Styling the perfect drinks cabinet

What does an image of a ‘drinks cabinet or trolley’ say to you?  Do you perhaps cringe at the thought of 1950s boat-shaped drinks cabinets (complete with porthole windows and bar) that were too large for the domestic spaces they inhabited? Or do you rejoice because these ‘bars’ were a light-hearted way of showing the fact you were partial to a bit of a party?!

In 2016, not only is it again cool to put your drinks on display – there is a whole industry both here and in the US geared up to support this trend. Stylists love it, because it is another opportunity to ‘group’ things together such as candy striped straws, beautiful glassware, ice buckets, cocktail shakers, bottles with the smartest branding, lighting, flowers, mirrors even. The combinations are endless, and there is something quite glamorous about the set up of a drinks tray or trolley – one closest to the styling of a dressing table.

Angus drinks photo
Photography: Angus White

I am not alone in being a teeny bit in love with this trend. Rita Konig, interior designer and daughter of Nina Campbell (fabric, wallpaper, furniture designer) is, amongst other things, the UK Queen of beautifully styled drinks tables and trays. Rita has collaborated with The Lacquer Company to design some drinks trays, tables and icebuckets.

Rita konig blue tray drinks blog
Rita Konig and The Lacquer Company

Another inspiring designer/online lifestyle brand is Katie Kime from Austin in Texas. For glamour and design, her ‘Lucite’ (composite of glass and plastic) drinks trolley is right up there but it’s also Katie’s styling which works so well. Note the mixture of personal items such as turntable/vinyl records, framed prints, books. For secondhand/vintage Lucite products, head to a gem of a street in London’s Fulham called Lillie Road which is full of antique shops.

katie kimes trolley drinks blog
Lucite drinks trolley, Katie Kime

In the UK, John Lewis (Tom Dixon’s copper cocktail range, and their v smart drinks Puccini drinks cabinet), M&S, Sainsburys, West Elm, Rocket St George, Bucklebury Trading’s The Corner Shop and Graham and Green all stock a healthy range of different styles of drinks paraphenalia.

Whilst there is much on the high street to buy, to give you the styling edge I would suggest that you consider antique shops/auction websites and charity shops too. Mixing old with new creates a really harmonious look. There are so many beautiful designs just waiting to be loved again. Look out for champagne saucers, 50s bright coloured shot glasses and  vintage soda syphons (for decoration). Matching glasses look great in rows, but mismatching is quirky and just as stylish.

drinks blog soda syphon
Courtesy of Pinterest. For similar vintage soda syphons, Crowman Antiques, Devizes; Fanny’s Antiques, Reading

Whether you opt for full on kitsch styling or something more simple, I will help you navigate the choppy and sometimes precarious waters of achieving ultimate entertaining style!

(Phew, I hear you say …)

‘Bar love’ – setting the scene

  • a table lamp, if you have room creates a little bit of drama by throwing light on the subject and will also add height to your drinks set up.

Velvet bar stool,
  • I don’t often see bar stool designs that I like – but these forest green velvet ones by Brabbu have an elegant shape.

Beautiful bottles

  • superficial I know, but you will require beautiful looking drinks bottles and cans. There is nothing wrong (truly) in going for bottles with bright coloured labels and yummy packaging!

Five Drinks display ideas

1. Drinks tray

A butlers tray (one with a stand as below) is a very smart way of displaying your drinks and can be placed in different parts of a room. A good budget option is Homesense’s (T K Maxx’s home store) turquoise painted butlers tray, £39.99. A simple single tray is also good – whether it be a perspex one (Luminati £21.90), or a vintage silver plate, or more contemporary design.

butlers tray drinks blog
£39.99, Homesense
Acrylic drinks tray, £21.90, Luminati; vintage mirror, lustreware teapot, glasses all charity shops; Sipsmith Gin; styled by Charis White

Flowers are essential for the well dressed drinks tray.  Vintage teapots, coffee cups and bowls make perfect vessels for flowers, olives, lemons and limes.

angus flowers drinks photo
Photography, Angus White, styling, Charis White

2. Drinks trolley

The benefits of a trolley is that you have two levels for storage and they can be moved to different locations in your house/at a party. Remember, that you can pick up vintage trolleys on Ebay. IKEA’s ‘Raskog’ three tiered metal trolley in turquoise looks good and at £49 is also a very appealing price.

3.  Ping pong style

Drinks tables, can come in all shapes and sizes and perhaps you might already own a piece of furniture that would do the trick. We recently went to a dinner party in Oxfordshire where the host and hostess served drinks to their guests from a table tennis table. Glasses, bottles all lined up ready to serve – effortless, easy but most importantly unstuffy and stylish.

4.  Drinks cabinet

These are the ultimate ‘temples’. Over the decades there have been some really amusing designs from globes that open up to reveal drinks inside, to nautical boat bars, more simple versions included in sideboards/wall cabinets (G – Plan) to tables with touch push button tops which then rise to reveal – the drinks cabinet!  Some more ‘007’ than others.  I have chosen two contemporary designs – both more top end budget:

5. Drinks table

If you analyse it, there is nothing remarkable about either this table or its setting.  It is just under a windowsill – but see how inviting and pretty it looks. Rita Konig has styled her table with rows of antique cranberry glass tumblers, cocktail glasses, a couple of hand thrown green and white tumblers. Beneath the table, there is also a well stocked metal storage basket full of soda bottles. The yellow ice bucket gives a splash of bright colour and the print/sketch propped up behind adds a personal touch. Again, the effect is informal but stylish.

Rita konig drinks table drinks blog

‘Spill the beans’ … I would love to hear what your preferred option might be and do you have any other quirky ideas for displaying drinks?!

Panda drinks photo
Photography: Angus White

Merci ‘tray’ bien …

Thank you to all those who have responded so far, I have really enjoyed your messages. I just want to post a couple of photos I was sent by readers:

The first is from Lewis from Hammersmith in London, whose genius blackboard painted table top drinks table is overseen wisely by a buddha head.  The second is from Jo in Oxfordshire whose fabulous fruity tray arrangement is so enticing that it is being prowled by the family cat:

Lewis from Hammersmith, London’s blackboard painted drinks table
Jo from Oxfordshire’s fruity drinks tray.

Charis White, interior stylist

If you have enjoyed reading this and would like to receive email alerts for future posts then please press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of this post. Thank you so much for reading!

Charis x


9 thoughts on “Styling the perfect drinks cabinet

  1. Marvellous! Brought back lots of memories from the 70’s and my grandparent’s cocktail hour! However, I have a friend who has a cocktail bar in the garden! I’m expecting great things after this blog – I know she reads it!


  2. Another great blog! I agree, there is something very glamorous about putting drinks on display – reminds me of theatrical stars backstage. Love those forest green velvet bar stools!


  3. Love this Charis. My Art Deco drinks trolley has been in my bedroom dedicated to my perfume bottles for the past decade.


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