How to Create and Stock a Classy Bar Cart

  • 01 of 06

    Rescue an Old Utility Cart for Mad Men Style

    Upcycled Utility Cart. Home Made Modern

    Bar carts have enjoyed a comeback.  Certainly, the uber-popular AMC hit Mad Men brought the style of the swinging '60s front and center.  But regardless of whether or not you watched the show, it's hard to deny the appeal of having a fully-stocked bar on standby for your next get-together.

    Metal utility carts or old A/V carts used in schools are pretty easy to find at thrift stores and flea markets.  However the condition in which you find them may be questionable.  Luckily, it is so easy to transform things with spray paint, elbow grease, and a little styling.  

    Follow my step-by-step instructions for how to rescue an old utility cart by transforming it into a stylish bar cart.  This trash to treasure project only cost me $16 in supplies.  The cart was free.

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  • 02 of 06

    Step 1: Choosing the Right Piece

    Utility Cart Before. Home Made Modern

    By strict definition, a bar cart is moveable, which would dictate that it have wheels.  But this isn't absolutely necessary.  A bar cart should, however, have shelves and a top surface on which to prepare and serve drinks.

    As you can see from this picture, this utility cart was in deplorable condition.  It was filthy, rusty, and had peeling paint.  On the bright side, its wheels turned easily and it was still sturdy despite its age.

    When choosing a piece to make over into a bar cart, first consider its size to make sure you have the space for it.  Next, make sure it is sturdy enough to handle a lot of glassware and bottles.  Not only should the piece be strong enough to handle some weight, it shouldn't wobble.  Finally, check that the lines of the piece fit with your aesthetic.  

    The cosmetics of the piece don't matter as much if you're willing to put in a little work to make it beautiful.

    *A note about lead paint: Before 1978, lead-based paint was commonly used.  Be aware that sanding paint from a vintage piece could pose a health risk.  Here is some advice on dealing with lead paint on furniture.

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  • 03 of 06

    Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

    Bar Cart Paint. Home Made Modern

     Here's what you will need to make over your cart:

    • Rags
    • Bucket
    • Newspaper
    • Painter's tape
    • Spray paint--I chose two colors: a glossy gray (pictured) for the shelves and a metallic version in antique bronze for the metal handle and framework.
    • A sanding sponge
    • 400-grit sandpaper--This is the kind used in automotive detailing and works well for metal.
    • Dropcloth or tarp
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  • 04 of 06

    Step 3: Clean and Prep the Surface

    Utility Cart Before Closeup. Home Made Modern
    1. Fill the bucket with warm, soapy water and clean the piece thoroughly.  Dry it with a rag.
    2. Inspect the piece for rust and peeling paint and use the 400-grit sandpaper to sand off any trouble spots on metal
    3. If your piece is wooden, use the sanding sponge to rough up the surface so that it will accept paint more easily.
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  • 05 of 06

    Step 4: Taping and Painting

    Taping Off. Home Made Modern

     I chose to spray the shelves of my cart first.  Follow these pointers for spray painting your piece.  I waited until the next day to spray the metal framework to safeguard against ruining the finish when I taped off the shelves.

    Taping can be tedious, but it's worth it to take your time.  To save on tape, I covered the majority of the shelves' surface area with newspaper, and used the tape to seal the newspaper down around the edges.  I then sprayed the metal framework with the metallic paint.  

    After just a few minutes--before the framework was completely dry--I removed the tape and newspaper.  When it was completely dry, I moved it inside.

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  • 06 of 06

    Step 5: Styling a Bar Cart

    Finished Bar Cart. Home Made Modern

    Now comes the fun part: styling and stocking your new bar cart with all sorts of fun supplies and accessories.  As you can see in this picture, I used a wooden cutting board on the top shelf so we can cut lemons and limes on it.  This also added warmth and a layer of texture to the metal piece.  After that, I simply added an ice bucket, some wine glasses, bottles of liquor, and a couple of bowls.

    Here are some other suggestions for items you could add to your bar cart:

    • Decorative bowls for garnishes and/or cocktail nuts
    • A shaker
    • Decanters
    • Drink stirrers and/or swizzle sticks
    • Drink strainer
    • A variety of glasses and stemware, depending on what drinks you are serving
    • Shot glasses
    • A bar towel (this could be hung on the cart's handle)
    • Bottle openers for beer and wine
    • A bowl of wine charms
    • Pretty napkins
    • One decorative item, such as a vase or a plant
    • Matchbooks for lighting candles
    • Drink coasters
    • Smaller serving trays
    • A drink recipe book

    If you're hosting a holiday party, add some glamour and sparkle with holiday bar ware. 

    Alternatively, if you're not into beer, wine or spirits, you could make a cart like this into a coffee station in your kitchen or stock it with cozy and welcoming hot chocolate bar accessories for the winter months.