink, and it will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  • Table and chairs: Pier 1 circa 2009. Similar. Similar.
  • Arch decal: Amazon (Strongly recommend)
  • Bar cart: Amazon (Half-heartedly recommend)
  • Capiz shell art: World Market (Strongly recommend)
  • Faux plant: Target (Recommend, even if I don’t remember spending quite this much on it last year)
  • Area rug: Home Goods. Brand: Safavieh. (I think this is the same rug at Amazon.)
  • Macrame runner: Target (I recommend this product, but I also recommend measuring your table before deciding which size to purchase as I didn’t expect this to dust the ground. The ground-dusting runner has grown on me, even if it wasn’t my original intention.)
  • Faux Pampas grass: Kirklands (Very pretty for an average sized vase. They also have tall Pampas grass for larger vases that are meant to rest on the floor.)

An Outdoor Room of Her Own

An Outdoor Room of Her Own

Living alone is peaceful, but it can be underwhelming. There are things to miss. M, my stepdaughter, sweeping into the house after one of her shifts at the nursing home, her blond ponytail swishing, full of stories about the shenanigans the residents got up to that evening. My dog’s heavy head resting on my knee. Watching classic movies with J while drinking wine from the TCM wine club.

I never thought I’d miss the weed ridden, uneven yard. When I married J eight years ago, I hoped he enjoyed yard work more than I did. (Reader, he did not.) I had a terrible track record with houseplants, which I considered to be nature on the smallest scale possible, and a yard was entirely too much nature for me. I tended to flee inside and pretend I didn’t notice the mutant weeds.

My attitude was a bit strange given that I grew up with an amazing yard. My mother has always had annuals in her front yard, perennials in the backyard. Every time I visit my parents I am always surprised by the greenness of their yard. Both of my parents garden, and the backyard keeps their salad bowls full all summer. In the fall, two apple trees provide endless pies and applesauce. This always seemed like magic to me. Yes, I knew the “magic” was the hard work and patience of my parents and decades spent learning when to plant and how often to water.

It took boredom to get me into my own yard. I was thirty-nine and a broken toe disrupted my workout routine, leaving me with extra time on my hands. It began with a desire to pull some weeds. It was through weeding that I found my stubbornness that I had inherited from my ancestors, all Slavic peasant farmers. After weeding, I turned to planting flowers, and then mulching. By mid-summer, it was a full blown and rather expensive obsession. 

I looked a fright that summer. I smelled of mulch and wore only Birkenstocks as those were the only shoes that would fit my engorged toe. I could tell you exactly how many bags of mulch could fit in the hatchback of a Honda Fit (five in most cases, or six if you were extra stubborn). I talked to my mother of ideal growing conditions for hostas and my souvenir from a weekend trip to Ludington consisted of a large hydrangea that took up most of the hatchback and spewed soil on all of our suitcases. 

This would have been my fourth summer of gardening. I miss the roses and hydrangea that I planted. I long for colorful rows of snapdragons and to see the coneflowers planted last summer emerge from the ground. I miss my Saint Bernard racing the backyard in a fit of the zoomies. Instead, I have a concrete patio of my own to decorate.

My, that’s some lovely cement, said no one ever. I like how the crack near the front door gives it some character.

But it’s my cement, or at least it is for the duration of the lease. And there is something undeniably appealing about a weed free outdoor area and a blank slate. In two years time, I hope to have my own house and a green yard to make my own. But now this is my playground, my escape.

It’s a small space, but I have maximized it with seating for dining and seating for relaxing; plants for decoration and plants for food; lighting and accessories for whimsy; and some cat proofing extras so my feline roommate can enjoy the patio with me.

In the mornings and early evenings, Tim Gunn the Cat and I sit on our patio. I read, journal, or simply sit. Tim nibbles on catnip and listens to birdsong. And we are content.


Table and chairs: TÄRNÖ Table+2 chairs, outdoor, black acacia, gray-brown stained light brown stained steel – IKEA

Small black and white rug: Outdoor Rug Black Stripe – Threshold™ Designed With Studio Mcgee : Target

Outdoor pillows: Target Round Throw Pillow Natural – Opalhouse™ : Target

Bench cushion: Green Tropical Print Outdoor Settee Cushion | Kirklands

Boho swing and large multicolor rug: Aldi (Yes, the grocery store. And they were both total bargains.)