This past weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to visit a pair of Bourboneur’s, Lindsay and Ryan Argo who recently created their own home bar in a new, amazing space. As they led me to “the bar” we stepped into a small entryway which contained a closed door ahead, a doggy door low and to my left, and a small built-in with some jackets, a light brown colored Kate Spade purse perched high on a shelf, and miscellaneous shoes, etc. to my right. As I opened the door ahead, behind it lay the garage…housing a car, and all the typical garage items…there was the doggy door…but, obviously that wasn’t it nor could I fit through it if it were…what was I missing? As looks of confusion began, Ryan with one hand pressed on a shelf of the built in, opening it to reveal a short dimly lit hallway that led to a very well stocked, quite impressive display of bourbon!
Sharing in their passion for bourbon, Lindsay and Ryan wanted a space to not only display their rather impressive collection of brownwater, but also to host friends and family and connect in a smaller setting. This space did not exist previously but was carved out of what used to be a part of their garage and master bedroom closet. As if the display of bourbon was not already impressive, filling the cabinets below were bottle after bottle of you guessed it, more bourbon…Blantons, Eagle Rare, Weller 12 with backup bottles for the backup bottles. It was a bourbon bunker, and if I were a prepper, this would be my kind of space – no food, just bourbon!
The problem of course with having lots of choices, is always in making the choice of what you are going to drink. As we set in contemplation over what we would be partaking in that evening, I quickly understood why folks are always so slow to decide at my garage bar speakeasy…there is just a lot to take in, and I was quickly overwhelmed. After some contemplation we opted to go with Old Fitzgerald 14, a Smokewagon Private Barrel, a store pick Mattie Gladden and Old Elk’s wheated bottling. Spoiler, the Old Fitz 14 was the winner of the night…probably not surprising to many of you.
As we sat chatting and as one drink turned into two, I could not help but notice that what was unique about Lindsay and Ryan’s home bar setup that jumped out to me, was the actual bar itself…I was too busy at first ogling the shelves that lay in front of me to notice in the evening light that it was handcrafted out of bourbon barrel staves. Lindsay and Ryan were kind enough to provide some detail about how they created their custom bar.
Although it's easy to sit back and look at the finished product and go, "yeah, I could do that," it's often not as easy as it looks. For Lindsay and Ryan's custom bar, it all started very non-custom with some pre-fabricated base cabinets that they picked up from The Home Depot. From these humble beginnings sprung their final design, providing the necessary structure to anchor the barrel staves and bar top onto once they surrounded the cabinet with a box frame. At the front of the cabinets they then attached a 2x4 wall at bar height.
Moving the skeleton of the custom bourbon barrel bar outside, Lindsay (at 10 weeks pregnant mind you) primed and painted the bones of the would-be bar using Behr cracked pepper paint. The dark color, first matched the motif they were going for, but also camouflaged any areas that might show through once the barrel staves were attached given the light color of the unfinished wood.
Although any bourbon barrel would suffice, with every barrel being made from white oak and charred on the inside, the duo wanted to get an Old Elk barrel (more on this to come) and also used a Buffalo Trace barrel, deconstructing the barrels and grouping staves of similar thickness together so that each row would line up when placed on the bar. Starting from the top using a nail gun, Lindsay nailed each stave to one of the framing studs, having spaced them around every fifteen inches in order to achieve an alternating "basket weave" style pattern.
As this piece of the project came together, the base of the bar was moved back inside given it would become a lot more unwieldy to maneuver with the added weight and size of the piece once the upper and lower countertops were added.
The faux concrete countertops were created by doubling up two pieces of 5/8 inch thickness particle board cut to the size of the cabinet which were then screwed together and affixed to the frame. Having some concern over the potential for swelling, they coated the wood top in 511 Impregnator Sealer. At this point, they applied two coats of Ardex Feather Finish Cement-based Finish in gray and sealed it with a Low Luster Concrete Sealer.
Inside the bar, Lindsay added a shelf with plenty of reinforcement to store lots and lots of brownwater. When the couple got married, Lindsay promised Ryan she would get him a bottle of Eagle Rare 17 one day. The bar was being built as an anniversary gift for him, so she figured it was time to pay up. So inside there will always be a bottle of Eagle Rare 17. An artistic and awesome surprise and a sneaky way to make good on a promise!
As a finishing touch, given the barrel staves partially came from a used Old Elk barrel, and as the duo had a fair number of empty Old Elk stoppers laying around, they turned the stoppers into drawer pulls for the cabinets! Using just a simple screw, Lindsay made a pilot hole for each knob and then screwed it into the center of the cork affixing them one by one.
The result, a very impressive and quite fitting centerpiece that hosts guests from all around (like this guy) who belly up to have a pour and relax, hidden away in the belly of their home, out of sight and blissfully out of mind.
Aside from being a Bourboneur and enjoying all things brownwater, a passion of Ryan's is pairing food with bourbon. This passion led him to found Limited Release Test Kitchen. Check their site out on the web by clicking here and be sure to like and follow them on Instagram.