However big or small your outside space, an easy way to give your garden a little pizazz is to add your own outdoor bar. Perfect for the summer months or social gatherings, you can create a gin palace, cocktail bar, or personal pub tailored to suit your style using a summer houseas your foundation.
Whether you’ve already got one in the garden that’s seen better days or you are looking to start from scratch, we’ve strummed together some fab summer house bar ideas that will bring the party home.
Modern Gardens magazine writer Jules Barton-Breck says you should consider a summerhouse building for your outdoor bar as it cheapest alternative to building an extension on your house. "A summer house provides a proper outdoor room that you can escape to for reading or enjoying a gin. Plus, it’s a great place to entertain if the weather is a bit rubbish, but you’d still like to be out in your garden," Jules tells us.
"It’s much nicer to set up a craft or hobby space in a summerhouse than in a light-poor, cramped shed. And, if you choose the right structure for your garden, it’ll create a fantastic focal point and possibly add value to your house price."
We have created the ultimate guide to building your dream summer house bar - from the foundations through to the lighting; here is everything you need to know to transform your summer house into a personal pub.
Creating your summer house bar
First things first, you need somewhere to house your bar, and a summer house is a perfect spot thanks to its pre-built structure and large windows. If you’ve already got one in your garden, give it a good clear out. If you don’t, take a look at these affordable summer houses that provide plenty of space inside and options for where you can place your bar serving area.
You will need to think about the most comfortable height for your serving area, both inside and out. Around 106cm is regarded as the optimum height but it is worth adjusting it to suit your needs.
The bar surface can be made from timber, a slab of slate (make sure the structure is strong enough to support it), a sheet of aluminium or stainless steel. The only essentials are that it needs to be easy to wipe down, flat and provide enough room for extras such as drip trays, ice buckets and bowls of nibbles. Buying an off-the-peg bar structure is another option to consider and there are plenty to choose from.
Made from pressure-treated timber, they are usually designed to stand on a concrete or paved base, so this will need to be in place prior to installation. Most products are flat-packed so will require assembly, but this is usually pretty straightforward, requiring basic tools and a friend to help.
A rustic wooden bar available in a choice of widths to fit your summer house space, and the option
This L-shaped bar can also be customised in size to fit your summer house, and you can choose the
If you're looking to go all out, this gorgeous black and brass bar has it all; beautiful carving
If you're a DIY whizz, you could always try creating your own. We've shared a step-by-step guide to building your own bar that can fold down from your summer house wall.
Summer house bar ideas
Now we’ve got the bare minimum covered, it’s time to let your imagination run riot – budget-dependent. We’ve shared some fab ideas on how to turn your summer house into a free house in no time at all.
One of the ways you can serve to guests, is to swap a large, fixed window for a top opening design that can also create a canopy for you to serve drinks from. Or you could even replace the window with a pull-down metal shutter for a fun, authentic effect. Try securityshuttersdirect.co.uk who specialise in all different shutter types including manual and electric-opening systems.
If you want to become a master mixologist, or just want to make sure the serving area doesn’t get too crowded, you’ll want to equip your summer house with a worktop or shelving across the back or side wall for chopping up garnishes, and storing bottles and glassware.
Most tables with a wipeable surface would work well as a back bar counter, but you'll need to make sure shelving is strong and fit for purpose:
This full home bar set from OurHomeToYours2017 on Etsy includes two gin racks (large enough to
We love this set of two trendy, rustic wooden shelves complete with steel brackets. They're
Use dispensing optics
If you want your bar to look professional, add dispensing optics to your wall space that deliver a shot in the perfect amount. Zero guesswork here! If your bar space is wide enough, you could even fit the odd beer tap too. Try the-home-brew-shop.co.uk for a selection of taps.
This set of six-bottle optics is ideal for home use, dispensing 25ml reliably and without wasted
If you're limited on wall space, try out this revolving stand for size. Designed to hold four
The Luna Wall Bar combines optics with shelving to create a ready-to-go wall shelving solution.
Get electrics fitted
Depending on whether you can run electric to the bar location, adding a permanent fridge is definitely worth the effort. They will make preparing drinks and clearing up the area a breeze and will provide somewhere to chill bottles and keep ice. A professional electrician will be able to run an armoured cable from your property down to the bar, with enough power for lights, a small fridge and a heater for when things get a little chilly.
