Repurposing a barrister bookcase into a bar

by megan
Published: Last Updated on

You know that I’m a sucker for all things vintage and one of my “white whales” has always been an original antique barrister bookcase. If you’re not familiar with that phrase, this is what I mean:


I’ve had opportunities to pick one up occasionally, but unfortunately, they’re usually at an exorbitant cost (well, exorbitant for someone like me who gets their home decor at thrift stores) so I’ve never made the leap.

Repurposing a barrister bookcase into a bar

I do, however, have a compromise (so to speak) that has given me both a barrister bookcase and an amazing price. Behold:


This bookcase was found at the Goodwill Outlet here in Rochester for, I believe, $4. FOUR DOLLARS. At $4, it’s good enough for me to do without an authentic piece!

For a while, this lived in my office and held my ginormous collection of reference books for my vintage store, but after deciding that the office needed an overhaul, my barrister cabinet suddenly felt too bulky in the space, like it was commanding the room and adding to the clutter.

Still, it’s one of those pieces of furniture that I can’t just get rid of. (Do you have any of those?) So I decided to find a new purpose for it.

Cut to: our alcohol stash.

Our alcohol stash used to live in a 1970s octagonal side table that Steve found one day. Since it’s just you and me here, I can be honest with you: I hated that goddamn thing. It didn’t fit right in any space because of its shape and was just an eyesore. But Steve loved it so…you know.

Finally, I had a solution to my ugly table problem: it was no longer useful now that we had this barrister cabinet, which would fit in the space better and have a better display capability for both our hooch and the bar glasses.


The octagonal table lives in the basement, but between you and me, I’m hoping we can chuck it soon. The compromises you make in a marriage, am I right? 🙂

Retrofitting the Barrister Bookcase

To make it more bar-esque, I added some padded shelf liner on the shelves, both to protect the veneer, but also to save me from breaking our more expensive bottles of wine or Steves scotch if I knocked them over. I used Duck Smooth Top Easy Liner

As for the top, I played around with adding a liner there or maybe a wallpaper/glass combo top but the liner looked off and I never got around to finding any glass that would fit the top just so. (Also, I’ve never had a piece of glass custom cut before. So that’s a new project to add to the list.)

The bottles and glasses are all Goodwill finds. You can find some STUNNING crystal there if you are a little patient. That ruby flash bottle holds my preferred spirit (vodka) and will never leave my possession. It’s so hard to find ruby flash that’s in such good shape! 

The copper mugs I found at the Goodwill Outlet, but unfortunately, they got put in the dishwasher (not naming any names here) and now have a somewhat permanent patina finish on them. Eh, whaddyagonnado?

Future Plans for the Bar

I keep him-hawing over if I should paint it, and if so, what color to use. It fits the color scheme of that section of our home fairly well, but I realize that color is pretty outdated and could use some touching up.

I’ve also been eyeing up these lights to give it a fun vibe for when we have people over. And also, the cut glass top. I’ve got this etching cream that I might break out for the occasion if I ever get a piece cut to the right dimensions.

Shopping Inspo for the Bar

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