To design the perfect patio bar, it’s best to think about it in two sections: the actual bar (counter, barstools, refrigeration, etc,) and the environment that the bar is in. Your patio bar probably isn’t the first installment in your backyard; you’ve created a certain space there already. This is your space and designing the perfect patio bar is about designing the one that you feel the yard you’ve created would have grown if these things cropped up naturally.
The goal of such a place is to gather friends. The various social anxieties that often distract us when we’re in groups will have a hard time finding things to scare anybody with when you entertain in this sanctuary. There will be a bar–a place for the cocktails to come from and some comfortable seats near a busy, friendly bartender–but also an area for invitees to enjoy their drinks.
The Patio Bar’s Bar
This is the center of the action. The invitations–whether wooden cards in the mail or a few last-minute text messages–advertised an open bar with cocktails and everyone is curious what your plan is for pulling it off. If very many of your attendees have beards, at least one of them probably works at a cocktail bar downtown and he’s especially interested.
Wherever “the bar” ends up, comfortable seating is paramount. The barstools need to feel good to rest on and the lounge seating everywhere else should be even better. Many matched bar sets come with either two or four barstools, with or without cushions. The idea is that there are three couples at the party–the hosts and two pairs of their friends. If you’re imagining your perfect patio bar being thusly for six people or fewer, then perfect–but if this might turn into a real party, it’s not a bad idea to buy your bar counter and tools separately so you can end up with six or more seats in a cost-effective way.
And, if the stools or even lounge chairs you find don’t come with their own cushions, it’s a snap–and an inexpensive one at that–to find your own.
Some patio bars come with built-in refrigerators, but most don’t. If you can find one with a fridge that’s within your budget, it may make mixing drinks a lot easier–but you’ll probably have to end up buying a little refrigerator separately. The rule here is to focus on function as opposed to form. Pay for whatever you think you’ll need plus perhaps a little growing room, but not a penny for looks. No one will see this thing and if it takes excessive time or energy to access your ingredients, you’ll start paying for it in enjoyment.
Again, the counter and stools aren’t the party. Especially if you have more guests than barstools, the environment this bar is in is the real venue.
Cushioned seating for at least six is a good rule of thumb when you’re thinking about what to include in the grander patio bar area. That way, everyone at a small party can stick together and the guests at a bigger gathering can spread out comfortably as they will.
Some lawn games for adults–crochet, horseshoes, or your own favorites–can be the perfect conversation sustainers. There’s nothing quite like beating the guy who won’t stop going on about his job at something to raise everyone’s mood again. They also reinforce the feeling that this day is for relaxing and having fun. If your party guests can stay occupied, it won’t be long until the feeling around your home is, “This summer air feels great and it’s so nice to be enjoying it with these people.”
But it’s important not to get distracted by what guests might like at the expense of your own enjoyment of the space. This is still your home, not theirs. These gatherings are about the hosts sharing their space with friends, not just providing a place for others to party as they will. If you love horseshoes and not crochet, set up a few courts and host a lighthearted horseshoes tournament. Or if watching the Superbowl outside is what gets you excited, maybe your buds can throw a ball or two around during commercials. If you make sure that you love this space, your guests will be just fine.
Designing the Perfect Patio Bar: It’s Fun!
If you care enough about designing your perfect patio bar to read this article, then however it turns out, you’re about to put together a beautiful space where the social lives of both you and your invitees will take place. A good patio bar party is special; a cocktail party in the living room just isn’t the same.
You’ll get more compliments than you would for a living room party for one thing, which will put you in a prime position to respond with some encouragement of your own. These are the kinds of interactions you’re preparing a place for.
But an experience like this can feel like a one-time novelty if your friends are confined to their barstools and can only drink and keep talking. A third activity can go miles toward keeping them entertained, not to mention coherent. If you’re not sure what will go over best, gather some options–a few lawn games, some fun playlists, maybe even a drinking game or two–and field them to the group. But don’t include anything you wouldn’t enjoy doing; the host’s mood is the most contagious and besides, why bother designing your perfect patio bar if you don’t enjoy how you use it?