With a 93-litre capacity, large enough to hold four bottles of wine and approximately 90 330ml
If you think you could really benefit from having an ice box in your under-counter fridge, this
For a busy, high-tech home bar, you could benefit from the Polar G-Series Bar Cooler. This beer
Get bar seating sorted
Once the bar structure is in place, you need to provide guests somewhere comfy to sit and chill. Bar stools are always a popular place to perch and ideal if you want to show off your cocktail-making skills! A pair of outdoor sofas will add a cosy area for relaxing. Add an outdoor rug, plenty of cushions and throws to ward off chills and some practical side tables and you will soon have an area that guests naturally gravitate to.
Available in Dusty Green, Grey, or White, the John Lewis bar stool is a super stylish option well
Better suited to a whisky bar or summer house pub, the Etta chairs are upholstered in durable
Another sophisticated bar stool that brings new levels of luxe to your summer house bar, is the
Create your look
Paint or stain the wood using a weather-resistant timber product such as Cuprinol Garden Shades or Ronseal Weatherproof Wood Paint. For a classic look, stick to two colours, one for the walls and a contrasting shade to pick out the bar, door and serving area. Alternatively, get creative and consider painting a pictorial design around the bar, on the door or the front side of the structure. Vary the look to suit your style. An urban graffiti tag would work for a gin or shots bar, while a retro metro design would bring in some elegance suited to a wine bar.
Perfect for use both inside and outside of your summer house thanks to its weather-resistant
Designed to colour and protect, this paint has a rich colour pigment that also always the natural
Tackle all your summer house bar surfaces in one with this multi-surface paint. Suitable for wood,
Don’t forget the essential barware!
Good luck serving some summery cocktails without the essential barware to hand. Some must-haves include drip trays or bar mats to collect any spilt alcohol, ice cube trays, an ice bucket (if you don't have a freezer behind the bar), a chopping board and knife for fruit garnish, and a cocktail shaker and tools. If beer or wine is your tipple of choice, make sure you have the right bottle openers.
To become the master mixologist of your summer house bar, you need the right tools. This set in
Bar mats and runners are a great way of keeping spillages and mess to a minimum. We love these
If you don't have a bag of ice to hand in your freezer, we'd recommend this ice cube tray from
Personalise your space
Time to accessorise! Add metal signs or letters to spell out your own message. There’s a huge selection for decorating the outside of a bar and for adding ambience in the seating area at notonthehighstreet.com.
Lights are all important for adding atmosphere. Go for classic festoon lights, clear or coloured, strung in front of the bar or across the party zone or try neon statements such as ‘Cocktails’, ‘Kiss Me’ or a kitsch pink flamingo – rockettstgeorge.co.uk is a good hunting ground for things like this. Back this up with practical task lighting, particularly inside the bar – think wall-mounted bulkheads for workable chic.
Read next: Summer house lighting: Our top picks
Bringing that ultra-cool bar vibe to your summer house, this light box truly sets the scene during
A fun addition to your bar, this rustic design and light bulbs give an authentic bar feel. With a
One of the many fun bar accessories you can find on
Why choose a summer house bar?
It’s the cheapest alternative to building an extension on your house, providing a proper outdoor room that you can escape to for enjoying a gin or a glass of wine. It’s a great place to entertain if the weather is a bit rubbish but you’d still like to be out in your garden. Plus it’s much nicer to set up your bar in a summerhouse than in a light-poor, cramped shed. And, if you choose the right structure for your garden, it’ll create a fantastic focal point and possibly add value to your house price.
Where should I put a summer house?
Jules Barton-Breck says if you’re a sun-lover, then the best position is facing south where it, and you, can lap up the sun all day. "This is particularly welcome in winter, when it’s lovely to hole up in the shelter of your summerhouse and enjoy the warmth of the low sun. However, if you’re primarily going to use your summerhouse for hobbies or it’s going to double as a home office, then a shadier spot is better."
"Consider which way to face your new summerhouse, too – and don’t just presume it needs to face into the centre of your plot. Position it so it faces away, and adding some screening, and you could create a secret hideaway at the bottom of your garden. A good place to start this thought process is to consider which are the favourite parts of your garden, and work out how a summerhouse could be positioned to look out onto each of those. As you’ll likely be spending plenty of time sitting and relaxing in the new structure, the view from it needs to fill you with joy!"
Bear in mind, too, that it’s best to leave at least 50cm of space all around the summerhouse to allow access to maintain it as and when, and this will also prevent the area from becoming too damp.
Do you need permission?
Any garden building must use up less than half the available outside space. You don’t need planning permission unless it’s going to be bigger than 30m2, and that would be a pretty big summer house! If you choose to position your summer house less than 2m from a boundary wall or your property, then it must not be higher than 2.5m – but if you site it more than 2m away, it can be up to 4m in height. However, it’s always best to check with your local authority.
Find out more by using the Renovation Nation tool at comparethemarket.com.