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Niche Publications

Senior Editor for Niche Publications of the Billings Gazette

While it’s not a necessity, it is nice to have a separate nook in the home for mixing cocktails and hosting intimate get-togethers.

One step away from a wine cellar and taproom, a wet bar can increase the value of your property while improving the appearance of an otherwise-drab basement.

What makes it wet aren’t the mouth-watering mimosas sitting on the bar, but the plumbing hidden in plain sight. Outfitted with a sink, cabinetry, countertops, appliances and stools, a wet bar is like a mini-kitchen dedicated to drinks and midnight snacks.

Before you pay for an overpriced spirit at a crowded pub again, consider taking control of how you enjoy your cocktails.

All the frills

Sam Nelson, owner of Cougar Construction in Billings, has seen an uptick in wet bar requests.

Typically built in higher-end homes, this luxury feature is more for convenience than function.

Average designs are simplistic with an under-counter fridge, microwave and sink, but some projects have been more extensive, Nelson said.

Styled with the house, wet bars come in as many varieties as there are interior designs. Rustic, homey and modern farmhouse -- a mixture of new and old elements -- round out the ideas Montana homeowners have had.

“Some reclaimed barn wood … corrugated metal or stone work; we try to do something fun and decorative instead of utilitarian,” he said.

When designing, Nelson looks for space that accommodates a walk-behind bar. If that’s not an option, a recessed wall works as long as there is available plumbing.

If not building new, a wet bar can prove difficult. The largest cost associated with a wet bar is the plumbing and without space in the basement already dedicated to it, costs increase. But because wet bars are an added bonus to an anything-but-humble abode, homeowners likely won’t mind the bill.

In excess

Upper level rooms have it all -- natural light, foot traffic, purpose -- but basements often go unfinished.

While its inherent darkness is ideal for horror films, the downstairs is otherwise unwelcoming without a designer’s touch. Wet bars are a way to brighten the space.

“It’s something to put in the basement to make it a cool spot, too,” Nelson said.

A general web search yields mostly basement wet bar examples, but Kristy Berckmoes, owner of Beyond the Box, Inc. in Billings, has designed and installed them adjacent to kitchens and within living rooms.

“It’s really wherever they have a little extra square footage,” she said.

Berckmoes lists a few examples: a master bedroom breakfast station; a buffet for holiday meals; a craft section for all ages.

“There are a lot of kid-friendly wet bars,” said Berckmoes. “It’s not uncommon for us to put two fridges in a wet bar: a kid fridge and an adult fridge.”

Wet bars built with multiple purposes may appeal to larger households that have separate living spaces on one property.

“Multi-generational living is becoming really popular,” Berckmoes said. “A wet bar can be turned into a kitchenette.”

The little kitchen that could

With nearly all of the fixings a kitchen remodel affords, homeowners have their choice of the latest countertop, cabinet, flooring and appliances.

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For basements with media rooms showcasing snack-worthy movies, a microwave is a must-have. For sports enthusiasts, so is a wall-mounted TV behind the bar.

Mini-fridges fill the cups of several guests, but full refrigerators with built-in wine coolers can accommodate a house party. And don’t forget how essential ice-makers are to the finished cocktail.

Nelson says even dishwashers sometimes make the cut, lessening trips upstairs with fragile glassware.

And as for cabinets, it’s all about storage—revealing showy glassware and concealing other bar essentials.

“Cabinets are like jeans, and everything goes,” Berckmoes said. “Rustic is kind of on the way out; painted is still really popular.”

Painted cabinets are a way to add the pop of color that was too bold for the kitchen.

“It’s a small enough investment; it’s a safe spot,” she said.

Berckmoes says countertops are one of the easiest features to upgrade, so even if the higher-end quartz or granite aren’t chosen at the beginning, they remain an option.

“Laminate is still really popular; it’s an economical price point,” said Berckmoes.

Ambient lighting using LED strips on floating shelves, glass cabinets and toe-kicks is the finishing touch to transform a wet bar into a statement piece and a nightlight.

Having catered to many Pinterest-inspired projects and even a Moscow mule station, Berckmoes says you’re really only limited by your imagination and your budget.

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