Shannon’s Basement Bar

I recently finished a big project that has taken me almost 2 years to complete. This is a custom designed and built bar in my basement. The design is one my wife and I came up with. We knew we wanted an old style bar, so we went to numerous bars to come up with ideas. The refrigerator is elevated to eye level, and the wine rack complements the other end of the bar. I built and installed soffit cabinets with under cabinet lighting. I added in cabinet lighting for the glasses, and built a light box for the bottles. I also added several accent lights, along with under bar top lighting. The sink was a must. It took a little work, but we were able to do all the plumbing and wiring ourselves. The only things I had to hire out were the sewing on the padded bar rails, and cutting the glass for the shelves, doors, and mirror.

We wanted a sturdy top, so I designed and built the corbels that support the upper bar top. The lower bar top is made from a laminate that looks like granite. The bar is made from red oak (to match the other wood in my house) along with a tiger maple upper bar top. For the top, I had to make a road trip to get the amount of tiger maple required for the project, but it was well worth the drive in the end. The whole bar except for the top is finished with cherry color oil stain, and topped off with 3 coats of oil polyurethane. The bar top was more challenging. Since I wanted to use an epoxy coating, I was concerned about using the oil stain as a base. I spent 2 days experimenting with alcohol based dyes before I was able to match the color and technique without streaking. It can be very difficult to stain tiger maple a dark color, but with patience, my time paid off. I wound up using a dry rag to work in the dye in very small amounts to get the look I wanted. I finished the top with 2 coats of pour epoxy. I built and finished 30 raised panel doors, along with 6 doors. Everything was finished after building except for the wine rack, which I finished before I assembled, and then I added a face frame and finished that in place. The bar top finish was poured prior to placing the finished bar top on the sub bar top I made from MDF.
We still have to add the ceiling, and will be trimmed with crown molding. The finished part of the soffit extends up to where it will meet the crown molding.

This was a long project that I worked on while working on other projects, along with having to work my real job to pay the bills. That being said, now I can sit back and relax and enjoy a cocktail until I start the next project…Tomorrow.


  1. Mike July 3, 2013

    The tiger maple top is really nice. Looks like something you’d see on a high end electric guitar! Nice work all around. Don’t be surprised if a bunch of wood whisperers come knocking on your door for a pint!

  2. Buz July 3, 2013

    That is simply astoundingly gorgeous, absolutely love the result and effect you got with that Tiger Maple.

    Was the choice of square wine rack (instead of a honeycomb wine rack) intentional due to simplicity, or were you actually after the old-style look of it?

    • Shannon July 3, 2013

      Square wine rack was actually more time consuming than if I made the angled style. Plus, I found I can actually fit more bottles with the square design. It also allows the bottles to lay flat so the corks stay wet. They (whoever they are) say the corks should stay wet when stored.

      • jHop July 4, 2013

        That’s why I’ve never understood the popularity of the diagonal slots…. You lose half a spot on either side of every other row.

        And on seeing the photos, I completely understand why you would finish that before installation. Did you make the bar top in one piece? How hard was it to get to the bar? And how many people did it take to move it there?

        • Vasilis July 12, 2013

          jHop, a honeycomb structure is actually more dense than an orthogonal one (by about 11-12% if I am not mistaken). You may be loosing half a spot, but you have more rows (you can see that each new row starts already inside the previous one) and that’s how you can get more spots in.

          Shannon, great project!

        • Shannon July 14, 2013

          Bar top is made from 4 pieces. Made the top, moved it into place to scribe and get the final fit. Moved it back to the shop to dye and epoxy finish, then put it back on the bar. Only took 2 people to move.

  3. Eric R July 3, 2013

    Really nice job all the way around Shannon !

  4. ” so we went to numerous bars to come up with ideas.”

    It’s the kind of research anyone will enjoy. ;)

    Well done!

  5. Dave July 3, 2013

    a bench top mortiser, definitely the bench top mortiser…… It’s on sale now if anyone is interested!

  6. The whole project looks fabulout and that bar top looks fantastic! If you don’t mind me asking, where did you get the tiger maple? I’m in the planning phase for “customizing” my pool table, and I’d like to do something similar for the rails. And I’m a stone’s throw away from you (in the Milwaukee area).

    • Shannon July 14, 2013 They are located in Superior Wi. 218-310-0281. They have an abundant supply, but I had to sort through 8 full pallets to find a few hundred board feet that were good quality.

  7. Jim July 4, 2013

    All I can say is “WOW!!!” That is great. Enjoy

  8. Dave July 7, 2013

    Looks great. It looks like a nice brass foot rest/rail would finish it off.

    • Shannon July 14, 2013

      Foot rail will go on once the carpet is in.

  9. Luella Williams September 22, 2013

    The bar looks marvelous. I love it and wish I could have the same in our house. Perfect choice of color that fits the room perfectly.

  10. Jason July 30, 2014

    Very nice looking bar. I am curious what the dimensions are. I am planning a similar design, but I am struggling to decide if it will look right in the amount of space I have. I have a space issue because of a window (in the exact place yours is) and a set of pull down attic stairs at the other end of the bar. Thanks.

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