Elle’s Mad Men-Inspired Bar Makeover

Happy Sunday my blog-loving friends!  It’s a beautiful day here in northern New Jersey… er, just kidding.  It’s snowing.  Again.  While I’m cuddled up on the couch watching Property Brothers, you’re in for a special treat: we have a guest blogger today!  I am so excited to share the amazing design work of my friend Elle, whom I’ve actually known for over ten years (since my freshman year of college!).  Elle is now a blogger and advertising professional in New York City. On her blog, Elle Makes Belle, she shares recipes, DIY tutorials, and the occasional photo of her dog, Zuzu. Follow her on Instagram and Pinterest.  Her photography is to die for, and it really highlights the fun and bright colors that she’s infusing into her every day life.  Get ready to drool over her Mad Men-inspired bar makeover!

Last March, I got the Decorating Bug. It all started when I received a gift subscription to Elle Decor. Then, I stumbled across the home and lifestyle website Apartment Therapy. It was only a few weeks before I decided that my apartment needed a major makeover.

I did what any sane person would do: I found a Midcentury dresser set on Craigslist, rented a moving van, and drove four hours from New York City to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Luckily, the pictures were accurate–the furniture actually was beautiful and exactly what I wanted. I know that I’ll have this set for years. Since then, I have slowly been collecting pieces that are in tune with my vintage style.

In my last apartment, I had room for both dressers–a highboy and a six-drawer dresser–in my bedroom. I moved to a new apartment in September and, as with many small New York City apartments, one of the pieces doesn’t quite fit. So, I decided to move the highboy to the living room instead. It’s great to have extra storage and the piece fits in with the geometric rug and couch with tapered legs.

Even though the piece has plenty of things hiding inside of it, I haven’t had much time to decorate the surface. (I hate to admit this, but the highboy has mainly functioned as a dumping ground for mail, packages, and keys!) With spring around the corner and not many excuses left, I decided that my highboy would make the perfect space for my bar essentials.

My strategy for this makeover was to spend less money on “extras” and more money on must-have barware and tastier alcohol. My mindset tends to be quality over quantity, and it was no different for this project. I also wanted to inject some color into the room and find accessories that coordinated with the rest of my Midcentury-inspired living room.

Here’s the “before” picture of my highboy. The print is actually a piece of fancy paper, and it matches the color of my rug and throw pillows. Although the print goes well with the colors in the room, my living room ended up being all dark teal. This gave the room more of a masculine feel–not exactly what I want as a woman in my 20’s.

My first to-do was to replace the existing print with something that coordinated, but also had punches of color. I headed to Paper Source to find a new, inexpensive print and found a beautiful piece of wrapping paper from Rifle Paper Co. I pulled a few swatches from the print so that you can see the variety of color. It has a vintage vibe and it’s far from masculine with the floral theme. Gorgeous!

Next, I went on the hunt to find a tray for my barware. In trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there’s a great thrift shop called Brooklyn Junk. It takes a little bit of scavenging, but I’ve been able to find some great pieces there. While digging through piles of plates, I found this gem. It cost me a grand total of $3.


I wanted to find a dish for my fresh fruit, too. The best cocktails contain fresh-squeezed juice, and many also use lemon or lime peels as garnishes. While brainstorming, I remembered that I already had a couple bowls that could work: a Chartreuse-green dish (which could go with the bar theme!) and a gray-and-yellow bowl.

Little known fact: My gray-and-yellow bowl is a refrigerator bowl. In the 1950s, General Electric made bowls to coordinate with their refrigerators. Years ago, my mom found one of these bowls at a thrift shop then gifted it to me. It’s been one of my favorite dishes, but I haven’t quite had a great use for it.

For a split second, I almost went with the Chartreuse-green dish, but then my gray-and-yellow bowl won in the end.

For barware, I headed to Cocktail Kingdom. They have the best supplies–their stuff is used by actual bartenders. Their New York City showroom is also filled with vintage cocktail books, which was perfect inspiration for my project.

The jiggers I bought are a Japanese-style jiggers. Because they are so thin, it’s easier to be precise when measuring your ingredients. For my shaker, I chose to get weighted tins.

Next up: alcohol. Because alcohol can be so expensive and I was starting from scratch, I chose to buy a select few bottles. This winter has been so cold (so, so cold!) that I wanted to bring a little bit of summer to my apartment. So, I bought ingredients for my two favorite summer cocktails: margaritas and daiquiris. They’re both easy to make, which is perfect for a beginner bartender like me.

For glassware, I already had a few pieces on hand. A couple of years ago, my grandmother gifted me a beautiful set of etched aperitif glasses from the 1960s. They are extremely delicate (look at how easy they are to tip over!), but I always feel like Betty Draper whenever I drink from them.

A year or two ago, my mom found “Roly Poly” tumblers while she was thrift shopping. These are also from the same era, but they make me feel more like Don Draper.

For final touches, I added some fresh limes and pink straws. I love how the room feels so much more fun and colorful. I think I’m well on my way to being a modern-day Peggy Olson! Or maybe Megan Calvet? Zou bisou bisou!



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