Friday, November 8, 2013

DIY Home Bar/Console Table

So it turns out that building your own bar is time consuming, but it's not all that hard. All you need is someone who knows a little bit about what they are doing (josh) and someone with a vision (me) to make it all come together.

Here's the bar's story...
In this case the bar actually didn't come about because our need for a bar. It came about because of our need to have a place for josh's beloved oscar tiger fish of 7 years (and his 55 gallon fish tank) to live in our apartment. Oscar the fish has lived with josh longer than I've known him, so naturally josh really didn't want to part with him when moving (and he's not exactly the type of fish you can flush down the toilet). So three dedicated building days and hundreds of dollars later, Oscar successfully made it down to Boston. I tell him all the time he's one lucky fish.

We knew we had to build an open concept bar/console table because of the fish tank, so we used this idea I found on Pinterest as inspiration when buying supplies. We really loved the shape and how great it is for storage! And if the fish ever dies (counting down the days...just kidding...not really), I have tons of other ideas for the bottom shelf, including getting big baskets for even more storage or even adding a small wine cooler. Our measurements had to be super exact because of the fish tanks' size and our limited wall space, but this bar structure could be modified larger or smaller to fit anywhere in your home.
We were also lucky that Josh's parents had all of the tools and most of the supplies, so we only really had to buy lumber and stain. This gave us a little extra budget to buy wood that we really loved with nice natural grain, and that was high-quality so that it had the strength to hold hundreds of pounds of water.

What you need:
(modify based on the size/color you want)

     1. Wood
           - 8 ft. 2x4s (6 total)
           - 6"x8'x1" pine boards (4 total)
           - 8 ft. plywood boards of you liking (2 total, we chose Aspen)
     2. Miniwax wood finish stain (we went with the "classic gray")
     3. Satin Poyurethane (use glossy if you want it to be shiny)
     4. Staining Brushes
     5. Wood filler
     6. 320 grit sandpaper (luckily we also had an electric sander)
     7. Box of 2 inch finish nails & 2 inch screws
     8. 5-10 metal brackets
     9. Tools: cordless circular saw, hammer, T square, level, tape measurer, & power drill

Total cost for the project: ~$250
^Life decisions at Lowe's. The usual. 
The steps:

Step 1: Figure out your dimensions. As I mentioned, ours were based on the fish tank so were a little funky, but you'll want to nail these down first.
Step 2: Build the frame. You'll need to cut 6 pieces at your desired width size (W), 4 pieces at your desired length size (L), and 4 pieces at your desired height size (H). Then secure the frame from top to bottom with the screws.

^ Macho josh in his Velcro shoes

Step 3: Add the shelves and bar's top. You will need to cut 2'x4" out of the shelving boards in all corners so that they fit nicely onto the frame. For the bar's top, secure the 4 top boards together with the metal brackets. Then flip it over and hammer it to the frame with nails, making sure it lies evenly over the bar on all sides. (omit this step if you opt to use the same boards for the shelves and the top, we just wanted a different look for the top).
Step 4: Sand. I'd recommend finding an electric sander for this step if at all possible - hand sanding can really wear your arms out! Sand out all of the words/stamps/bumps/splinters in the wood and fill any nail holes or wood flaws with the wood filler. Focus on the areas of the bar that will be seen (i.e. we didn't sand the bottom of the shelves or the back of the bar). After sanding, make sure to wipe the whole bar to get rid of any dust or debris before painting or staining.

Step 5: Stain. Steps 1-4 were for the most part all josh, but this was the fun part for me. Use a stain brush to cover the entire bar, making sure to paint WITH the grain on all parts of the bar. We did about three coats of stain and then 3 coats of the clear satin polyurethane to seal and protect the whole bar.

Step 6: Decorate! Once the bar, tank, and fish made the trip all the way from Vermont to Boston, we began the exhausting process of pouring the tank's water (in buckets) back into the tank through a hole we made in the top shelf. Then, after a trip to Petco the next day, we added some new pebbles and plants to make Oscar feel more at home. Finally, we filled in the top shelf with josh's glasses, added a woven basket to cover the hole and hold all of the fish food and supplies, and topped the bar with the DIY succulent box I made. And after all that, my friends, we had a bar.
^ love how the grain of the wood still shows through
For what we initially thought was a fairly pointless, unused area of our apartment, this little sitting area has almost become the main hangout when we have friends over, and I credit that to the bar. Josh and I actually sit in the chairs opposite the bar almost every night when we get home from work and just stare at Oscar and talk about our days. It was definitely a project, but we love it. So thanks Oscar. I guess.


  1. I love your rug! Where is it from?

  2. Im considering attempting this for my current 4ft tank, was just wondering how you Access the top of the tank for water changes and tank maintenance? The gap you've left doesn't seem big enough. Also, is Josh finding it convenient for feeding ect? Thanks -Sam

  3. Im considering attempting this for my current 4ft tank, was just wondering how you Access the top of the tank for water changes and tank maintenance? The gap you've left doesn't seem big enough. Also, is Josh finding it convenient for feeding ect? Thanks -Sam

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