The best home bars are able to fuse substance with style, taking the practical—a place to keep your whisky—and turning it into a legitimately decorative piece. Orlando Soria has made a career of sprucing up personal spaces, which is exactly what he does on his HGTV show “Build Me Up.”
Soria’s own bar is a black cart that features a mixture of glassware, decorative objects, and lighting, that is anchored to the wall with a large mirror behind it. “I just like to pour a drink there and then go sit out on my deck and enjoy being in the woods,” he says. Not one for elaborate cocktails, Soria says that he likes his whisky on a large, square cube with some rosemary and a little slice of orange in it. “I do love an Old Fashioned, but I’m too lazy to actually make them. For me, an Old Fashioned is a treat,” he says.
While Soria says he could stand to step up his mixology game, he recently partnered with Maker’s Mark to help two lucky winners improve their home bar space. The Remarkable Home Bar contest gave participants a chance to receive a home bar makeover designed and curated by Soria and ran from May 19 to June 9.
“The important thing is making it feel like a treat for yourself and a little moment that you can take away from your life,” he says.
Soria says that helping people is one of the objectives of his show and that he is always delighted to interact with new clients, contest winners included. “The whole genesis of the program is wanting people to get excited about their houses again, wanting people to take a moment and do something nice,” he says. “And I think everybody is in that mindset right now, what are little things I can do to make myself excited about my life and also my house?”
Orlando Soria’s Tips for Transforming Your Home Bar Space
Put Your Taste on Display
Whether your bar is big or small, make it a reflection of you and your taste. You want to feature items that you are excited about and bring you joy. That could be beautiful, inexpensive, and unique glassware that you picked up at a thrift store or something less fragile. “Maybe it’s finding some really beautiful linen. I love a cloth cocktail napkin because I think it really elevates the experience, or a beautiful pitcher with a really nice stirrer that feels interesting,” Soria says. “It can be big or small, but find something exciting that you love.”
It can be challenging for whisky collectors to decide which bottles to display, but one common mistake is trying to fit everything into a tight space. “You can’t have all of your bottles out,” Soria says. “[People] think it all needs to be there, when in reality, you don’t need to see all of your glasses all the time.” When making those decisions, consider alternate storage and organization, placing a premium on what can be tucked away. “It’s really nice to have boxes, to have baskets that you can put linens and barware [in]. You can have some hidden storage that makes it look a lot cleaner.”
Keep it Stylish and Seasonal
When deciding which bottles to showcase, think about design elements such as bottle shape and your seasonal mixing needs, which can change depending on the occasion. “People’s homes need to be constantly refreshed and kept up, so maybe have a certain set of bottles out at a certain time of year and you change them out,” Soria says. When figuring out what to feature, consider this: “Not everything can be the star of the show,” Soria says. “It’s good to have things that are distinctive that help define the space and other things that are more simple.” And for an additional touch add lighting. “I always think it’s great to have lighting on a bar,” notes Soria.
Strive For a Varied Composition
Your whisky bottles come in different heights and shapes, so Soria recommends clustering a few different sizes and silhouettes together. “I like to group things in groups of three or five. And usually, you want there to be some sort of height differential between those bottles. It basically will make it look a lot more eclectic and considered,” he says. “It’s kind of about reading composition, a little still life using your bottles as the subject.”
Embrace the Romantic
For many of us, the art of making whisky and the pleasure of enjoying it can be easily romanticized. When styling your bar, lean into the aspects of whisky you love the best by pairing aged spirits with vintage items. “I think vintage things for bars are wonderful when you’re drinking a nice glass of whisky,” Soria says. “You want that romance, that nostalgia, that age, because that’s what makes whisky so romantic and wonderful.” Soria recommends using an ice bucket or cocktail shaker to offset your bottles.
Balance Artistic Expressions
Vintage spirit ads or whisky-themed art prints are a great way to elevate the style and decorative elements of your bar, but Soria says that it’s important to consider the size and scale of both your bar and the art you place next to it. “It could be fun to do a gallery wall behind your bar,” he says. “People normally have art that’s way too small, so there’ll be a huge console on a wall and then a little tiny thing. So I like to encourage people to find large-scale art.” Soria suggests something vintage, a large scale reproduction, or assembling many small pieces for a gallery-style presentation.