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8 Themes for Designing and Decorating Your Bar or Restaurant

June 29, 2023
A nicely decorated bar

Designing your bar’s look and feel is one of the most exciting tasks when you’re first starting out. It’s not just that it creates and enhances the ambiance and atmosphere you want for the space, but it’s a fun and creative aspect of business ownership and management. From lighting and barware to seating and decor, there are many ways to create a stylish, functional bar that will stand out. Let’s explore creative areas you can source for design ideas.


Modern and Minimal

Use clean lines, neutral colors and minimalist furniture and decor. You could even try monochrome furniture or decor to create an elegant look for less. A factory theme would use exposed brick, metal, and industrial-inspired furniture to create a modern, edgy look with sophisticated cocktails. Or you could even punk it up with blacklight paint, chain link/junkyard styling and dystopian video, with well specials and shooters on offer.


Time Machine

Diner/Sock Hop Retro means mid-century furniture, lighting and decor, perhaps including jukeboxes and/or pinball machines. ‘60s Retro would include 1960s-inspired decor like posters, furniture and lighting. Rock Retro uses 1970s-inspired furniture and lighting for a gentler or harder-edged vibe, depending on your tastes, while a Club Chic theme lets disco balls, lasers, glitter and other nightclub touches tell the story.


Rustic, Woodland and Western

Use natural materials like wood, stone and metal for something cozy and inviting. Western themes use cowboy boots, lasso ropes and hitchin’ posts, perhaps paired with rustic, farmhouse-inspired furniture, decor and artwork. Use natural wood elements in tables and walls, firepits, and painted concrete or even astroturf floors to make the illusion complete!


Beach House

Use beach-inspired furniture, decor, bright colors, palm trees, inflatables and artwork to create a fun and relaxing beach bungalow. Sand, seashells, ferns and pastels can give you a more subtle ambiance, or you can use pool tables, patio chairs and other pool-inspired decor to make a splash.


Drama and Holidays

Christmas lights, ornaments, and other festive decor to create a cheerful look year-round. For a darker vibe, think about using Gothic and classic church iconography. Use Halloween decorations like pumpkins, ghosts and goblins for a campy spooky feel, or go for the full Vampire Masquerade with velvet, candlelight and wine.


Urban Traveler

Take your guests to New York with bright lights, skyscrapers and other big city decor. Evoke Paris with French-inspired furniture, decor, and artwork, or use Chinese-inspired furniture, decor, and artwork to create a sophisticated lacquered look. For Tokyo, use Japanese-inspired furniture, decor and artwork from the modern day or even from the day after tomorrow. For Vegas, use neon lights, casino references and other Vegas-inspired decor to get beyond the zoot suits and swing dancing ‘90s. Think about using African-inspired furniture, decor and artwork, or taking your guests to Delhi. Or combine them all, with suitcases and airport terminal signs pointing the way to a million destinations.


Quirky Locations

Use nautical themes, big ropes and shimmering lights for a yacht rock moment, or bring your guests into port with decor of ships, docks and other port-inspired decor. Or base your look on bicycles, with bike parts and other bicycle-inspired decor. Traditional, prep-school vibes can be had with golf clubs, tennis rackets and other country club references for a sophisticated, luxurious look.

Fire hoses and fire extinguishers, upholstery in black-and-white spots to evoke Dalmatians and other firehouse-inspired decor like a firefighter’s pole create an exciting, somewhat industrial look. You can go high-class hotel in your furniture and decor, with grand sconces and a red carpet, or use motel-inspired furniture, decor and art for a more nostalgic, unpretentious look. A Living Room or Lounge-themed bar features sofas, comfy and club chairs, a library full of books and games and other lounge-inspired decor.


Other Destinations

Use books and bookshelves, and other library-inspired decor, to create a cozy well-read ambience. A movie theater theme uses popcorn machines, movie posters and theater-inspired seating. For a night at the museum use art and artifacts, carefully labeled and possibly available for sale, to create an informal art gallery and revenue stream for local artisans.


TABC On The Fly Can Help

Remember these main ideas when you’re designing around a theme, and you can’t go wrong. Lighting, seating, wall decor, bathrooms, barware/glassware and flooring should all contribute actively to the effect you’re trying to create. Once you have your look and design set, remember to have fun with it! Don’t hesitate to improvise or improve the look on a regular basis as your clientele reveals itself.

And be sure to assemble the perfect, skilled team to serve your guests. A great staff is crucial to making your dreams come true. Encourage them to enroll in our online TABC training course And to get them certified, look no further than TABC On The Fly. It’s a fun, low-pressure way to get your whole team certified and excited about their next steps!

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